Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Dubai to launch new freezone in bid to attract aerospace firms

After the return of Emirati astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri, the country is looking to training and R&D

The UAE government has announced a 10-year strategy aimed at attracting international investment to its growing space sector.

Officials said the multi-faceted approach would guarantee new job opportunities, better training and more money for research and development.

Unveiling the programme in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, experts said part of the initiative would see the creation of a free zone for aerospace operations.

A further plank to the project - known as National Space Strategy 2030 - would seek to boost Emirati expertise in the sector.

Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency. Victor Besa / The National
Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency. Victor Besa / The National

“We have more than 50 private companies operating within the UAE’s space sector and we want more to join us on this journey,” said Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency.

“This document comes at a time when our national space sector is growing to include new commercial activities like space mining and space tourism.”

Earlier this month, the UAE welcomed back to earth its first ever astronaut following an eight-day mission to the International Space Station.

Major Hazza Al Mansouri was part of an international crew of cosmonauts who blasted off from Kazakhstan on board the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Mr Al Ahbabi said the Emirates was continuing to hold discussions with Russian officials on further potential collaborations in space.

His comments came as the Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the country on his first official visit to the UAE since 2007.

“Russia is a strong country that has a powerful presence in space so we are proud to be working closely with them,” Mr Al Ahbabi said.

As part of Tuesday’s announcement, officials said a National Space Investment Plan would see the creation of a dedicated free zone in Dubai South to host aerospace operations.

The hub aims to “inspire investor confidence” by offering 100 per cent ownership of firm’s based there, without the need for a local sponsor.

Additionally, officials announced a renewed focus on building Emirati expertise in the space field.

A recent survey carried out by the UAE Space Agency indicated many of those interested in joining the sector wanted better access to training.

“We asked respondents what their expectations were for the UAE’s space programme between now and 2030,” said Nasser Al Rashidi, director of space policy and regulations at the UAE Space Agency.

“Many intimated they wanted more dedicated programmes and specialised centres to help build skill sets, so that's what we are focused on in this strategy."

Earlier this month, a world-leading space company said it would open its first office in Abu Dhabi after being lured to the Emirates by the country’s ambitious cosmic space programme.

NanoRacks, a Houston firm which offers commercial private satellite launch and research services, is to open a base on Al Maryah Island.

Updated: October 16, 2019 11:52 AM

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