(This was originally posted in India Today by Sibu Tripathi)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) could use low-cost launch vehicles developed by the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) for lifting off small satellites from within the country. In an exclusive conversation with indiatoday.in, Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairperson of UAE Space Agency, said that the two nations are looking at a wide variety of scientific cooperation in the space sector.
“We spoke during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) with Isro, looking at different aspects that are important to both countries. Isro provides a low-cost launch capacity that we would like to explore for smaller satellites launching out of UAE,” the UAE Space Agency chief said. India has been known worldwide for its cost-effective missions to Moon and Mars and its success ratio in launching satellites with its indigenous launch vehicles. Isro is working with four categories of launch vehicles. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) that can liftoff a payload of 1,750 kilograms, while the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-II (GSLV Mk II) has a liftoff capacity of 2,500 kilograms in the geostationary orbit and five tonnes capacity for low Earth orbit.
Meanwhile, the GSLV Mk-III is a three-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle with a lift-off mass of 640 tonnes. It was GSLV Mk-III-M1 that successfully injected Chandrayaan-2 into Earth Parking Orbit on July 22, 2019. India is part of the IAC and recently participated in the Dubai Expo, which is underway in the Emirates, where it showed its launch capability and its progress in the maiden manned mission Gaganyaan. “In a wider aspect of space, there is cooperation there,” Sarah Al Amiri said on the relation between the two countries. Sarah Al Amiri added that from a scientific point of view, earth observation, farming, climate change are important to both countries and that’s an area the UAE is looking to exchange data on.
Meanwhile, scientists from India can access data from the Emirates Mars Mission, she added. Earlier this year, the UAE joined an elite list of countries when it successfully placed its Amal (Hope) probe in Mars’ orbit. The probe has been relaying data back, observing the planet’s atmosphere. “The probe is functioning very well, and from a scientific perspective, we are receiving the data that we expected. We found two scientific observations that will have a significant impact on the understanding of planetary atmospheres. First is the probe’s ability to observe auroras on Mars and second is its observation of concentration of oxygen, which is different in the atmosphere from what we had theorised,” Sarah Al Amiri said.
The UAE is emerging as a major player in the space sector and the country recently announced its plans to explore Venus and the asteroid belt swarming between Mars and Jupiter. The mission is being hailed as the next big thing in the Arab world, which has tasted victory with the Hope probe that is successfully orbiting Mars about 300 million kilometres away. The oil-rich federation will collect data from the asteroid and try to understand the origins of the universe and solve the biggest mystery in astronomy– how did it all begin?