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UAE space program to boost Asia’s stake in space development

A Japanese H-IIA launch vehicle carrying the UAE’s Khalifasat lifts off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre on 29 October 2018. Photograph courtesy of Nozomi Endo/Kyodo News via AP.

The UAE’s space programs, especially the successful launch of its Mars Mission, will give a boost to Asia’s lead in Industry 4.0, and make the Emirates “a big stakeholder in the development of developing countries across the globe,” a senior academic told Emirates News Agency, WAM. “Asians are leading the race in terms of the fourth industrial revolution [4IR] in which space technology has a core role. China, India, South Korea, and Japan are at its forefront, and the UAE has joined them with its successful space programmes,” said Dr. Narayanappa Janardhan who is a Senior Research Fellow at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, EDA, in Abu Dhabi.

4IR is a technological revolution that merges the physical, digital and biological technologies in order to deliver unprecedented products and services in new and emerging sectors. “The UAE will become a frontrunner among those leading Asian nations and its ‘look east policy’ will also help further develop the ties with those countries,” he added in an interview with WAM. As WAM reported in the last two weeks, China, India, South Korea and Japan, along with the US, Russia and European Union, appreciated the Emirates Mars Mission and expressed their keen interest in further developing cooperation with the UAE in space sector.

Space diplomacy

The academic added that space is used as diplomatic tool in 21st century and as part of the ‘space diplomacy,’ there will be more and more tie up among those Asian countries [and other developing nations across the world, too] that are advancing the cause of the fourth industrial revolution.

“You have already seen that many of the iconic and mega projects that would have otherwise gone to Western countries in the past are now all being allocated to Asian countries. For example, I mean 5G [5th generation mobile network] developed by Chinese company Huawei,” said Dr. Janardhan, who has 25 years of regional expertise in analysing the evolving multi-dimensional partnerships between the Gulf countries and Asia.

Space and Asia’s growth

China just recently launched its final satellite as a counter to the US government-owned GPS [Global Positioning System, a global navigation satellite system] and the country is completely off the GPS grid now, he pointed out. He was referring to China successfully putting into orbit the final satellite in its BeiDou-3 navigation system in June, further advancing the country as a power in space, as it no longer rely on the GPS. The $10 billion network is made up of 35 satellites and provides global navigation coverage.

Such advanced space-technology led fourth industrial revolution is at the heart of the growth of Asian economies, Dr. Janardhan noted. India has been building and launching satellites for many other countries. Perhaps the UAE may also follow suit, leveraging the commercial and developmental potential of space sector, he said. “So the whole concept of space diplomacy has gone beyond just being a diplomatic tool, but it has become a major economic tool as well,” the academic pointed out.

Because space technology is going to help the Asian economies continue to grow with D2H [Direct to Home – an Indian direct broadcast satellite service], tele-medicine, tele-education, [and other tools for] disaster relief, agriculture, fishing, and natural resource mapping as these are essential requirements for developing countries, he explained.

UAE and developing countries

With its successful space programs to offer such services, the UAE will be a big stakeholder in the development of developing countries across the globe, Dr. Janardhan emphasized. “At the end of the day, the future is not just going to be about bilateral ties. It is about multilateral ties. So if you look at the foreign policies of the Gulf countries, it is not just about they cooperating with one other country but they are cooperating with one other country in a third country,” he said.

Saudi Arabia becoming part of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative in Duqm in Oman, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia participating in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor are major examples, the academic explained.

Multilateral ties

The UAE and India have signed an agreement to look at development projects in Africa, mostly to do with tele-education and -medicine, he said. “So at the core of it all is the space technology. It is all about the digital world. The more you move ahead, the UAE is going to be the front-runner in making that transition from the current economy to a digital economy,” he noted.

If the UAE ties up with some of the leading Asian countries, it will become a very important stakeholder in the development of many more other developing countries, Dr. Janardhan reiterated. “So that is how this whole thing fits into it,” he said on the context of the UAE’s successful launch of Mars Mission, Hope Probe, which took off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center on 20th July.

Latest Mars Missions

Hope Probe would travel 493.5 million km over seven months to reach Mars’ orbit in February 2021, coinciding with the UAE’s Golden Jubilee celebrations to mark the historic union of the Emirates. Once the Hope Probe successfully reaches Mars, the UAE will join the exclusive club of spacefarers that have landed on Mars, alongside the US, Russia, the European Union and India.

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars on 23rd July, which should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February 2021. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, of the US will launch its next Mars rover on Thursday, 30th July, which will land within the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on 18th February 2021.

WAM/ Ibrahim Shukralla

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