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Things are literally “looking up” for UAE private sector businesses and startups

The space industry could become one of United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) most promising sectors and a key pillar of economic growth over the next 50 years

The private sector could play a major role in advancing the global space economy from the UAE The UAE spent $383 million on space in 2018 beating Canada Some 200 Emirati engineers and scientists worked on the HOPE probe within a set budget of $200 million

The space industry could become one of United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) most promising sectors and a key pillar of economic growth over the next 50 years, according to a report titled ‘Space Economy Investment Opportunities for the UAE’, by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

It identifies 10 areas of the space economy that offer the most investment potential for the UAE, namely: 

1.Space mining

2. Space stations

3. Space settlements

4. Space law

5. Sustainability in space and recycling, 

6. Space tourism

7. Space companies, 

8. Space academies that include preparing astronauts for commercial flights

9. Space industries

10. Developing and manufacturing spacecraft components

Space has a place for technology startups 

Rather than countries and governments, billionaire businesspeople now vie for a share of space wandering with major investments such as with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.  

The report identified specific areas where the private sector could play a major role in advancing the global space economy. These include:

1. Satellite servicing

2. Interplanetary small satellites

3. Robotic mining 

4. Microgravity research for biomedical applications

5. Liquid rocket engines for launch vehicles

6. Wireless power

7. Space communications

8. Earth observation data visualization. 

Read: Increased interest in space ahead of Mars Mission this month

Space is the limit 

When it comes to space, the UAE has been on a mission

The UAE has spent years investing in space research and development, founding its own space agency in 2014 after launching satellites in 2009 and 2013 developed jointly with South Korean partners. 

In December 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, ruler of Dubai, posted on Twitter the nation’s plans to start a human spaceflight program under his Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

Euroconsult, an international consulting firm specializing on space markets, reported that the UAE spent $383 million on space in 2018 beating Canada.

In March 2019, Virgin Galactic signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE space agency that aims to set up a spaceport in the country.

The UAE’s first interplanetary mission successfully took off from Japan in July this year, sending a Mars probe called Hope aimed at studying the weather there.

Hope will now spend the next seven months traveling through deep space, periodically correcting its course with a series of engine burns. Then sometime in February of 2021, it’ll attempt to put itself into an elongated orbit around Mars, where it will analyze the atmosphere and climate throughout the course of each Martian day.

The engineers and scientists had just six years to get the probe ready for launch this year within a set budget of $200 million for development and launch. Some 200 Emirati engineers and scientists worked on the project.

Almost a year earlier in September 2019, Major Hazzaa AlMansoori made history by becoming the first Emirati in space.

Fellow Emirati, Sultan AlNeyadi, a 38-year-old doctor of information technology and former engineer for the UAE armed forces, became the back-up astronaut for the mission.

Read: The successful Mars Mission launch sends the Hope Probe to Mars, and the UAE to the future

Interest in science and space growing

The UAE’s government has launched various campaigns to expand the country’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) sector, and it views its growing space program as an important part of that. 

Enrolment by UAE nationals in STEM university courses has been rising by around 12% a year, six times faster than the overall trend in enrolment, with the increase highest in women.  

Already the MBRSC’s staff has risen from 70 to more than 200.