Image: UAE Space Agency
The Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt (EMA), the first multiple-asteroid tour and landing mission to the main belt, means business.
That’s the message behind a new campaign launched by the UAE Space Agency to highlight the new business opportunities open to Emirati and international companies as a result of the commitment to award at least 50% of the overall contracted mission to private sector companies. The Space Means Business campaign is to kick off with a workshop hosted at the UAE Space Agency on the 22nd June, being held to outline the potential areas for private sector participation.
“From software development to mission control, we are committed to a private sector first approach to developing the Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt. This campaign to recruit businesses to the mission forms part of a long-term commitment to diving an ambitious, vibrant and fast-growing private space sector in the Emirates,” commented EMA program director Mohsen Al Awadhi.
“The opportunities are truly endless, from software and hardware systems design and delivery through to subsystem assembly, solar power and other electrical systems development to mission operations and management.”
EMA will drive significant economic opportunities, including new start-ups, international partnerships and inward investment to the UAE space sector, creating new commercial opportunities to accelerate the growth of innovation and advanced technology companies in the Emirates. The Space Means Business campaign will build outreach to academia, potential start-ups, existing global space sector players and companies with the potential to pivot existing R&D and operations to meet the needs of the space sector.
“Through our work with the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, we are able to identify a number of technologically advanced companies operating in the Emirates today who can make commercially viable contributions to EMA and to benefit from the wider UAE space sector opportunity,” commented UAE Space agency chair and Minister for Advanced Technology. “Our core goal here is to drive new business opportunities based around sustainable innovation and the development of heritage that will open up new opportunities in the $1 trillion global space industry.”
The Space Means Business workshop is the start of an ongoing campaign to help UAE-based business identify the immediate commercial opportunities offered by the EMA mission but also to share a roadmap for the ongoing support and development of research, innovation and valuable heritage to offer participants in the fast-growing global space market.
The UAE National Space Strategy supports the provision of start-up and investment funds, providing spacecraft assembly integration and test (AIT) facilities as a service and mission operations as a service to support and encourage start-ups and innovation. Additionally, the UAE Space Agency is offering Emirati space start-ups business formation support, zero barrier to entry office and back-office facilities as well as ongoing mentoring and funding as part of its Space Economic Zones initiative.
The development of EMA is supported by Space Academy, a UAE Space Agency led apprenticeship program for the UAE’s space sector that expedites the development of engineering, technical and innovation expertise across a number of national institutions.
EMA comprises a thirteen-year mission: a six-year spacecraft development period followed by a seven-year flight to the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, performing a series of close flybys to make unique observations of seven main belt asteroids, including a rendezvous with the puzzling spectrally red asteroid, (269) Justitia. The mission builds on the learnings, capabilities, innovations and heritage of the Emirates Mars Mission and aims to further accelerate the development of the Emirates’ private space sector and national capabilities in advanced technology innovation.
The Mission’s spacecraft is named the MBR Explorer, in recognition of the foundational role driving the creation and growth of the UAE Space Program played by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The MBR Explorer’s 5-billion-kilometre journey includes gravity assist manoeuvres around Venus, Earth and Mars to change the spacecraft’s velocity and support its flyby campaign, with its first asteroid encounter taking place in February 2030. Subsequent flybys will occur through to 2034, when the mission’s seventh asteroid encounter will involve a rendezvous and landing, with the spacecraft releasing a lander, which will beam science data up from the asteroid surface. The lander will be developed by an Emirati private space sector start-up.
EMA will build greater understanding of asteroid characteristics, origins, formation and evolution. It has the potential to open new windows into our understanding of the formation of our solar system, as well as to investigate the potential of water-rich asteroids as a usable resource and evaluate the presence of volatile and organic compounds in the asteroid belt – the building blocks of life on Earth.