Yahsat, wholly owned by Mubadala Development Company (Mubadala), the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and Orbital ATK yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to announce the joint creation of the first Master's level advanced studies space program in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The program is endorsed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Alongside HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the signing was also be attended by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar; Homaid Al Shemmari, CEO of Aerospace and Engineering Services at Mubadala; Jassem Al Zaabi, Chairman of Yahsat; Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director-General, UAE Space Agency, and Dr. Fred Moavenzadeh, President, Masdar Institute.
The MoU was signed by each of Dr. Ahmed Belhoul, CEO of Masdar, Masood Sharif Mahmood, CEO of Yahsat, and Tom Wilson, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development on behalf of David W. Thompson, President and CEO of Orbital ATK.
The development of this program goes along with the establishment of the UAE Space Agency last year and the nation's goal of entering the space industry through the launch of the ‘Hope Probe' in 2021. The initiative also forms a part of the UAE's efforts to encourage innovation across the nation, following the pronouncement of 2015 being the ‘Year of Innovation'.
Aimed at facilitating the growth of Emirati students into diversified, high-technology areas of study, the program, which aims to welcome its first group of graduate students at Masdar Institute in January 2016, will provide a rigorous academic grounding in a multitude of space-related scientific and engineering disciplines. The partnership will result in a Master's degree program in Engineering with a concentration in Space Systems and Technology, after the program receives all the necessary approvals from the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
The program will include the student-led design, integration, construction, testing and operation of a mini-satellite, known in the industry as a CubeSat, which will be launched into space and monitored from the ground station.
The degree program offers a unique opportunity to UAE graduate students for contributing to high-tech research into space technology, and will provide opportunities to work alongside key Abu Dhabi stakeholders in developing CubeSats. Yahsat's partnership with Orbital ATK has aided the development of this unique, comprehensive academic program by adding a robust technical dimension.
Commenting on this agreement, Dr. Ahmad Belhoul, Chief Executive Officer, Masdar, signing on behalf of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, said: "As the UAE continues to increase its focus on its aerospace, defence and satellite industries, the requirement for local expertise, especially highly-trained UAE nationals, will also increase. The launch of the Gulf's first Master's program concentration in space systems and technology at Masdar Institute, in collaboration with Yahsat and Orbital ATK, will help create the necessary environment to develop this talent base."
Masood Sharif Mahmood, CEO of Yahsat, said "This will lead to extraordinary achievements for the UAE and is an important step toward realising our national vision of becoming an innovation and technology capital for the region. Our partnership with Orbital ATK and Masdar Institute will provide these students with practical, hands-on experience bridging what they learn in the classroom and enabling them to apply these skills towards building and launching the mini-satellite."
Dr Eng., s Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director-General, UAE Space Agency, commented: "This collaboration involving two of the UAE's most innovative and forward thinking organisations is a giant leap forward for our country's space program. By promoting the advanced study of space technology, Yahsat, Masdar and Orbital ATK are playing a vital role in developing the skills necessary for the UAE to become a leader in one of the most important industries of the future. I look forward to seeing the results of the new students' endeavours. ."
Orbital ATK's President and CEO David W. Thompson said, "We are thrilled to be a partner in this exciting project. Not only will our subject matter experts be helping refine and structure the program's curriculum, we will also provide for the use of our testing facility to help students verify the design of their CubeSat before launch."
348 Master's and over 148 PhD students are currently enrolled at the research-based Masdar Institute which offers eight Master's programs and one interdisciplinary PhD program at present. Through a dynamic system of Institute Research Centers (iCenters) and sponsored research centres, Masdar Institute has been able to obtain six registered patents, with 52 pending patents and 82 invention disclosures. So far, five technology business start-ups have been established by Masdar Institute students as a result of the inspiring academic programs, a motivating environment and the adequate faculty support available on-campus. With its human capital development in clean energy and advanced technology areas, Masdar Institute is contributing to creating a UAE innovation ecosystem that positively impacts the country's economy.
Yahsat is committed to developing talent and expertise in the field of science and technology, building a sustainable talent pool of the next generation of space engineers. Yahsat, a UAE-based satellite operator, wholly owned by the Mubadala Development Company, is the first company in the Middle East and Africa to offer multi-purpose satellite services and provides multipurpose satellite solutions for broadband, broadcast, government, and communications solutions across the Middle East, Africa, Central and South West Asia.