UAE aims to become space education hub

The UAE is tapping the potential of the young minds to realise the ambitious and futuristic space programmes

  
The Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD), in the grasp of the Kibo laboratory robotic arm, is photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the International Space Station as it deploys a set of NanoRacks CubeSats in this February 11, 2014. image used for illustrative purpose

The Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (SSOD), in the grasp of the Kibo laboratory robotic arm, is photographed by an Expedition 38 crew member on the International Space Station as it deploys a set of NanoRacks CubeSats in this February 11, 2014. image used for illustrative purpose

REUTERS/NASA/Handout

The UAE is tapping the potential of the young minds to realise the ambitious and futuristic space programmes, top officials from the UAE Space Agency have said.

The UAE Space Agency is aiming to transform the country as a hub for space education, said Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director-general of the agency.

The space agency is helping schools and universities with seed fund to start degree course in space science, have astronauts give lectures at schools, conduct summer camps and open research centres.

"Yes, we are doing a lot of exciting stuff. We had astronauts giving lectures to students at schools. And when asked what they want to be in life, at least some of the students replied they wanted to be astronauts," he said, adding that these were good signs.

"We are conducting four summer camps with one in Australia. We are including some space topics in the school curriculum. We are doing a lot of activity engaging young minds, especially in the field of astronomy."

4 varsities to offer space studies

The UAE Space Agency is betting big on universities.

"We work with universities to establish facilities in terms of research and development. We established three space research centres - the biggest with the UAE University with investment of around Dh100 million. This centre will now become a hub for space education and making satellites. We send students abroad for training, sponsor bright students and try to encourage our universities to provide space degrees. We are working with four universities to offer this and have students coming from abroad to study space science."

On the assistance provided by the agency, Al Ahbabi said: "We help universities with seed funding. To start space degrees they need help. So we help them establish this type of capability with a hope that they will be sustainable in future."

Space science part of curriculum

Khaled Al Hashmi, director of space missions, science and technology at the UAE Space Agency, said the agency is working closely with leading universities to develop student skillsets to design, build and operate satellites.

"There is a very important satellite programme MeznSat project - a 3U CubeSat project to be launched next year. The beauty of the project is that two universities - Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research and the American University of Ras Al Khaimah are engaged in the project. There is a blend between undergraduates and masters graduates," Al Hashmi said.

"Another programme recently awarded to the National Space Science and Technology Centre in Al Ain is a project for high-precision satellite positioning. It is still in the early stage and is expected to be launched in four years. The aim of awarding this project to the centre is to develop capabilities on design, assembling and integration of small satellites up to 150kg."

The agency is working with the UAE University to start a new space programme, which will be part of the curriculum.

"We are seeking to understand the requirements and link the curriculum with the projects. This will help meet the future requirements. We are looking at two types of project - one is concentrating on building capabilities and the second is innovativeness. This will help us to move forward to achieve goals," Al Hashmi said.

 

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