Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai, today announced a new satellite project called MBZ-SAT, which will become the second Emirati satellite to be fully developed and built by an Emirati engineering team after KhalifaSat.
The MBZ-SAT, to be developed at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, MBRSC, in Dubai, will be launched in 2023, making it the most advanced commercial satellite in the region in the field of high resolution satellite imagery.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed said that "the space sector is a key strategic sector because of its role in improving the quality of life of people. With the help of our national talent we can raise the level of our ambitions and continue to support international efforts in the field of space science to serve the interests of both the region and the world".
He added that they had chosen the name 'MBZ-SAT' for the new satellite in honour of his brother Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Supreme Deputy Commander of the Emirates Armed Forces.
"The name was chosen to honour the achievements he has contributed to, of which we are proud. Our aim is to benefit fully from space science and to find new opportunities to support the development of our country and the region, as well as to help societies overcome environmental and developmental challenges so that they can prosper and progress.
The previous satellite, KhalifaSat, was named after Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates. It was launched into space in October 2018, and was the first satellite designed and fully developed in the UAE by a 100% UAE team.
Work on the KhalifaSat began in 2013 and it was the first satellite to be developed in the Arab world, marking the beginning of a new era in the field of space science and advanced technology for the region.
MBZ-SAT will be equipped with an automated system to take and store images 24 hours a day, ensuring that it provides the highest quality standards of satellite images for commercial use worldwide. This project will strengthen the UAE's space industry associations within the public and private sectors.
As the fourth Earth observation satellite to be developed and launched by MBRSC, the project will strengthen the Centre's efforts to expand its portfolio of imaging technologies and products for government agencies and commercial entities worldwide. MBZ-SAT will help meet the growing commercial demand for high-resolution satellite imagery that will show detail within an area of less than one square meter, which will be one of the most advanced features ever.
Due to the MBRSC's strategic plan and the approach it has taken over the years to qualify and train Emirati engineers, experts and technicians, a 100% Emirati team will work on the development of the new satellite in the Centre's laboratories.
The Centre will also work with local companies in the space sector to manufacture and supply the components required for the development of MBZ-SAT. This cooperation will enhance the sustainability of the national space sector in the UAE.
After launching the satellite into low-Earth orbit, the MBRSC ground station team will analyse the data received from the satellite, provide recommendations, high-resolution data and images to local and international entities.
The Centre will provide rapid delivery of the captured data, sharing it with users through an advanced system. This imaging solution can support a wide variety of uses in mapping and analysis, environmental monitoring, navigation, infrastructure management and disaster relief efforts, to name a few.
The usefulness of satellite imagery in assisting and addressing natural disasters is particularly important, as it can help measure the severity of the calamity, help plan relief efforts, and assist in reconstruction efforts.
The satellite will measure 3x5 metres and weigh around 700 kg. The experts' idea is to improve the image capture resolution by more than twice what the previously launched system is capable of.
It will also increase the downlink data transmission speed by three times the current capacity. The image processing and programming system will be fully automated and will also be able to produce more than 10 times the images that the Centre currently produces.
Pre-approvals will be established to facilitate the automation process. Commercial and government entities will be able to place an order online for high-resolution images throughout the day.
Image processing and downloads can be completed in less than two hours from receipt of the request, depending on the location of the satellite. The MBZ-SAT will also use a global processing network by leveraging the machine learning capabilities of leading service providers to shorten the time between request and delivery of high-resolution images.
The MBZ-SAT will be the first satellite capable of detecting a larger number of artificial and natural elements with a higher accuracy and resolution rate compared to the current range of Earth observation satellites.
In addition, the raw data collected by the new satellite system will be able to process better AI functionality that can help faster analysis and processing of satellite images.
Since its inception, MBRSC has been dedicated to achieving positive benefits for societies by sharing valuable innovations and knowledge with businesses and institutions around the world to achieve sustainable development.
This approach is consistent with the UAE National Space Programme's strategy to "build a strong and sustainable UAE space sector that supports and protects national interests and vital industries.
The idea is to contribute to the diversification and growth of the economy by boosting the Emirates' expertise, developing scientific and technological capabilities, rooting a culture of innovation and national pride, and strengthening the status and role of the UAE regionally and globally.
An effective way of transferring technology and supporting the development of the MBRSC's business through partnership activities is a central component of the Centre's strategy to develop innovative new space technologies.
The development of MBZ-SAT will enhance the UAE space sector by focusing on a sustainable ecosystem composed of local actors in the field of manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, electronic boards, specialized test facilities, data analysis and more specialized processes.
The MBRSC has partnered over the years with private space technology companies and plans to further enhance this partnership to create a sustainable space sector in the UAE, thus encouraging more space-ready technology manufacturing.
Hamad Obaid al-Mansoori, Chairman of the MBRSC, said: "The wise leadership of the emirates has always believed in the exceptional possibilities offered by a constructive strategy and forward-looking approach that enables the nation to move forward through scientific and technological advances. The announcement of the launch of the new MBZ-SAT satellite and its services is just a glimpse of what the future holds. It is up to us, along with our partners, to work together to foster opportunities that contribute to growth.
Yousuf Hamad al-Shaibani, CEO of MBRSC, said the team is highly skilled. "At MBRSC we have always been at the forefront of addressing major challenges, from building the first UAE satellite, to working on the first Arab interplanetary mission and now on the MBZ. -SAT".
"The new mission will further expand MBRSC's position as a pioneer in the space sector in the region and expand our capabilities to serve a more global customer base. It is also key to further consolidating the UAE's position as a competitive player in the space industry," said the CEO.
For over a decade, MBRSC has been providing detailed, high-resolution satellite imagery that has been captured via the DubaiSat-1, DubaiSat-2 and KhalifaSat satellites. The Centre is also part of the International Disaster Charter and Sentinel Asia, playing a crucial role in global disaster relief and management.
The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, founded in 2006, is the home of the United Arab Emirates National Space Programme. The Centre builds and monitors earth observation satellites, providing data analysis and imaging services to clients worldwide.
The Centre is responsible for the Emirates Mars "Hope Probe" mission, the first Arab interplanetary mission launched on 20 July 2020. The probe is expected to reach Martian orbit in 2021 and collect key scientific data on Mars' atmosphere.
The Centre also manages the UAE's Astronaut Programme, which saw the launch of Hazzaa al-Mansoori, the first Emirati astronaut, to the International Space Station on a science mission on 25 September 2019.