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The UAE has set an aggressive timeline for its Mission to Mars program, one that aims to have an Emeriti system on the planet by 2021. The United Arab Emirates on 26 May 2015 unveiled its strategy for a space program, outlining a plan for satellite launches.

The UAE Space Agency was established in 2014 following a decree for federal law No.1 of 2014 issued by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates. The agency was announced in July 2014 with an aim to regulate and support the UAE Space sector to serve the interests of the country and contribute to the diversification of the national economy through providing a national advanced space industry. The UAE Space Agency developed its strategic framework to guide the execution of its three mandates dictated by Federal Decree No. 1 of 2014, which include: Developing the Space sector; Creating Space policy and regulation; and Directing national Space programs that will benefit the UAE’s economy.

The first strategic objective is to organise and develop the space sector ensuring that it meets international standards and serves national interests. The Agency aims to contribute to the diversification of the national economy and support sustainable development. The second strategic objective is to promote and support the efforts of scientific research and innovation. This will be achieved through five services that will be provided by the Agency. These include the establishment of an internal organisational unit that will manage and coordinate space projects, supporting and financing the Mars mission, supporting existing space projects in the UAE, the establishment of the Scientific Advisory Committee to advise on national space programs and entering into partnerships with local and international agencies that can provide the necessary knowledge and expertise to support the UAE space sector.

The third strategic objective is to attract and prepare national cadre to become pioneers in the field of space science. This will involve the development of national talent, as well as increasing public awareness of the space industry. Training and scholarship programs will look to nurture national talent in local and international universities specializing in science and space-related studies.

The fourth strategic objective is focused on ensuring that all the Agency’s services are in accordance with worldwide quality, efficiency and transparency standards. This will be achieved through the creation of an internal organizational unit that will manage and coordinate the agency projects, as well as the development of institutional performance systems. In addition, the fourth objective includes the preparation of an employment strategy and determining the Agency’s Emiratisation rate.

Abu Dhabi is partnering with Virgin Galactic to establish a regional hub here in the Gulf for Virgin Galactic’s tourism and scientific activities. This facility will add to Virgin Galactic’s impressive facilities in the Southwestern United States. Sir Richard Branson has been in partnership with Abu Dhabi investors since 2009, when Aabar Investments, the Abu Dhabi government-backed investment company, took a stake in Virgin Galactic, his space venture. According Branson, Aabar has a 35 percent stake in the business, valued at about $300 million. In 2014, Branson and Abu Dhabi investors had initiated discussions regarding the possible opening of a spaceport in Abu Dhabi; however, there have been no announcements to date.

According to the U.A.E. newspaper The National, the UAESA and Boeing have partnered on an initiative called “The National Space Programme”. The program features two competitions: Genes in Space, in which students from across the U.A.E. will compete for the opportunity to have their experiments launched into space and conducted by scientists on board the International Space Station; and the Satellite Launch project.

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