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The UAE Steps Up Space Ambitions With a New Fund and SAR Constellation Plans

By Mark Holmes | July 19, 2022

Rendering of a UAE Sirb SAR satellite. Photo: UAE Space Agency

The UAE is accelerating its plans to be a major player in the space arena with a new fund for space projects and details of a new remote sensing constellation. The government in the UAE alongside its the UAE Space Agency announced a new 3 billion Emirati dirham ($861.61 million) national investment and development fund for the space sector, the National Space Fund. The fund’s first project to be launched to space will be a constellation of advanced remote sensing satellites using radar technologies to provide strong imaging capabilities.

The constellation is to be named Sirb after the Arabic term for a flock of birds, and will address the need for better environmental and land usage monitoring, data collection and analysis to meet today’s global challenges. The planned synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites will be able to create detailed and complex radar images of land use, ice cover, surface changes, and characterization, with a wide range of scientific, civil, and commercial applications.

The UAE plans to launch the first satellite launch in three years, a much faster time to launch than was possible using traditional Earth observation satellite design principles. The Sirb satellites will be built through a number of partnerships between the Emirati public and private sector together with international players, with submissions being opened for a range of system integration, development and subsystem construction opportunities as part of the constellation development, launch, operation, and commercialization plan.

“SAR technology leapfrogs traditional imaging satellites, providing more powerful imaging using X-band radar technologies, allowing us to continue observations day and night, through fog and cloud cover as well as combining observations to create big data pictures simply not possible through conventional imaging. These small-scale satellites are more agile, faster to develop and more powerful – an indicator of the types of new generation systems that technology is now making possible,” Sarah bint Yousef Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said in a statement.