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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

After years of work and delays, DubaiSat-1 finally ready for lift-off

If all goes as planned, the UAE's first government satellite will streak into orbit tonight from a launch site in Kazakhstan.
Artist's rendering of the DubaiSat-1 satellite in orbit.
Artist's rendering of the DubaiSat-1 satellite in orbit.

ABU DHABI // If all goes as planned, the UAE's first government satellite will streak into orbit tonight from a launch site in Kazakhstan. The remote sensing satellite - DubaiSat-1 - is scheduled to take to the sky at 10.46pm UAE time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, if weather conditions are favourable. The launch is the culmination of more than three years' work and Dh184 million (US$50 million) in research and development.

Travelling at about 27,000kph, it will orbit 680km above the Earth and take detailed photographs of the region for use in urban planning and disaster relief. No one from the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), which has overseen the project, was available for comment ahead of the launch. After several months of delays, lift-off was initially scheduled for last Saturday but was postponed at the last minute to allow for new safety and security checks.

Speaking from Kazakhstan after the postponement, the director of EIAST, Ahmed al Mansoori, underlined that delays of this kind were common. "It is extremely important that the launching company ensures maximum readiness of all equipment related to the launch pad and satellites, including DubaiSat-1, travelling aboard the Dnepr rocket," he said. "Delays in launching procedure are not unusual and happen frequently as it is linked to the results of the final tests undertaken by the team of scientists and experts to ensure accomplishing the process in the smoothest way possible."

The satellite is one of several being fired into space atop a modified Russian Dnepr-1 rocket. The launch will take place under tight security at the cosmodrome, where Yuri Gagarin lifted off in 1961 to become the first man in space. The Russian Federal Space Agency will oversee the operation through the Moscow-based international space company Kosmotras. The first images are expected to be beamed back to Dubai within hours of the DubaiSat-1 achieving its orbit altitude, but the fragile satellite may not be fully operational for several days.

chamilton@thenational.ae