MBRSC Director General Salem Humaid Al Marri (4th from left) and UNOOSA Director Aarti Holla-Maini (3rd from left) standing for a photograph after signing an MoU in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai and President of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), on Wednesday announced a new Dubai satellite that will be built in collaboration with the United Nations.

“I directed my team at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre to develop the PHI-2 satellite in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, with the aim of supporting entities and countries who aspire to join the space sector,” Sheikh Hamdan said in a post on the social media platform X.

He said this mission provides opportunities to send innovations and technologies into space aboard the PHI-2 satellite developed by the MBRSC team. It is the second of its kind under the “Access to Space for All” initiative.

“Our objective is to support any innovation that contributes to scientific and knowledge advancement, ultimately improving the quality of human life,” added Sheikh Hamdan, who, earlier this week chaired a board meeting of the MBRSC where he announced that the next phase in the UAE’s space journey would see “groundbreaking Emirati space ventures.”

The Payload Hosting Initiative (PHI) launched last year is a joint initiative by MBRSC and UNOOSA to provide payload hosting to UN member states on MBRSC’s satellite platform to demonstrate new technologies and build space science and technology in developing countries. Its end goal is to ensure that no one is left behind on the path to space exploration and sustainable development on Earth. It is also intended to advance the objectives of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Last year, the PHI-1 satellite selected two payloads from Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA) and Nepal’s Antarikchya Pratisthan.

UNOOSA Director Aarti Holla-Maini (left) with MBRSC Director General Salem Humaid Al Marri in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

PHI-2 mission in 2026

The two entities — UNOOSA and MBRSC — are now opening a new round of the PHI programme. Through PHI, awardees are provided with the opportunity to launch payloads of a maximum of Five Units (5U) in a Twelve-Unit (12U) satellite platform provided by MBRSC.

This joint capacity-building effort promotes space science and technology in developing nations and economies in transition and fosters innovation and technology demonstration which can help scale up activities in emerging space nations. The awardees of this second round will be able to fly their payloads on the PHI-2 mission targeted to launch in 2026.

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PHI is part of the Satellite Development Track of the United Nations Access to Space for All initiative which was launched in 2021.

Interested teams can submit applications for the opportunity on UNOOSA’s PHI Rounds webpage until March 31, 2024.

UNOOSA Director Aarti Holla-Maini said: “PHI is a unique opportunity that enables teams to focus on their main payload and data analysis, as a first step of acquiring the capacity to develop a satellite. We look forward to having more teams benefit from our joint initiative and start their journey to space from PHI.”

Another milestone

MBRSC Director General Salem Humaid Al Marri said: “The kick-off of the PHI-2 mission marks another milestone in our ongoing collaboration with UNOOSA to foster advancements in space science and technology. The Payload Hosting Initiative is pivotal in providing nations with unparalleled opportunities to explore and leverage space technologies. We are enthusiastic about the innovative projects and diverse payloads this round will bring forth, further strengthening international cooperation and contributing to the realisation of the immense potential and benefits that space exploration holds for us all.”