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MBRSC staff working on fully assembled MBZ satellite to be launched mid 2024. which was reveiled to the media for the first time. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE on Thursday revealed the first look of the fully assembled, one-tonne weighing MBZ-Sat, the region’s most powerful Earth observation satellite that will be launched on a SpaceX rocket in the second half of this year.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the agency behind the project, unveiled the advanced imaging satellite named after UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during a media tour of its premises. MBZ-Sat will be the region’s most advanced high-accuracy, high-resolution imaging satellite. The commercial satellite will monitor environmental changes, water quality and assist in agricultural development, among other purposes.

“We expect it to be launched in the second half of the year on a Falcon-9 rideshare mission from the United States. Based on the scheduling and our discussions with SpaceX, we will announce the date shortly,” said Salem Humaid Al Marri, Director General of MBRSC.

The UAE’s fourth Earth observation satellite, MBZ-Sat is designed to be three times more powerful than its predecessor KhalifaSat. It will have the UAE’s biggest telescope, with an advanced high-resolution camera that will take images from 500km above Earth’s surface.

Announcing that the satellite has been fully assembled, Al Marri said: “We’ve been working on it since 2020. We’ve done a lot of development and work to reach this point today. We have done the manufacturing and the subsystem testing.”

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Stock photo of staff working at The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) . Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Final integration

Amer Mohammad AlSayegh, project manager, MBZ-Sat, said: “We have reached 50 per cent of the final integration and we are hoping that by the middle of this year, the whole satellite will be ready for launch.”

MBRSC officials said they were proud of the fact that the satellite has been completely designed and manufactured locally with the participation of the private sector.

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Amer Mohammad AlSayegh, project manager, MBZ-Sat with fully assembled MBZ satellite at The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) . Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Al Marri said the new satellite is manufactured differently from KhalifaSat.

He said the design, project management and development of KhalifaSat were done by the MBRSC team. “But all of the components were secured or sourced from outside. For MBZ-Sat, it is designed, developed,tested and assembled at MBRC. All the components have also been made by companies based here,” he said.

“We’ve been working on it for quite a long time. And we have a lot of UAE nationals, over 150, working on this project. That’s something that I’m personally very proud of,” he added.

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Private sector participation

However, he said the unique thing about the project is that the UAE industry has taken part in it in a big way.

MBRSC has actively engaged with regional companies in the effort to build a local hub for space-related manufacturers, and has partnered with many local companies to manufacture and supply components of MBZ-SAT. The agency had earlier revealed that it had partnered with Strata, a leading composite aero structures manufacturing company based in the UAE, to work jointly in developing local manufacturing capabilities for MBZ-SAT and with EPI, a leading precision engineering firm in the UAE, to produce parts for the satellite.

Furthermore, the centre has partnered with Rockford Xellerix, a UAE-based embedded systems and wire harness connectivity solutions provider, to develop the space harness and with HALCON, a regional leader in the end-to-end manufacturing of precision-guided systems, for the development of specialised PCB assembly and rework of the satellite. MBRSC has also partnered with Falcon Group to develop the high-quality mechanical structure of MBZ-SAT, using aluminium and titanium.

“These are companies that are existing here. We have been working with them for six or seven years to retool them to change their manufacturing process slightly so that they can work for space and they have gone through many testing cycles,” said Al Marri. He said MBRSC is also working with many startup companies.

Quicker analysis

MBZ-SAT will be the first satellite capable of detecting a larger number of man-made as well as natural elements with a higher rate of precision and resolution, as compared to the current range of Earth observation satellites. The raw data gathered by the new satellite’s system will be able to process better AI functionality that can assist in quicker analysis and processing of satellite imagery.

During the media tour, MBRSC also showcased a gigantic replica of the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket that was recently moved to its premises.

Al Marri said the 43-metre tall Falcon 9 booster replica was gifted to the MBRSC by SpaceX and the US Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai which first displayed the model during the global fair.

Al Marri also announced plans to build an amphitheatre near the replica.

“We get a lot of visits from school children who come here. The amphitheatre will hold around 400 people and they can have sessions with astronauts and different people from our team,” he added.