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UAE to facilitate sending tourists to space in future

Space policy ready, laws to regulate sector will come in a few months

Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News
Dr Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi speaking at a ceremonyto mark the completion of the UAE’s national space policy.
Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE is trying to create an environment in the space sector to facilitate sending tourists to space in future, a senior official told journalists here on Tuesday.

“The regulations [for space sector] we are putting together now will have all required elements to prepare our sector for tomorrow. We are preparing an environment [that will facilitate] to send tourists to space,” said Dr Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency. He was speaking on the sidelines of a ceremony held to announce the completion of the UAE Space Policy, which is the first in the Arab world.

He said the technology to send tourists to space does not exist. “It is coming. We see some projects in other countries. It may come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”

He said regulations are very important to facilitate space tourism. “You can’t have space tourism without space laws. We will address this.”

For example, liability in the event of a problem is determined by the law.

The UAE will issue laws regulating the space sector within a few months, he said. The laws will facilitate the UAE’s ambitious Mars Mission in 2020.

He said technology alone is not enough for all space-related activities. The laws are essential to undertake all such projects. “We can’t launch the Mars probe without (relevant) laws.”

Once technology is available, regulation is the important element to use it, Al Ahbabi said.

He said the draft law was ready, which would be submitted for approval of the council of ministers very soon.

He said the Mars probe was on track and everything for the project was being mobilised.

“We have now finished the design and will buy the [required] equipment. We are building facilities in the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre [in Dubai].”

The probe will be launched from Japan.

Asked about the budget of the project, he said a figure could not be quoted given the possibility of unknown expenses in space projects.

He said the agency expected eight to nine per cent growth in the UAE’s space industry in the current year. “A study conducted by us showed that we had double-digit growth last year; it was the peak time,” Al Ahbabi said.

About the UAE’s partners in space sector, Al Ahbabi said the agency had made partnerships with all major space agencies in the world.

The agency announced the policy that gives priority to space exploration and related research and development activities, satellite services that will support telecom and navigation sectors, and manufacturing of satellites and related instruments.

Al Ahbabi said when an investor comes to the manufacturing sector, the agency facilitates all legal requirements like licence and try to arrange a local investor if required.