Countdown begins for first UAE-made satellite

Countdown begins for first UAE-made satellite

Dubai - The KhalifaSat was built by 70 Emirati engineers, men and women, at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.

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By Sarwat Nasir

Published: Mon 3 Sep 2018, 10:04 PM

Last updated: Tue 4 Sep 2018, 12:07 AM

On October 29, at precisely 8.08am (UAE Time), the first satellite to be built entirely by a team of Emiratis, will be launched from Japan's Tanigashima Space Centre, according to top officials.

The KhalifaSat was built by 70 Emirati engineers, men and women, at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and is being dubbed as the "most advanced satellite" in terms of remote sensing.

It will be able to capture satellite imagery with a resolution of 0.7m and will provide a mosaic image of Dubai to the Dubai government every six months. As compared to the many other satellites that are currently above Earth's surface, images captured by KhalifaSat will be less pixelated.

"This is the best satellite we believe is out there in the world when it comes to remote sensing. The product that we will deliver to customers will definitely be of the highest quality and the way we developed the satellite automatically makes it a state of the art advanced remote sensing satellite," said Amer Al Sayegh, director of the space systems development department and the project manager of KhalifaSat at the MBRSC.

"We have five patents under the KhalifaSat, built totally from scratch by our Emirati engineers and scientists. One of them is the highest resolution camera. This is the best satellite for Earth observation in the UAE and in the region. An advanced positioning system in the satellite will help us make giant maps and accurately provide information from the satellite to the users.

"We have heavily improved the download and communication speed with the ground control, which means our services will be provided faster than before. We have improved the satellite automatic control system with high storage capacity, this will allow us to take different images across different locations on Earth within one pass and enable customers to produce 3D maps for their own applications."

The launch time will take 15 to 20-minutes and will be sent 613km above Earth's surface.

Al Sayegh said they have partnered with the Japanese for the launch based on the country's success rate in sending multiple satellites with one rocket. The Japanese are also sending one of their own satellites in the same rocket.

A team of 10 engineers from MBRSC will head to Japan 40 days (give or take five days) to prepare for the launch. KhalifaSat also has to arrive Tanigashima Space Centre in the same time frame.

"During the launch time we will be doing our best with our partners in Japan. We will ensure it is a successful launch and that there are no valves blocked and the fuel doesn't leak. The team have been working with the Japanese partners for the past two years and we will continue to do so even after," he said.

Cost of KhalifaSat

When asked about the cost of the KhalifaSat project, Al Sayegh did not reveal a figure, however, said the cost is similar to the average of any Earth observation satellite development.

Khaleej Times also asked Sayegh if the KhalifaSat will help advance UAE's commercial space industry, to which he responded "that is not the focus, but it is an addition".

He said MBRSC will provide free images from the satellite to the UAE government, as well as to countries who need for humanitarian reasons, specifically natural disasters. However, if companies or governments need them for commercial purposes, it will cost them to use images captured by KhalifaSat.

It is estimated that the Earth Observation market will be worth billions of dollars in five years of time.

What is something goes wrong during the launch? Insurance will cover some costs.

"For us, we do have laboratories, capabilities in our engineers and our scientists, we have patents and engineer drawings, so we can develop a replica or an advanced one - this would depend on the decision on our leaders. When it comes to costs, we do have insurance coverage just to return some of the investment," Al Sayegh said.

KT nano edit: Quest to better lives

Space will be the next frontier of growth for the mankind, and the UAE is wholeheartedly working to make strides on this front. It's a matter of pride for the country and the leadership to see the achievements being made and milestones being crossed by young Emiratis, who are determined to make a mark. Their efforts won't just sparkle bright in space, but will make life better on earth as well.

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