UAE Space Agency Advisory Committee holds its first meeting

by Clayton Vallabhan | November 18th, 2015

Al Ahbabi 2The Advisory Committee of the UAE Space Agency held its first meeting in Abu Dhabi, in the presence of the Board of Directors and the Agency’s senior management team. The meeting which was held over two days saw participants discuss the Agency’s general strategic framework, the country’s position in the space sector, and future courses of action.

The meeting was attended by HE Dr. Khalifa Al Rumaithi, Chairperson if the UAE Space Agency; Dr. Mohamed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the Agency; Dr. Saeed Khalfan Al Dhaheri, Advisor to the Minister, Information Systems; Jean-Jacques Dordain, former director general of the European Space Agency; Dr. Charles Al Achi, Director Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president of the California Institute of Technology; Dr. Farouk Al Baz, President of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University; Dr. Tayeb Kamali, Director of the Higher Colleges of Technology at the state level; Dr. Mazlan Othman, the former head of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and former Director General of the Malaysian National Space Agency; Dong-Sung Park, CEO of Satrick, a provider of solutions for Earth observation missions; Ryouichi Imai, vice president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Organisation; and Sir Martin Sweeting, Director General of the Surrey Space Centre.

On day one, the meeting opened with a presentation by Dr. Al Ahbabi, who talked about the mission, future vision, and institutional strategy of the Agency. In addition, Dr Al Ahbabi also spoke about the Mars Probe, the project timeline, and the current level of support and cooperation in this context.

A number of topics were discussed at the meeting, most notably the state policy in the field of space, current and future draft laws, the latest developments related to technology along with investment in human resources, and future trends in the space sector.

Day two saw discussions about the state’s strategy in the space sector, and its position in terms of investment, industrial partnerships, financing, human resources, innovation and science. Cooperation with international bodies such as the United Nations and other organisations was also discussed.

Dr. Khalifa Al Rumaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “We have learned from our wise leadership to continue from where others have left. One of the positive aspects of these meetings and their outcomes is to learn about the latest developments in space technology from the vast experience of the participants in this field. The committee members have experienced different stages in the space industry, and are knowledgeable about what is happening now and what will happen in the future. This will enable the Agency to avoid mistakes previously made by others.”

Commenting on the principles and standards on the basis of which the committee members were selected, Al Rumaithi said: “The selection of the Advisory Committee was based on scientific foundations, namely diverse knowledge and expertise in different technologies in the space field, experience in research and phases of the implementation of projects and construction vehicles. Expertise in corporate governance, the development of the criteria for success, and previous or current experience in agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency were also considered.”

The agenda for the first day included a visit to Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), during which the delegation toured the company’s facilities. On the second day, the delegation visited the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai, held meetings, and toured the center.

Dr. Charles Al Achi said: “Yahsat and MBRSC are among the most important institutions whose expertise and infrastructure we can benefit from. We were impressed by the enthusiasm of the youth in these institutions. Human potential is an essential element in the development of infrastructure, and it is very important to have a vision that human resources and the MBRSC should seek to achieve. If we look at the Mars Probe mission, for example, we find that the UAE has spared no effort to invest, develop, and encourage human resources, and has exposed them to various challenges in order to develop the sector.”

Dr. Al Achi noted that by educating and encouraging children by stimulating their interest in science, a foundation can be laid in place from the early stages to ensure their involvement in the space sector in the future., The Mars Probe program serves as an inspiration and encourages children to engage in various science, engineering, and technology fields.

Dr. Farouk Al Baz, referring to capacity building in the UAE alongside building and providing the required technology in the space sector, said: “The UAE has diverse human capacities, including holders of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and can capitalize on its expertise in various science fields. No one can start any project without securing the necessary requirements. What is needed today is to gather this talent and resources and educate them about the future vision, within a clear framework that allows optimal benefit.”

Al Baz added: “The UAE did not follow a specific model, but looked at the different experiences of countries active in the space sector and benefited from their expertise. It set an ambitious plan to enter the space sector through the Mars program.”

The committee will meet periodically to provide practical and technical advice to the Agency in matters relating to the development of strategies, policies, and future trends; and ensure the quality of the performance of various programs, and keep up with the latest technology in the global space sector.

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