EIASAT Sets Lofty Goals For DubaiSat Project
[Satellite News – 1-11-08] The Middle East has seen many interesting satellite projects unveiled in the past year, and while communications satellites dominate the headlines, a technology project could be the most interesting.
The Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), a Dubai government organization established to support the development of the information and communications technology infrastructure in the United Arab Emirates, unveiled plans in September to launch its DubaiSat-1 spacecraft in 2008. The satellite is intended to make the country one of the global leaders in science and technology development.
In an interview with Satellite News, Ahmed Obaid Al Mansoori, director general of the EIAST, discusses the significance of the DubaiSat project for the United Arab Emirates and why it is vital for the nation to have its own multipurpose information system.
Satellite News: Why do you feel it is necessary for the EIAST to have its own satellite for scientific development and technological research?
Al Mansoori: Dubai has been growing on many fronts such as economy, construction, finance and others, however, there is a need to grow the information and communications technology sector. And in order to achieve that, we need to implement the best and latest scientific applications and advanced technologies. At EIAST, it is our mission to offer the decision makers, in the various fields, well-researched reports and recommendations. Therefore we are launching DubaiSat-1, our pioneer and catalyst project that will serve as the platform for our space programmes as well as for the development of national experts.
The Middle East is very rich with various types of telecommunications and broadcast satellites. However, DubaiSat-1 is a small sized remote sensing satellite. It will take images of the face of the earth that will be transmitted to our ground station team who would analyze the images to produce reports that will support various sectors such as urban and rural planning, environment, etc.
Satellite News: What are the major objectives for EIAST with the satellite?
Al Mansoori: We will focus on effectively using the satellite to support the national growth. At the same time, we plan to reinforce the skills and expertise of the nationals in this domain especially since we have already selected a team of young national engineers to assist with the design and manufacturing of the satellite. We also aim to acquire the necessary skills to apply the global best practices and gain knowledge of the latest space technologies to be able to design and manufacture our own satellites in the future. It is obviously an ambitious long-term plan but we are working very hard to achieve it by creating a new generation of national scientists and experts.
Satellite News: Considering the number of satellite operators based in the Middle East, why did the EIAST need its own dedicated satellite?
Al Mansoori: It is true the region has seen an obvious increase in the number of telecommunications satellite providers. However, DubaiSat-1 will have its own unique contribution to the growth and development in the [United Arab Emirates] and the region by offering necessary research and reporting material. On the other hand, the [United Arab Emirates] is amongst the fastest growing countries in the world which requires a constant influx of data to support its various booming industries. The demand for information is growing beyond the capacity of the current providers.
Through the transfer of know-how, we hope to establish ourselves as the pioneer provider for the region, which has great potentials. Our long-term plan is to acquire the necessary knowledge and develop it to suit the needs of the [United Arab Emirates] and the region. The process is effectively underway through international collaborations for the development of the technology.
Satellite News: How will the capacity on the satellite be used?
Al Mansoori: DubaiSat-1 will offer the entities of the public and private sectors as well as the social organizations and bodies the prerequisites for the decision-making process in the various sectors namely education, infrastructural development, environment, strategic planning through [research and development], assistance in emergency and rescue services, natural resources management, project management, and others.
Satellite News: Could you give us a timeline for the project throughout the next several years?
Al Mansoori: The first phase of the project started in 2006. Then we worked on the procurement of the satellite, hiring people, assessing our requirement, and contacting international suppliers. During this phase, we contracted South Korean-based Satrec Initiative, a specialist in the production of small satellite solutions and technology transfer, which in turn support scientific research. We also placed our national team in South Korea to participate in the design and manufacturing of the satellite.
When phase two is completed in the first half of 2008, we aim to complete the transfer of the prototype. By then we would have also established our ground station which is in the setting up process following our agreement with ViaSat, the U.S.-based producer of innovative satellite and other wireless communication products including satellite networks and antenna systems.
The final phase will hopefully be completed at the end of 2008 when the satellite will be launched through Moscow-based launching company, International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras.
Satellite News: What are the major challenges facing the project over the next two years?
Al Mansoori: We are cooperating with a number of key players in the space technologies industry to make sure DubaiSat-1 design and manufacturing match the best global standards for this type of satellite. The critical element here is the launch, and one of the reasons we opted to launch it through the Dnepr spacecraft is to ensure a successful launch.
Satellite News: What will define success for the project?
Al Mansoori: The project is a catalyst for our space programs and a platform for a solid and advanced [information and communications technology] infrastructure that will enable us to go steadily into the 21st century. It is also very important in terms of development of the national capacities especially the human resources and acquiring the know-how.