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Dubai’s MBRSC to build UAE’s first environmental monitoring satellite

Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credits: Jeffrey E. Biteng, The National.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the Dubai Municipality have signed an agreement to design and build the region’s and United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first environmental monitoring nanometric satellites, dubbed DM SAT1.

The DM SAT1 concept came out of the Dubai Future Accelerators programme and will collect environmental data in the UAE and beyond to provide analysts with accurate information to combat smog in large urban areas as well as other challenges produced by climate change.

The MBRSC and Dubai Municipality agreement was signed by Yousuf AlShaibani, Director-General of MBRSC, and Eng. Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director-General of Dubai Municipality, in the presence of Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Vice Chairman and Managing Director of Dubai Future Foundation. Also present at the signing ceremony was Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Dubai Future Foundation, and President of MBRSC.

Sheikh Hamdan said after the agreement was signed that, “[T]he forward-looking vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, has taken our mission to shape the future to the outer space.”

“Our leadership has taken a strategic outlook in the space sector, which has massive potential. All that we have achieved so far is only the first few steps in our space strategy,” said Sheikh Hamdan.

“Anticipating the future and proactively planning for it is no longer an option. It is a necessity for cities and governments in our rapidly changing world. We are aware that to maintain our competitiveness on a global scale, we need to accelerate the pace of our achievements. With that in mind, we launched a number of platforms such as the Dubai Future Accelerators program, which consolidates the efforts of the government and private sectors to propose solutions for the challenges of the future, as Sheikh Mohammed directed,” added Sheikh Hamdan.

Eng. Lootah, Director-General of Dubai Municipality, said that Dubai “is the first municipality in the region to adopt it [DM SAT1] marking a quantum leap in the field of environmental monitoring. The project will employ the latest environmental space technologies to monitor air pollutants and greenhouse gases that cause climate change as it threatens the sustainability of ecosystems and natural resources, as well as the health and safety of communities.”

Yousuf Alshaibani, Director-General of MBRSC, said, “The creation of new channels for the application of space technology on the ground and in strategic sectors such as the environment would enhance the status of the UAE in the region and the world. It will also provide opportunities for the training of human resources and achieve long-term returns.”

The agreement between MBRSC and Dubai Municipality covers not only the design and development of DM SAT1, but also the training of a team of Dubai-based analysts who will analyse the data collected by DM SAT1 in order to develop concepts and strategies to reduce atmospheric pollution in cities like Dubai, as well as other challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation.

DM SAT1 will be able to cover large swathes of the Earth’s surface and will orbit the planet 14 times a day in low-earth orbit, with a revisit rate of anywhere between three to five days. DM SAT1 will feature two on-board computers and a Global Positioning System (GPS) device, as well as sensors capable of monitoring the environment in the red-, blue-, and infrared spectral bands and that will be developed in cooperation with the UK Space Agency.

While the UAE is a leading diplomatic player in combating climate change, the MBRSC and Dubai Municipality agreement to develop DM SAT1 is representative of the growing role of large cities around the world developing their own climate change policies and strategies, as well as capabilities.

The MBRSC and Dubai Municipality agreement also comes at a time when the U.S. state of California has indicated that it will develop its own environmental monitoring satellites, as President-elect Donald J. Trump has said that he will substantially cut the environmental monitoring and other Earth science programmes of the U.S. national space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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