To increase its expertise in space technology, the UAE's third satellite will be built in Dubai under an Emirati team with help from South Korea
DubaiSat-3 to launch into space in 2017
DUBAI // The UAE's space programme took a major step forward yesterday as plans for the first satellite to be completed in the country were announced.
DubaiSat-3 will be built by the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (Eiast) in collaboration with South Korean company Satrec Initiative.
Work will begin in South Korea but the project will be transferred midway through the development process to a new satellite plant in Dubai. That process will take three and a half years.
A team of 45 Emirati engineers will lead the project, with the Korean company acting as consultant.
"The ultimate goal of Eiast is to develop a core team of local experts and position [the] UAE as a global leader in science and technology," said the institution's chairman, Hamad Al Mansoori.
Dubai's third Earth-observation satellite, which will have more advanced imaging equipment than its two South Korean-built predecessors, is due to blast into space in 2017. The launch site has not yet been chosen.
"The DubaiSat-3 is an important project as it tests our own satellite manufacturing capabilities," said Yousef Al Sheibani, director general of Eiast. "Looking ahead, we aim to achieve full capabilities, knowledge, facilities and research ability to develop advanced satellite missions on UAE soil."
Construction of the satellite factory will begin at Eiast's headquarters this year. There will be laboratories and a construction room that will be free of dust and humidity.
"Moisture, dust and other sources of contamination can have unpredictable behaviour in space, so it is essential to use clean room facilities in the safe development of space-flight systems such as satellites," said Salem Al Marri, Eiast's assistant director general.
Mr Al Marri said the programme was aimed at developing expertise rather than commercial use of the satellites, which have been designed for civilian use only.
"Our concentration is mainly on the capacity building of our people, developing a satellite locally and utilising the images locally," Mr Al Marri said.
DubaiSat-1 was launched in 2009 and DubaiSat-2 is due to go into orbit in the third quarter of this year.
The images provided by the first satellite are mainly used by government bodies in the UAE, and the other satellites will serve the same purpose.
Mr Al Marri said a typical use was monitoring the progress of major development projects, such as the A380 concourse at Dubai International Airport, which opened in February.
"We've been taking images of the concourse from 2009 until it opened," he added. "These images can be used by the public, the leadership or the airport officials to track the construction.
"We monitored the water around The World islands from 2009 to 2012 because people were saying they were sinking and we actually saw the islands expanding rather than sinking."
Amer Al Sayegh, the project manager, said another use of satellite imaging was monitoring oil pipelines, such as the one between Abu Dhabi and Fujairah.
"These pipelines extend for long distances and it's easier to just look at them from space to see if there are any leakages," Mr Al Sayegh said.
Eiast was established by the Dubai Government in 2006. Officials declined to say how much the DubaiSat-3 project would cost.