The UAE Space Agency is wrapping its Space Investment Strategy that should provide the regulatory environment necessary to attract local and foreign investments into the Emirati commercial space sector, making the UAE a regional and hemispheric hub for New Space activity.
Speaking in an interview with UAE newspaper, The Khaleej Times, Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi, the Director-General of the UAE Space Agency in Abu Dhabi, said that his organisation is now working on legislation and other regulations to cement the stable investment environment the UAE requires to realise its New Space ambitions.
“We are working on space regulations as well. You have to think about the space economy. Investors want to make sure if they invest, they have the right environment. So we need space regulations and laws to protect the local operator and to encourage foreign investors,” Dr. Al Ahbabi told The Khaleej Times.
“And this is our plan now – to focus on building capability but also to try to establish a space economy and encourage local SMEs and universities through funding in hope that they will be inspired. We try to encourage companies to establish space companies in the UAE. It will take some time but we are building the basis and enablers and I think it’s coming,” he added.
Al Ahbabi commented in the interview that the UAE is following the lead of other governments, such as the United States, that are turning to the private sector, in terms of both established aerospace companies as well as New Space startups, in order to meet their space needs and establish a thriving space economy.
“The governments want to push private sectors into investing in space and this is the right thing for sustainability. The governments will put some money, but they need the private sector to bring investment and ideas,” he said.
To that end, the UAE Space Agency is looking to establish a commercial space port at Al Ain International Airport, an ancient oasis city located in the UAE’s interior halfway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and is in talks with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to conduct commercial operations there.
“We are in talks with Virgin Galactic to operate with the UAE. I think in the future, when that industry has matured, the UAE will be the best destination for them. It’s not just Virgin, but also Blue Origin. We also did a study in Al Ain Airport and it’s perfect for them because it’s not busy,” Al Ahbabi said.
One corporate executive based in the UAE is encouraging the government to exploit the commercial space travel industry as much as possible.
“Commercial space flights will greatly expand the space industry as a whole. With additional companies providing access to space beyond just a few governments (Russia, China and the USA) it will allow scientists, researchers and explorers from any country to have access to space. With the additional access to space, new industries will develop in the years ahead at an increasing rate,” said Lissy Donald, managing director of Compass International – a UAE-based firm that is the regional partner of NASA.
“It is quite possible that the UAE government will contract for flights to space with both Space X and Boeing as well as with Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft, which will be flying to space in about 18 to 24 months. Initially, the Space X and Boeing flights will be ‘test flights’ and flights of crew and cargo to the International Space Station. But in a few years, the flight rates and opportunities for other nationals to fly to space will greatly increase,” she said.