New Space Lab at Masdar City Abu Dhabi
A space laboratory built to design, construct and test miniature satellites was launched at Masdar City on Monday.
The Yahsat Space Laboratory was launched at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which is now part of the newly created Khalifa University of Science and Technology.
The laboratory is a collaboration between the Masdar Institute, Al Yahsat Satellite Communications Company and Orbital ATK.
For the past two years, students, faculty and space industry engineers have worked on creating the laboratory, which has been established to develop the local space sector by cultivating Emirati undergraduate and graduate students in the field of space sciences.
The creation of the laboratory – which includes monitoring, communication, three-dimensional printing and software development facilities – is set to graduate the institute’s first batch of engineering students in space sciences next month.
“We are not looking to graduate technicians, we want to graduate scientists,” said Dr Saif Al Mheiri, head of the space laboratory and assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering at Masdar Institute.
Using the space industry model of incorporating engineers from various disciplines on a single project, the institute brings together students pursuing master’s degrees in engineering from different fields in the space laboratory. “This master’s programme is unique in the country and the region,” Dr Al Mheiri said. “It’s a master’s programme that emphasises the hands-on as well as the educational components.”
A lack of undergraduate engineering degrees focused on space sciences in UAE universities made finding students willing to pursue a master’s degree in space sciences hard.
“Yes, it is a challenge but space-related problems are always challenging and push engineers to the limit. Once students understand this it motivates them and they feel excited [about the field],” said Dr Al Mheiri.
The administration is working with New York University Abu Dhabi and the American University of Ras Al Khaimah to attract more students for its graduate programmes.
One of the students working in the space laboratory said he was inspired to leave his first job when he heard about the programme. “I resigned from the petroleum industry to follow my dream of being an engineer in the space field,” said Abdullah Al Sharif, 26.
Working alongside engineers with decades of experience to build the space laboratory has given him invaluable experience.
Mr Al Sharif, a mechanical engineering graduate, is working on refining the structure and systems of Mysat-1, the programme’s first educational miniature satellite, which is slated for launch next year to take images of the Earth from space.
Mr Al Sharif is ensuring that the systems of the 10x10x10cm satellite are smoothly integrated and remain undamaged by the -violent shaking during its launch.
“At Yahsat, we strongly believe that by complementing educational programmes with state-of-the-art facilities for learning and development, we can provide best-quality education,” said Masood Mahmood, Yahsat’s chief executive.
Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, interim provost at Masdar Institute, said the programme would help to advance projects such as the UAE’s mission to Mars in 2020.
He said 12 students would graduate from the programme next month and the institute was aiming for just as many next year.