File photo: UAE’s KhalifaSat successfully lifts off into space on board H2-A rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre. Image Credit:

Dubai: As the UAE hits another major historical milestone by launching KhalifaSat, the country has successfully entered a new era of progress towards the stars.

Space policy has fallen off the priority list for a number of governments, while regulatory indifference has created a vacuum allowing innovative companies and hungry nations, like the UAE, to compete and lead in the next phase of the modern space race. The marketplace has become dominated by private companies such as SpaceX while government-organised space explorations have decreased.

This gives the UAE an opportunity to become a global hub for the space industry. Through KhalifaSat, the UAE is assuming its rightful place as a global leader that will redefine space exploration.

The UAE has always been known for its ability to translate policy into unprecedented achievement at an unmatched pace. In fact, the UAE’s space agenda, which is less than a half decade old, includes satellite construction, setting up the first Space Research Centre in the Middle East, launching the Hope Probe to Mars in 2020, and establishing an extensive training programme for Emirati astronauts.


The UAE has become one of the new and globally recognised players on the ‘New Space’ scene. This has been led by the strategic vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the emphasis he has placed on space exploration as one of his priorities in the UAE Vision 2021 and as a strategic driver for sustainable development.

By investing more than Dh22 billion, the UAE has become the ‘New Space’ power, advancing its space industry and research across various sectors. The UAE’s success has been highlighted with the monumental launch of the KhalifaSat from Japan. The country made history with the first satellite built in the UAE to have reached space. This is just the first of 12 scheduled for orbit by 2020.

Shaikh Mohammed praised this historical moment by highlighting that KhalifaSat “marks a new national phase in which Emiratis have proven their ability, maturity, knowledge and determination to compete globally, with our heads held high”. Even more symbolic is the highly skilled Emirati engineers, who made KhalifaSat a reality.

The majority of the 70 members are in their 20s, some even fresh graduates, reflecting the important role the UAE’s youth will play in future success to achieve our nation’s ambitious goals.

The launch of KhalifaSat is only the beginning for the UAE’s ambitions in the sector. It has strategically partnered with countries, which already have an embedded space programme such as Russia, Japan and India. For example, the Mars Mission spacecraft will be launched from a Japanese rocket.

In addition, the UAE received a positive response on collaboration opportunities with France, which is looking to bolster partnerships in the space sector. Additionally, by April 2019, the UAE intends to send the first-ever Emirati astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Russian spacecraft.

Shaikh Mohammad also holds a long-term goal to set up the first human city on Mars by 2117. The spectacular space mission will look to set up a Mars Scientific City, a complex of habitable buildings on the Red Planet that will include laboratories for food, energy and water.

This new phase has already started to impact the next generation of lawyers, engineers, and scientists. The UAE recently created a new space law, which is unprecedented in the Middle East as well as internationally, since the legislative sector for “space law” remains scant.

While the details of the new space law are not yet public, it is anticipated to stimulate investment and research & development.

Back in 1967, the Outer Space Treaty (OST), a Cold War-era accord, was one of the few “Space Laws” existing. It banned the national appropriation of celestial bodies, making space common ground.

However, the ownership of resources was left out of this accord. That is why the UAE and Luxembourg have chosen to be pioneers of a legal regime in this area. In addition, the UAE recently signed an agreement to learn from Luxembourg’s legal finesse, as they are ahead of the curve in Space Law.

While these laws are in their early days, it is anticipated that this trend will lead to a “New Space Goldrush”.

— Hessa Al Ghurair is Chief Human Resources Officer at CBI