x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Countdown begins to launch of Dubai's second imaging satellite

High-detail images from Dubai Sat-2 will help urban planning.

The space centre in Dubai receives photographs beamed by Dubai Sat-1.
The space centre in Dubai receives photographs beamed by Dubai Sat-1.

DUBAI // Engineers are putting the finishing touches to the design of Dubai Sat-2, the emirate's second imaging satellite, to be launched next year.

The design will take into account the needs of different government departments, particularly those involved in urban planning, said Salem al Marri, the director of the space programme at the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology.

"If you have a higher resolution camera, you can see more details, such as the number of lanes in a road," Mr al Marri said. "This will assist people such as the RTA [Roads and Transport Authority], who are trying to plan roads or the construction of bridges."

The institute launched the country's first imaging satellite, Dubai Sat-1, in July 2009 from a base in Kazakhstan. Since then, the satellite has been beaming back images of the country four times a day to the institute's listening station in Al Khawaneej, Dubai. It is expected to be functioning for the next six years.

The images have been used to monitor environmental areas of interest, including sandstorms and dune movement.

However, because the camera has a resolution of 2.5 metres per pixel, the level of detail is limited. Mr al Marri declined to give details of the final design, saying that it would be revealed in the near future.

Part of the problem is that by increasing the focusing power of the camera, the area that could be captured in one pass would be greatly reduced. "We get a wide range of requests," Mr al Marri said. "Everyone wants something so you can't build one satellite to satisfy everyone's needs."

The satellite is expected to be launched late next year from Yasny in southern Russia. The launch is to be carried out by the Russian company ISC Kosmotras, which launched Dubai Sat-1 two years ago.

The South Korean company Satrec Initiative is carrying out work on the satellite, with the help of a team of 16 Emirati engineers who have been in Seoul since 2006. Mr al Marri has said it is hoped a successor to Dubai Sat-2 can be built entirely in the UAE.

The team has built a mechanical model of Dubai Sat-2, which has been subjected to heat and force testing. Over the next year they will build a qualitative model for further testing, before putting together the final flight model.

mcroucher@thenational.ae