UAE Launches New Satellite into Space

Al Yah 3, scheduled to begin operations by the early summer of 2018, will extend Yahsat's commercial Ka-band coverage to an additional 600 million users across Africa and Brazil

UAE Launches New Satellite into Space

Photo Credit: Arianespace

On January 26, 2018, the Al Yah 3 satellite of the Yahsat Company was launched by an Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana. The mission experienced some challenges during the launch stages, which resulted in the Al Yah 3 satellite being inserted into an orbit that differed from the flight plan. "However, the satellite is 'healthy.' A revised flight plan will be executed in order to achieve the operational orbit and fulfill the original mission," said Masood M. Sharif Mahmood, CEO of Yahsat.

The Al Yah 3 satellite will provide broadband services to 60 percent of Africa’s population and more than 95 percent of Brazil’s population. Al Yah 3 is expected to begin operations by the early summer of 2018. It has a launch weight of 3,790 kg, and its payload consists of 58 Ka-band spot beams.

Once it reaches its designated slot, Al Yah 3 will extend Yahsat's commercial Ka-band coverage to an additional 600 million users across Africa and Brazil.

Al Yah 3 satellite is part of a joint venture between Yahsat and Orbital ATK, a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Orbital ATK built the satellite at the company's manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia.

The Yahsat Company

Formed in 2007, Al Yah Satellite Communications Co. (Yahsat) is a private joint stock company fully owned by Mubadala, based in Abu Dhabi. Yahsat has positioned itself to be a global provider of broadband services. It operates under the authority of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the UAE.

Yahsat has designed the Middle East's first multi-purpose satellite system, based on its extensive interaction with customers and research into their communication needs. Yahsat develops customized satellite solutions for the government as well as the commercial sector in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Southwest Asia. Yahsat offers a range of communication services including voice, internet, and television.

The company provides satellite connectivity through its YahClick broadband service, YahService solutions provider, YahLink networking and backhauling capacity and broadcaster Yahlive – a joint venture between Yahsat and Luxembourg's SES satellite operator. Yahsat satellites cover 140 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Central and Southeast Asia.

Yahsat has two satellites in orbit. Yahsat-1A is a multi-payload satellite covering the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia. The satellite was launched from Kourou on April 22, 2011, by an Ariane 5 rocket. Yahsat 1A, weighing approximately 6000 kg, carries Ku-, Ka-, and C-band transponders and antennas. It will provide direct-to-home television programming and secure Ka-band communications capacity for government and military applications in the United Arab Emirates and other nations.

Yahsat-1B was launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan by a Proton-M rocket on April 23, 2012. It is a multi-spot Ka-band satellite that provides broadband services to 26 selected countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Southwest Asia. Yahsat 1B weighs approximately 6000 kg and is outfitted with 25 commercial Ka-band transponders operating at 110MHz and 21 secured transponders for military and government purposes.

The UAE Space Program

The UAE has an ambitious space program that is based on the following institutions:

The UAE Space Agency. Established in 2014, the UAE Space Agency is in charge of national space programs. The agency directs national space programs, creates space policy and regulation. One of the space programs is the Genes in Space, which will see students compete for the opportunity to have their experiments launched into space and conducted by scientists on board the ISS and the Satellite Launch project.

Khalifa University. UAE’s Khalifa University has opened the region’s first space lab. The government has announced the setting up of a research center set to cost almost AED100m over five years, which will act as an incubator for space research and innovation. The laboratory has special unmanned aerial vehicles, robots and sensing systems that help mimic actual conditions in space.

Space Research Centre. Announced in May 2015, the research center in Al Ain is a partnership between the UAE Space Agency, UAE University, and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. It acts as an incubator for space research and innovation.

Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. The MBRSC was founded in 2015 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai when it was integrated with the existing Emirates Institution for Advanced Science & Technology (EIAST). The center's projects include satellites and the Emirates Mars Mission. It has scientific laboratories and research facilities based in Dubai, as part of its broader goal of building a sustainable knowledge-based economy.

The Satellites of the UAE

The UAE mobile satellite communications company Thuraya (a private company) launched its first satellite, Thuraya-1, in 2000, as the Middle East’s first mobile telecommunication satellite.

DubaiSat-1 was the first fully UAE-owned satellite. It was launched in 2009, then part of EIAST, which was later rolled into MBRSC. DubaiSat-1 generates optical images in panchromatic and multispectral bands at a spatial resolution of 2.5m and 5m respectively. The satellite is a vital tool in helping the UAE and the Middle East develop infrastructure, monitor environmental changes, and complete urban planning. DubaiSat-1 images are also integral to the promotion of geoscience and the support of a variety of science programs in both academia and the private sector. DubaiSat-2 blasted off in 2013.

The Nayif-1 nanosatellite was among the 104 satellites launched from Sriharikota, India, in February 2017. The nanosatellite was conceived and manufactured under the aegis of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in collaboration with Emirati students from the American University of Sharjah.

KhalifaSat, the first satellite fully manufactured by Emirati engineers in the UAE, is expected to enter orbit in 2018.


Within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the most ambitious space program has been launched by the UAE government with the country’s first fully government-owned satellite – DubaiSat-1 – sent into space in 2009. The UAE recognized the importance of space for its knowledge-based economy, citing the success of Yahsat in Abu Dhabi, plus Thuraya and EIAST (DubaiSat) in Dubai.

The UAE space program has seen bold government initiatives that include the Emirates Mars Mission, where the UAE aims to send an unmanned probe to Mars. The mission is scheduled for launch in 2020.

Yahsat is forecasting strong demand for its in-flight Wi-Fi service from low-cost carriers seeking to maximize revenues, and e-commerce firms offering deals to passengers, its CEO Masood Mahmood said last month.

Since it was founded in 1980, Arianespace has put more than 550 satellites into orbit including for Europe’s Galileo GPS system. The company posted sales of approximately €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) in 2017. First used in 1986, the Ariane 5 rocket has a strong track record of reliability. 

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