Space agency to build deep network station in Liwa

Dr Muthanna Al Mahmoud at New York University Abu Dhabi briefing international scientists and engineers on the UAE’s Space Agency plans for building a deep space network station that will be able to communicate with spacecrafts / sent by Sami Zaatari

Abu Dhabi: The UAE Space Agency has drawn up plans to build a deep space network station in the UAE, an official from the agency said on Sunday in the capital, with the station set to play a major role in future space missions.

Speaking at New York University Abu Dhabi, Dr Muthanna Al Mahmoud, acting head of Space Science and Technology at the UAE Space Agency, briefed a group of international scientists about the space station as part of a wider discussion on the potential benefits of setting up a communications centre in the UAE for space missions.

“The station is being built so it can be used to communicate for deep space missions, there are going to be many future missions in deep space, they could be lunar missions or Mars missions or any other type of missions that the UAE launches in collaboration with other countries,” he said.

Al Mahmoud added that the land and area for the space centre has already been selected and acquired by the UAE Space Agency in Liwa, but that no fixed date had been placed yet for its opening.

“The building of the station has been delayed, there isn’t a confirmed date on when it will be opened but we do hope to start the construction of the centre before 2020.

“We have carried out the research and studies for building the centre, and have also identified the location for where we are going to build the station, which will be in Hamim in Liwa,” he added.

Al Mahmoud said the deep space station would not only be limited to communications with spacecrafts, but would also be involved in other fields of research related to space science.

“The station is going to be doing a lot of things not only related to communication, but also things like radio astronomy in terms of studying black holes, pulse stars and the beginning of the universe. So we’re going to have a lot of information and data being received by the station.

In terms of the centre’s contribution to the UAE’s space sector, Al Mahmoud said the station would be another positive step towards building up the country’s capacity for space missions and research.

“The UAE wants to be one of the main players and to be a part of the international space community, so having this deep space network station is extremely important for us and helps us get to where we want to be.

“This station will allow the UAE to create its own science and date, which at the moment is largely dependent from other nations. The idea with this centre is that the UAE can also contribute to providing scientific data when it comes to space missions,” he added.

Al Mahmoud also said the centre would recruit Emirati engineers and scientists to operate it, ensuring a long term and sustainable model for the country’s space sector.

“The goal is to have the centre fully operated by Emiratis. There will be a learning gap initially and so we are going to bring in trainers and experienced people to work alongside our Emirati recruits to build up their capabilities.”

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