With the UAE having sent its first man to space last year, and with the Hope Probe on its way to Mars, the UAE is showing that it is completely dedicated to its growing role in space economy and travel.
In fact, a whitepaper released last month by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed that the space industry could become one of the UAE’s most promising sectors and a key pillar of economic growth over the next 50 years.
Titled ‘Space Economy Investment Opportunities for the UAE,’ the report identifies 10 areas of the space economy that offer the most investment potential for the UAE, namely space mining, space stations, space settlements, space law, sustainability in space and recycling, space tourism, space companies, and space academies that include preparing astronauts for commercial flights, space industries, and developing and manufacturing spacecraft components.
Given the country’s aforementioned engagements with the space industry, the report notes that these important developments are paving the way for new investment opportunities and public-private sector partnerships that could take the UAE’s space economy to new heights, enhance the country’s economic competitiveness and cement its status as a global innovation leader.
The changing face of the space race
According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), the UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) plans to send the first Arab mission with Emirati astronauts to the moon by 2024, as part of MBRSC’s 2021-2031 strategy. The wider plan aims to realise the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for the UAE’s contributions to space science and research and consolidate the country’s international position in this sector. Meanwhile, the Emirates Lunar Mission will be the the first Emirati and Arab mission to explore the moon, supporting the UAE’s efforts to enhance the region’s space industry and contribute to its future built by innovative Emirati minds.
The rover to be sent to the moon will be designed and built in the UAE by a fully Emirati team of engineers, experts, and researchers. If successful, the UAE will become the first Arab country and the fourth country in the world to land on the lunar surface after the United States, Soviet Union, and China. MBRSC will partner with an international entity to assist in landing the ‘Rashid’ Lunar Rover on the Moon.
The rover is set to be manufactured in 2022, while preliminary experiments and tests of the prototype are expected to start in 2023. The Centre aims to launch the Lunar Rover by 2024.
So far, the UAE’s space industry investments have exceeded AED 22 billion ($6 billion), and the latest 2021-2031 plan will only build on this grand investment.
This comes at a time when the space race of the modern age is nothing like that of the 20th century, where private organizations and businesses are as involved as governments are, and where are achievements and accolades will not exclusively be handed out to government organizations alone, but to successful innovators, entrepreneurs and private organizations alike. The report singles out Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic as prime examples of this private innovation in the sector.
According to the white paper, the private sector could play a major role in advancing the global space economy in fields like satellite servicing, interplanetary small satellites, robotic mining, microgravity research for biomedical applications, liquid rocket engines for launch vehicles, wireless power, space communications, and earth observation data visualization. In this regard, public-private sector partnerships could prove to be a key factor driving future development and progress, especially when space tourism finally becomes a reality.
In May 2020, NASA formally announced the Artemis Accords, based on a shared vision for principles, grounded in the United Nations’ Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment that facilitates exploration, science and commercial activities for the benefit of all humanity. As part of the program’s goals, NASA aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.
By signing these accords, the UAE takes a further step to becoming a major international player in the space sector.