Latest UAE satellite set to be launched in next few months

Engineers are putting the final touches to a new satellite before its launch.

DubaiSat-2, an advanced imaging satellite, is undergoing final testing. The satellite is the result of five years of work by a team of 22 Emirati engineers from the Emirates Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), based in South Korea.

It is expected to be launched in the last quarter of the year from Yasny Cosmodrome in north Russia, though a firm date has not been set.

"Basically it's completed, we are just putting the final tests on it and it should be ready very soon," said Salem Al Marri, project manager of the space programme at EIAST, adding that it should be finished in "less than a month".

It will become the second EIAST satellite to be launched in three years. DubaiSat-1, which cost US$50 million (Dh183.7m) to develop, was launched in 2009 from a former Soviet base in Kazakhstan.

It has been able to send back images four times a day to EIAST's listening station in Al Khawaneej, Dubai.

Its camera, which was able to capture wide-frame images with a 2.5 metre per pixel resolution, has been useful in tracking coastal erosion and helping to formulate disaster recovery plans.

Images taken by the satellite last year in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were sought by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

However, DubaiSat-2 will have a much higher resolution camera, offering images of one metre per pixel, comparable with that offered by Google Earth.

The resolution is such that it will allow authorities to pinpoint cars on streets or read logos on the sides of planes parked on a runway.

The improvement in resolution was partly at the request of UAE authorities who wish to use the images in town planning.

The two satellites will work together and will be joined in 2015 by a third EIAST satellite, DubaiSat-3.

The third satellite, now being designed, will be built entirely by Emirati engineers on UAE soil.

DubaiSat-1 and 2 were built with the cooperation of the South Korean company Satrec1. The level of participation of Emirati engineers has grown steadily since 2005 and Mr Al Marri said they had developed the skills needed to build the third satellite themselves.

"They worked on this from the design stage, when it was still on paper, all the way up to completion and they have learned a lot," he said.

"This has really taken them to the next level." – The National