And we have lift-off! The UAE has joined a unique set of nations that can study and map every corner of the Earth, thanks to the launch of the KhalifaSat early today local time in Japan from the JAXA Tanegashima Space Centre. It is the UAE’s first 100 per cent Emirati-made satellite.

When this nation was founded back in December 1971, man had taken the first steps on the Moon and our nearest neighbour still was an object of fascination. Could the founding fathers of the UAE even have envisaged that one day, just 47 years into the future, the nation they were bringing together would have dreams of space? Yet here we are, less than five decades on, and there are already two Emiratis preparing for a mission to the International Space Station, satellites in orbit carrying the red, green, black and white flag of the UAE, and now, a satellite in orbit fully made by the bright young minds of this land.

The KhalifaSat mission brings to fruition the dreams of so many across the UAE who have dreamed of such a day, have studied hard and travelled abroad to learn the best technologies and sciences needed to build such a project, then use those skills along with others of this nation to make that dream a possibility. And today, it is a reality, and all involved in this project, from the leadership of this nation, the government, our universities, teachers, students, officials, workers — all who play a part in making it a reality — deserve to look to the skies tonight and smile knowing that a piece of their hard work and dedication is now there 12 years on.

Once settled into orbit and tested fully, the real work of KhalifaSat will begin. It can send very high resolution images back to Earth, providing information that is vital to scientists and planners and those observing the way our planet is changing, either through physical geography or the effects of climate change.

The KhalifaSat is among the most advanced of the current models of high-resolution satellites in orbit, and will take another three years at least until its observational abilities are overcome. KhalifaSat will be fitting in a niche in which the demand for high-quality images is high, but the supply is particularly limited – equating to a significant commercial opportunity. The UAE’s satellite will be part of an international alliance that works together to provide highly detailed images of any given nation or region — and it is this ability to work alone or in partnership that enhances the usefulness of the project. Yes, this is a remarkable and proud achievement.