Middle East Allies Look to Expand Space Capabilities.

Author:Lee, Connie

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates --Middle Eastern countries are banding together to improve their satellite programs.

At the biennial Dubai Air Show in November, a group of officials from across the Arabian Peninsula spoke on a panel to discuss ways in which space capabilities are being developed in the Middle East.

In recent years, the United Arab Emirates has taken steps such as establishing the UAE Space Agency in 2014. The Arab Space Coordination Group was created as an offshoot of the agency in March 2019, establishing a partnership between a number of Arab nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco and Egypt, according to Emirates News Agency, the UAE's official media outlet.

Additional countries are showing interest in joining the organization as well, Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency, said at the air show. International cooperation will be key to pursuing future space projects, he noted.

"UAE and the Arab countries are all complementary and they all serve each other, and therefore the UAEs' initiatives are [also] the Arab world's initiatives," he said.

Now, the group is looking to expand its work and will soon establish a legal framework and outline its objectives, he noted.

A new satellite will be developed at the National Space Science and Technology Center at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain over three years, Emirates News Agency reported. The organization was launched with the initial goal of creating a spacecraft that could monitor environmental and climate change. The project is sufficiently funded, Ahbabi said.

Member nations have already met with engineers to discuss the project and draft their plans, he noted.

"We are looking into collaboration and cooperation opportunities," he said. "This project will give us confidence and prove to us that there is nothing impossible."

The satellite will be dubbed "813," representing the year in which the House of Wisdom in Baghdad was established under the reign of Al-Ma'mun, the seventh Abbasid caliph, Ahbabi said, noting that officials chose to stay away from catchy names.

"The wisdom house was a house... for translators to come and translate books of science," he said. "What we are seeking today is to have a satellite that will... provide us with all the data that will benefit us best."

The spacecraft will take about three years to develop and have a polar orbit 600...

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