Yahsat, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, Abu Dhabi government’s strategic investment and development vehicle, launched two satellites in 2011 and 2012. The satellites provide a variety of government and commercial applications, including “YahClick”, a new reliable and affordable satellite broadband service.
“Why would Mubadala consider a communications project for the Middle East, South and West Asia, most of Europe and Africa despite involved risks?” asked Mr. Al Zaabi during a lecture he delivered on Monday, July 29, at Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s Majlis at Al Bateen Palace in Abu Dhabi. “Because satellites provide communications services without having to depend on local or international infrastructure.” The lecture, titled “Yahsat, UAE’s Journey into Space”, was attended by His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Mr. Al Zaabi said the project came in line with Abu Dhabi’s strategy of creating diversified job opportunities for UAE citizens, with 54 percent of Yahsat workforce, including satellite operators, being Emiratis. “The idea was to create trained national cadres who can support the communications sector in the country,” he said.
Yahsat was incorporated in 2007 and was mandated to fulfill the satellite communication requirements of government and commercial customers in the Middle East, Africa, Southern Europe and South East Asia.
Mr. Al Zaabi, who is also the Director General of the National Security Authority (NESA), said manufacturing and launching a satellite that meets both commercial and government needs was not an easy task because that translated into a heavier payload.
“His Highness’s (Sheikh Mohammed) vision was to launch a project that serves the country’s strategic interests while at the same time making financial return,” Mr. Al Zaabi said. “Launching a satellite with such payload was a testimony to true team work.” He said one of the major challenges that had faced the Yahsat team early on was finding orbits for the satellites.
“It took five years to find orbital positions for the first and second satellites,” said Mr. Al Zaabi, who also serves on the boards of Emirates Telecommunication Integrated Company (Du) and the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). “We had to coordinate with 50 governments and entities to find these positions. It’s very hard to find a place for a satellite, but we now already have orbital positions for further expansion.” He pointed out that the UAE was leading the satellite communications industry in the region. “The UAE is the first country in the Middle East that has three or more satellite operators,” he said.
He added that the Yahsat’s impact was beyond the borders of the UAE with its contribution to the development of some developing nations.
“We have a project to link schools in (electronically) in Nigeria as well as projects with the United Nations in Afghanistan and Sudan,” he said.
The lecture was also attended by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah, H.H. Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern Region, H.H Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs, H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development.
A number of government officials, foreign diplomats, dignitaries and citizens have also attended the lecture.