Tawazun Economic Council has formed a collaboration with Airbus and the National Space Science and Technology Center, NSSTC, from UAE University, to build and develop a Satellite Assembly, Integration and Testing, AIT, Center with the aim of manufacturing components and assembling, integrating and testing small to medium satellites. The AIT Satellite Center will develop and build communication, navigation and hyperspectral satellites ranging in size between 50 and 250 kilograms and it is planned to commence operations at the beginning of 2021.
The Center will be based at the NSSTC facilities in Al Ain, with Airbus supporting NSSTC during the design, outfitting and commissioning of the facility. Airbus will also manage the procurement, installation and operational qualification required for the equipment. The collaboration was established and facilitated by Tawazun as part of its important role as an industry enabler dedicated to driving a collaborative defense and security ecosystem, securing and progressing technology development, and building national competencies and skills within the UAE.
“This is our second project after Yahsat, and there are many more projects to come, as Tawazun works to further develop the UAE space sector,” said Matar Ali Al Romaithi, Chief Economic Development Officer of Tawazun. “The UAE is building and acquiring the knowledge required to become a regional hub for space activities and advanced research and development. This Center is an integral part of those plans and consequently Tawazun has worked to make sure that it operates as a sustainable resource for the next five to seven years with a view to becoming permanent.”
“We also value the significant contribution that Airbus is making to the Center’s sustainability, as well as to the increase and development of our Emirati resource and expertise. NSSTC will accumulate critical knowledge from Airbus through this project, and our national competencies and skills will increase significantly,” added Al Romaithi.
“The space industry is an important and strategic sector for the UAE, as it enables the development of high-level skills and drives innovation,” said Mikail Houari, President Africa and Middle East, Airbus.
“Airbus remains committed to supporting the advancement of all key elements of the UAE’s aerospace industry. For many years, we have worked closely in partnership with the nation’s leading industrial entities to help create new technological solutions and provide global expertise and experience to local talent. This new collaboration will support the future growth of the UAE’s space and satellite sector, contributing to the country’s economic diversification strategy. It will also support the continued efforts around Emiratisation, which will be vital for ensuring long-term sustainable development of the sector,” added Houari.
Currently the UAE space sector has provided 3,000 jobs at 50 space related entities, five space research and development centers and three universities offering space degrees. This new project will create 32 new jobs (at least 22 of whom will be UAE nationals) with significant know-how transfer and training being conducted at Airbus facilities in France as well as locally.
Saeed Ahmed Ghobash – Chancellor of the United Arab Emirates University – emphasised the importance of the scientific research collaboration with Tawazun, which he says is aligned to the vision and strategic direction of the University. The NSSTC is an entity created by the UAE University alongside the UAE Space Agency, and Chancellor Ghobash said that UAEU has established a credible standing and reputation among national, regional and international institutes because of its continued strive for excellence.
“This is in line with the vision of the UAE government, achieving the goals of the national agenda through the implementation of contemporary, sustainable developmental projects,” said Ghobash, “UAEU possesses distinctive scientific and technical capabilities that enable it to keep abreast of global trends in applied scientific research, the fourth industrial revolution, the requirements of artificial intelligence, and space science and technology. The university’s work contributes to the development of a knowledge and digital based economy.”
“Part of the mandate for NSSTC was to develop satellite AIT capability, and it is a pleasure to form this partnership with Tawazun and Airbus to achieve that very objective,” said Dr Khaled Al Hashmi, Director of NSSTC. “The UAE will soon have a fully autonomous AIT satellite capability, and this will benefit the country’s satellite programs as well as further enhancing space-related skills within the country. The NSSTC will become the center where the knowledge that Airbus has imparted will come together to support the UAE space sector.”
The UAE Space Agency is funding the first two projects that will be completed under the management and operation of NSSTC. The first project will be a satellite that will augment navigational capabilities for the UAE and the second will be the Arab 813 Satellite; a project announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Both projects are currently underway with the support of Airbus and will be completed at the new facilities.