The UAE Space Agency and Abu Dhabi-based Edge have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to implement the Sirb programme, a constellation of three synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites. “Sirb” is the Arabic term for a flock of birds, aptly naming a project that will create highly-detailed radar images of land use, ice cover, and surface changes, serving a wide range of scientific and commercial applications. The first satellite is scheduled for launch by 2026.

These three SAR satellites will employ advanced imaging technology to deliver high-precision results, supporting diverse applications such as environmental monitoring, natural disaster management, and mapping. Unlike traditional imaging satellites, SAR satellites can capture images day and night, regardless of atmospheric conditions. This capability allows scientists to trace oil spills, track maritime vessels, and monitor crop yields.

When the project was launched, Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology and Chair of the UAE Space Agency, remarked, “SAR technology leapfrogs traditional imaging satellites, providing more powerful imaging using X-band radar technologies. This allows us to continue observations day and night, through fog and cloud cover, and to create big data pictures that are simply not possible with conventional imaging. These small-scale satellites are more agile, faster to develop, and more powerful—an indicator of the new generation of systems that technology is now making possible.”

The Sirb project aligns with the UAE government’s strategy to create opportunities for national companies, including start-ups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), within the private sector. Under the UAE Space Agency’s guidance, Edge has formed a local consortium of key players in the UAE’s private space sector and national centers. Edge has assumed the prime contractor role with a focus on developing the SAR payload. Yahsat and Bayanat will manage satellite operations, data, and space applications, while the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) at the UAE University in Al Ain will provide assembly, integration, and testing (AIT) operations.

The consortium will continue to expand its collaboration with other industry players, SMEs, and start-ups to enhance the programme’s collective expertise and capabilities.

Salem Butti Al Qubaisi, Director-General of the UAE Space Agency, stated, “Our partnership with Edge is a strategic step in growing the UAE’s private space sector. The establishment of this local consortium is a cornerstone in our mission to implement the Sirb programme and foster a competitive and innovative commercial space sector. Through strategic collaborations with the UAE’s major private space players and national centers, we are promoting the growth of a knowledge-based economy and ensuring that the UAE’s talent and expertise are central to our regional and global leadership in the space domain.”

Mansour Al Mulla, Managing Director and CEO of Edge Group, added, “At Edge, our sights are set on enhancing our capabilities and playing a transformative role in the national and global space sector. The signing of this MoU is an important first step and lays the foundation for strategic investments and partnerships which will accelerate the Sirb programme. By uniting the foremost local players in the sector, we are fostering national research and development (R&D) and driving the nation’s ambitions for a competitive space ecosystem.”

The Sirb initiative is part of a Dh3 billion ($820 million) space fund announced last year, reflecting the UAE’s robust commitment to advancing its space capabilities and fostering a knowledge-based economy.


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