The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lofty ambitions in the space arena, with many planned initiatives including sending a mission to Mars over the next few years. It is an exciting time for young engineers in the UAE as the country really looks to ramp up its activities. Ali Hasan Bani Malek is a spacecraft operations engineer at Yahsat, the relatively new UAE FSS operator. Malek believes any perception issues that the industry may have had five years ago about young people in the country have now disappeared.
“Nowadays, thanks to the UAE’s government vision, there is greater visibility and opportunities in the space and satellite arena. A great example is the Masters Level Program in Advanced Space Studies, jointly run by the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. We’ve also seen the development of the UAE Space Agency and other initiatives, such as the Hope Probe to Mars program. All of these advancements put the UAE firmly on the space and satellite map,” he says.
Malek says he always wanted a role in one of the advanced technology fields, and the satellite industry seemed like a natural fit for him. “Everyone knows the importance satellites have in our daily lives from TV, computer networking and the Internet to industries including oil and gas, maritime and aerospace. The space industry always fascinated me when I was in college, so that’s the sector I strived to work in,” he says. Working at a company like Yahsat is a particularly exciting since, being a young company, it has a very dynamic environment. Malek says when looking at Yahsat, its spacecraft control center is mainly made up of young engineers, with the oldest person a mere 31 years old. Malek says he sees Yahsat as a forward-thinking company. One of his personal highlights so far has been working directly on Yahsat’s third satellite Al Yah 3. Malek had the chance to spend time at Orbital ATK, in Dulles, Va. working on the satellite. “When the satellite is delivered end of 2016, I can be proud to have been partly responsible for its safe and successful operation,” he says.
In terms of the opportunities for young engineers in the region, Malek adds, “The space and satellite industry has no bounds, which makes it an exciting, ever-changing place to work. The Hope probe to Mars, for example, is mainly directed by young engineers. The talent that we currently have, together with the future talent that we attract and develop, will drive this industry.”
Malek says he sees strong advances in the industry over the next 20 years. “Today the way we launch satellites is more advanced compared to a few decades ago. I’m sure that in years to come we will see even more advancements in this critical stage of a satellite’s lifespan. The concept of the space elevator — where satellites or humans travel into space by elevators — may seem a futuristic concept, but could be a possibility. In the medium term we will certainly witness advancements in bandwidth and powerful equipment, with speed and capacity set to improve,” he adds. VS