UAE's KhalifaSat heads to Japan later this month
The UAE’s first-ever Emirati-designed satellite is due to be flown to Japan at the end of this month ahead of its launch in October, authorities have said.
The KhalifaSat will leave the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai for the island of Tanegashima, some 600 miles south of Tokyo.
Once there, a team of 10 Emirati engineers will tether the system with a Japanese-built H-IIA launch rocket.
And after just 20 minutes of flight time following blast off on October 29, the satellite will reach an orbit of 613km above earth.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Amer Al Sayegh, head of the KhalifaSat programme, congratulated UAE engineers on having built what he described as the country’s “most advanced satellite” to date.
“It will be flown to Japan soon,” he said. “Ten engineers will be involved in its final preparation and testing and will conduct the critical work of attaching it to the launcher. They have to be in Japan 40 days before the launch.”
The KhalifaSat has been hailed as a remarkable achievement for scientists in the Arab world.
The project was first announced in 2013 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
Since then some 70 Emirati men and women have worked on all aspects of developing the platform.
Once launched, the satellite will be able to send detailed, high-resolution imaging back to earth, providing valuable data on anything from detecting oil spills to mapping roads networks. The precision and clarity of its images are expected to be far higher than previous satellites launched by the UAE.
“It will be able to identify objects that are just 70cm long,” Mr Al Sayegh said.
“The images will help with environmental studies such as monitoring land contamination, monitoring water resources as well as helping countries affected by natural disasters.
“The difference will be felt in the detection and extraction of information from these objects since greater detail will be visible.”
Mr Al Sayegh went on to acknowledge that by relying solely on UAE expertise for the project, authorities had successfully encouraged a spike in interest in space development in the country.
He said more women were now considering the idea of space engineering and exploration as a profession, and that a number of universities now ran space programmes in their curriculums.
“Previously we had fewer engineers and they were not involved in all aspects of satellite development,” he said.
“This time Emiratis have been part of the engineering and non-engineering aspects including quality assurance, logistics and finance.
“It’s undoubtedly one of the biggest achievements for UAE nationals to have developed the country’s most advanced satellite.”
Since the start of KhalifaSat’s five-year development programme, new systems designed by UAE engineers have led to five separate patents being filed.
The state-of-the-art technologies relate to aspects of the satellites high-resolution camera, advanced positioning system and its autonomous operation capabilities.
All of this work reflects a wider government strategy to help prepare and train future Emirati scientists for space missions. In time, authorities hope to promote the country as a global hub for space technology.
The launch of the satellite will be live-streamed on the MBRSC YouTube channel, as well as broadcast on television networks and social media.
MBRSC has partnered with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for the launch.
Mr Al Sayegh said engineers continued to conduct extensive testing to make sure the satellite operated effectively.
He said being able to withstand extreme temperature conditions during the launch was one critical aspect of its design.
“The satellite will fly within a very wide range of temperatures and we’ve had to simulate similar environments to verify that all systems will continue to work,” he said.
“Testing was also done to be sure that the ground system could communicate successfully with the satellite.”