Senior Emirati Space Official Reveals Priorities, Stresses Importance of U.S. Partnerships


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Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre Program Manager Mr. Adnan AlRais charted the trajectory of the U.A.E. space program and opportunities for partnership in the years ahead during a webinar co-hosted by the U.S. Commercial Service and the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council. This webinar, which also featured speakers from Northrop Grumman and Jacobs, is part of the U.S. Commercial Service’s Discover America trade talk series. A video of the session can be found here.
Mr. Thomas Bruns, Senior Regional Commercial Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, first welcomed guests to the discussion and then Mr. AlRais, Program Manager for the Mars 2117 Program and Senior Director of the Remote Sensing Department at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, shared insights into the accomplishments and plans of the “four major components” of the U.A.E. Space Program.  

  • The U.A.E. Satellite Development Program, which has launched a series of increasingly sophisticated satellites and is set to launch a next generation earth observation satellite, “MBZ Sat,” in 2023.  
  • The Emirates Mars Mission “Hope Probe,” which successfully inserted into Martian orbit this February and is preparing for its first data release in October 2021.  
  • The Mars 2117 Program, which seeks to establish a lasting colony on Mars by 2117. 
  • The U.A.E. Astronaut Program, which sent its first astronaut to space in 2019 and recently announced the selection of the first Arab female astronaut to be trained with NASA for future space exploration missions. 

Mr. Peter Montgomery, Director of Commercialization at Jacobs Space Operations Group –  NASA’s largest professional and technical services provider, and Mr. David Pile, Regional Director of Space Systems for the UK, Europe, and MENA at Northrop Grumman Corporation also participated in the panel discussion. Northrop Grumman is one of the leading international space companies, designing, developing, manufacturing, and supporting a full range of space capabilities and products. 
During this discussion, Mr. AlRais underscored that the Mars 2117 program demonstrates the U.A.E. government’s commitment to continuing to invest in space for the next 100 years, building local capacity, and working with international partners. He detailed plans for the Mars Science City, which will simulate the environment of Mars from Dubai to support technological development and scientific discoveries. This city will include a space robotics facility, closed habitat/analog facility, and space sustainability lab. In this context, Mr. Montgomery noted Jacobs’ pioneering usage of 3D printing for Mars and the applications of these technologies on Earth. 
Mr. AlRais also shared details about the Emirates Lunar Mission, which will send a rover to the moon. Mr. AlRais spoke of this mission as a means to develop certain scientific capabilities. Moreover, Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Pile elaborated on their companies’ support for the Artemis program, which seeks to enable the return of astronauts to the lunar surface. 
Mr. AlRais described the importance of the U.A.E.’s partnerships with NASA and various U.S. academic institutions for the success of its endeavors.  He noted that the Hope Orbiter was assembled at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, with support from Arizona State University and the University of California, Berkeley. Moreover, NASA has trained U.A.E. astronauts for space exploration missions.  
Mr. AlRais also emphasized the critical role of the U.S. private sector in supporting the U.A.E.’s space programs.  He stressed that opportunities abound in the U.A.E. not just for large U.S. companies but also SMEs. Moreover, he spoke of the U.A.E.’s desire for potential U.S. partners to contribute to the development of the U.A.E.’s space ecosystem through knowledge transfer. Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Pile also discussed opportunities for SMEs to partner with Jacobs and Northrop Grumman respectively.
Solving problems on earth utilizing technologies developed for use in space was an important theme of the conversation.  Mr. AlRais in particular noted the connection between challenges on the surface of Mars and those faced on earth in terms of food, water, and energy security. 

The panel concluded by highlighting opportunities for U.S. companies to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai, which will have a dedicated space week from October 12-23, 2021, and the USA Pavilion at the Expo. That same month, from October 25-29, the U.A.E. will also host a major space conference, the International Astronautical Congress.  From 14-18 November 2021, the U.A.E. will once again host the Dubai Airshow.

For more information about the Business Council’s slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Ms. Mary Zuccarello at or visit our website at