x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Two new ground satellite stations will be built out in the desert

One of the sites is about 40km from the city centre of Abu Dhabi, while the other is located near Al Ain.

ABU DHABI // Two satellite tracking ground stations are to be built in the desert next year to service the UAE's first satellite communication systems. One of the sites is about 40km from the city centre of Abu Dhabi, while the other is located near Al Ain. Combined, the sites will cover 15,000 square metres and house technical and administrative buildings, and large antennae to keep track of the satellites, reports Clarke Bond, the British engineering and management consultancy company appointed as the project manager. The UAE's first satellite communications system is due to launch in two years, with another soon after. "This is a major project with enormous significance for the UAE, which must be delivered on time," said David Harding, the chief executive of Clarke Bond. The company behind the satellite project is Al Yah Satellite Communications (YahSat). It was set up by Mubadala Development Company, the Abu Dhabi Government investment company, last year. Mubadala reportedly raised Dh4.4 billion (US$1.2bn) to fund the two satellites. The first satellite, YahSat 1A, is to be built in Europe and is expected to launch from Kazakhstan in the last quarter of 2010. It will provide the region with voice, data, video and internet connectivity, as well as secure military satellite communications. The second satellite, YahSat 1B, is due to be launched in the first half of 2011. YahSat, the first nationally owned satellite communications company, confirmed in August that it already had two major customers: the UAE Armed Forces and Emerging Market Communications (EMC), a US company that specialises in servicing crisis zones and emerging markets. The company is looking to attract more customers from the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South-West Asia. Draft designs for the ground stations have already been completed, with more detailed plans in progress. The structures will need to be able to withstand frequent sand storms and ground temperatures of more than 60°C. "There are enormous challenges associated with any form of construction in the desert," said Mr Harding. "Let alone satellite tracking stations which will house delicate high-tech instrumentation under highly secure conditions." newsdesk@thenational.ae