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UAE’s Groundbreaking Satellite Launch: Enabling Space Access for All

[Dubai, UAE] – Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced the eagerly anticipated launch date for the inaugural mission of the Payload Hosting Initiative (PHI)-Demo. Set to take place on June 27, 2023, at 15:34 GST, the PHI-Demo CubeSat, a modular satellite with 12 units, will blast off aboard a Russian Soyuz-2 rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia.

The PHI-Demo mission marks the first endeavor under the UAE and United Nations’ collaborative Payload Hosting Initiative. This groundbreaking platform, developed in partnership between the MBRSC and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, aims to offer opportunities in space exploration to start-ups and countries developing their space programs. The initiative facilitates the development of miniature satellites by MBRSC engineers, incorporating technology from start-ups and companies, thereby enabling them to gain access to space.

The PHI-Demo is an innovative initiative and the first of its kind in the region. It is designed to transport payloads from partner entities to space while providing operational support. This mission serves as a trailblazer for future PHI missions and holds substantial value as a program that benefits numerous organizations and entities in the region.

Credit: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre

The 20kg PHI-Demo CubeSat will carry technology payloads from two selected companies, each contributing unique advancements to space exploration. SteamJet Space Systems, a UK-based company, has developed a propulsion subsystem that utilizes water as a sustainable fuel source for spacecraft. This technology promotes greener and more environmentally friendly space activities. 

OQ Technology, a US company aiming to establish a global satellite constellation for 5G, has integrated an advanced Internet of Things (IoT) communication system into the satellite. This system enables efficient storage and forwarding of data collected from IoT devices in remote areas, industries, and autonomous vehicles using 5G technology.

Once in orbit at an altitude of 550km, the satellite will be monitored and communicated with by mission control specialists at the MBRSC. The American University in Ras Al Khaimah and Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi will also contribute to the mission by sending commands to the satellite. Upon activation in orbit, the satellite’s solar panels will harness solar energy to power its operations.

The PHI-Demo mission will undergo a meticulously planned five-day period following the launch. During this critical phase, the MBRSC technical team will maintain precise 10-minute communications daily as the satellite traverses above the UAE. Successful completion of this phase will signal the commencement of payload operations.

Ground stations within university campuses will expertly handle command operations, with the university’s faculty members leading the operation. This collaborative approach emphasizes the integral role of education and research institutions in driving the UAE’s space exploration endeavors.

Looking ahead, the next satellite under the Payload Hosting Initiative, the PHI-1 CubeSat, will see contributions from Bahrain and Nepal. Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency will develop the Aman payload, focusing on secure communication between the satellite and ground stations. Nepal’s Antarikchya Pratisthan, a non-profit organization, will contribute to the Danfe Space Mission, dedicated to studying the operation of drones in space.

The UAE’s PHI initiative marks a significant milestone in pursuing scientific progress and international collaboration. The initiative propels the satellite telecom industry forward by providing a platform for diverse entities to contribute their technological advancements while enabling start-ups and countries to realize their space exploration ambitions. With its visionary approach and unwavering commitment to innovation, the UAE is poised to become a trailblazer in the ever-evolving field of satellite technology.

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