The United Arab Emirates will pour more than $800 million into space projects through a major new fund, with the first investment going to the launch of a remote constellation.
The constellation, called “Sirb” (Arabic word for flock of birds), will use the latest radar imaging technology to capture high-resolution images. The country has documented border controls, oil spill detection and ship detection as well as satellite tracking. The UAE plans to launch the first satellite in three years, with the entire satellite program expected to last six years. It did not mention the total amount it plans to invest in the star group.
The National Space Fund of 3 billion AED ($820 million), which was announced on Monday, is the latest sign that the country is looking to the space sector to help diversify its oil-dependent economy. By 2020, oil exports accounted for nearly 30% of the country’s gross domestic product. However, the UAE’s Ministry of Finance ranks space among its “promising economic sectors,” and its aerospace program has produced several major programs in the past five years.
The UAE launched an astronaut program in 2017; one of its two astronauts will fly to the International Space Station in 2023 as part of a long-term mission with Axiom Space. Astronaut Hazza Al Mansoori was the first person from the Emirates to go into space in 2019 at the ISS.
KhalifaSat, the first satellite that was completely designed and manufactured in the Emirates, was set to orbit in 2018. Since, the UAE sent an orbiter to Mars in 2020, it announced plans to send a 22-pound rover to the moon with the Japanese startup ispace. and it said it would send a probe to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with the goal of reaching the asteroid in the early 2030s.
The National Space Fund will “promote collaboration between international and local businesses,” according to the statement. The country will also invite local and foreign companies to apply for the Sirb constellation.