Abu Dhabi: Space tourists may soon be lifting off into space from the UAE after a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the UAE Space Agency and Virgin Galactic and the Spaceship Company (TSC). The agreement covers several areas including education, science and technology.
The agreement, coming shortly after Virgin Galactic’s historic commercial space flights in December 2018 and February 2019, marks an important step, as the company progresses toward commercial operations.
The agreement also builds upon the longtime UAE investment in Virgin Galactic and TSC, held by Mubadala Investment Company.
Under the agreement, both parties also plan for a SpaceShipTwo and carrier aircraft vehicle pair that would be operated from the UAE.
By working to develop our space ecosystem, we will be further contributing to the UAE’s business-friendly environment and ensuring that space start-ups and investors feel welcome…
The space vehicle will be utilised for customers in the UAE and the region as a science platform for space research, as well as private individuals to experience space.
Both groups plan to use Al Ain airport for their spaceship operational plans.
Dr Mohammad Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency, commenting on the agreement, said that the agreement builds on their "long-standing relationship with the Virgin Group, with whom the Mubadala Investment Company jointly owns Virgin Galactic."
"It also reflects the advanced stage of the UAE’s space sector and our rapidly developing capabilities which, together with our partners at Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, can enable the UAE to contribute to the manufacturing of space vehicles and commence spaceport operations within the next few years," he added.
“Today’s signing also comes within the context of our recently announced National Plan for the Promotion of Space Investment, which aims to increase domestic and foreign investment in the UAE space sector.”
“By working to develop our space ecosystem, we will be further contributing to the UAE’s business-friendly environment and ensuring that space start-ups and investors feel welcome and have access to the unique space infrastructure they require to grow and develop,” Dr Al Ahbabi said.
George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic & TSC’s CEO, also highlighted how the MoU could provide a catalyst for inspiring the next generation of space enthusiasts in the country.
“We appreciate the UAE’s long-term commitment to our programme and we look forward to working with the UAE Space Agency and other partners in the UAE to push the frontiers of microgravity science, as together we inspire Emirati students and researchers to reach for the stars.”
Highlights of the MoU
■ Operation of SpaceShipTwo to cater to space tourists.
■ Space vehicle based and operated from the UAE will also be used for space-related research
■ Development of spaceship operational plans for Al Ain airport, from where space vehicle will operate
■ Development of a Centre of Excellence for microgravity research in the UAE