KhalifaSat: Made in the UAE, launched into space

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In this undated photograph released Feb. 2, 2018 by the state-run Emirates News Agency (WAM), Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler and the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, center back row, visits the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center to see the locally made KhalifaSat satellite in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (WAM via AP)
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Japan's rocket H-2A is launched, carrying aboard a green gas observing satellite "Ibuki-2" and KhalifaSat, a UAE satellite, Tanegashima, southern Japan, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (AP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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KhalifaSat: Made in the UAE, launched into space

  • KhalifaSat, the first satellite to be fully engineered by Emiratis, is a monumental step for the Arab world
  • The successful launch drew praise from the UAE’s leaders

DUBAI: History was made on Monday as the first satellite to be fully engineered and developed by Emiratis was successfully launched into space from an island south of Japan’s mainland, marking a meteoric milestone for space programmes in the Arab world.

The eyes of the world were watching as KhalifaSat — the most sophisticated satellite built by the UAE, which was tested and manufactured entirely by Emirati engineers — was loaded onto a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket and launched live on Monday at 8:08am UAE time from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The launch is among a raft of space programs that will be led by the UAE and countries across the wider Gulf region in the coming years.
Dr Ahmed Murad, dean of the college of science at United Arab Emirates University, told Arab News that the launch of KhalifaSat is a monumental step for the Arab world’s ambitious space programs, adding that it will spur further diversification of the country’s economy and inspire innovation across the GCC.

“This launch is a very significant achievement for the country as one of the main strategic pillars in the UAE National Strategy of Innovation,” he said, referring to the aim to make the UAE one of the most innovative nations in the world by 2021. “Also, this launch will make the UAE the ‘hub’ of space science. The country has achieved their ambitious plan by entering the industry sector of space science, which will build a knowledge-based economy.
“The country is building this sector through the policy, governance, financial resources and building national capacity. I am sure and confident that the UAE will lead the Arab region in the space science sector as all requirements are available and built in-country.”
Designed and built at the space technology laboratories at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai, KhalifaSat, which bears the name of the UAE president, will deliver high-quality images of Earth, assisting governmental and private organizations all over the world with environmental monitoring, disaster relief and urban planning.
The successful launch drew praise from the UAE’s leaders, with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the crown prince of Dubai, tweeting his praise to the KhalifaSat team shortly after takeoff. “Congratulations to the leaders and people of the UAE on the successful launch of ‘KhalifaSat,’ a satellite built completely by Emirati engineers — a true reflection of the aspirations of our youth and our nation,” he said. “(I am) proud of the talented Emirati personnel at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). They are the heroes behind this important project that carries the name of our president. Taking a picture of our founding father to outer space adds a wonderful note to our celebrations for the Year of Zayed.”
Sheikh Hamdan also referenced future ambitious plans under the UAE’s space program, including the Emirates Mars Mission, which will, in July 2020, see the launch of the Arab world’s first “Hope” spacecraft that aims to land on the planet in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s founding, and the UAE’s first astronaut training program, which aims to send two emiratis into space in April 2019.
“The Hope Mars Mission and the UAE astronaut program are two great initiatives that are part of our efforts to follow in the footsteps of Zayed to serve humanity and bring happiness to people,” he said.
The UAE Space Agency also tweeted: “The launch of the UAE’s first Emirati-made satellite
#KhalifaSat has been successful. The highly advanced imaging satellite will now begin to orbit the Earth from pole to pole, at a distance of 613 km with its state-of-the-art positioning, controlling systems and digital cameras.”
Circulating on social media was a picture of Hamad Obaid Al-Mansoori, chairman of Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, hugging Abdulla Harmoul, KhalifaSat’s launch manager, after the launch. Ahead of the historical day, Amer Al-Sayegh, the KhalifaSat project manager, said the project helped create a key partnerships between the UAE and Japan.
“It’s not only the technical work that we are doing with our Japanese colleagues, it is the bonding of two teams and two cultures working together for the same vision,” he said. “The UAE now has a highly qualified team equipped with knowledge, expertise and strong teamwork for the new missions for the UAE.”
A team of MBRSC engineers had travelled to Tanegashima Space Center to monitor the launch of KhalifaSat, one of the world’s most technologically advanced satellites, with five patents to its name. The spectacle was broadcast live on Dubai TV and streamed live on many channels, including Dubai TV and YouTube, and online viewers watched as, about 10 minutes after blast-off, the satellite disappeared from sight, and on-site engineers announced the flight path was “proceeding as expected.”
It was the latest in a long history of Arab satellites in space, which began when the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat) sent the first Arab satellite into space in February 1985: Arabsat-1A was performed by a French Ariane rocket and was used to provide communication services to the Arab states.
Founded in 1976 by the 21 member states of the Arab League, Arabsat is largely funded by Saudi Arabia and operates from its headquarters in Riyadh and two satellite control stations in Riyadh and Tunis. The launch of its sixth generation satellite — ArabSat-6A with a Falcon Heavy rocket — is planned for January 2019.
Last year, King Salman signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, committing both countries to space exploration cooperation, while also in 2017, the Kingdom, together with five other Arab countries — Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria and Bahrain — converged for talks related to space, with Sudan, Oman and Kuwait later joining the group.
Farther afield, Space Generation (Kuwait) aims to gather the youth of Kuwait to express their thoughts and ideas about establishing a space program in the country, while in Jordan, the Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education, based in Amman, is the regional centre for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). It aims to assist participating countries in developing and enhancing the knowledge and skills of their citizens in relevant aspects of space science and technology to effectively contribute to national development and space programs.
It reflects a general will across the GCC — as economies gradually shift away from oil — for more investment in space science, including technology such as satellites and exploration involving missions to the Moon and Mars.
“By launching KhalfiaSat, the country will participate with other satellites to provide new insights about the inner and outer space, which will help to push the research agenda in the region,” Dr Murad said.


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.