KhalifaSat: Made in the UAE, launched into space

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In this undated photograph released Feb. 2, 2018 by the state-run Emirates News Agency (WAM), Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler and the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, center back row, visits the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center to see the locally made KhalifaSat satellite in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (WAM via AP)
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Japan's rocket H-2A is launched, carrying aboard a green gas observing satellite "Ibuki-2" and KhalifaSat, a UAE satellite, Tanegashima, southern Japan, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (AP)
Updated 30 October 2018

KhalifaSat: Made in the UAE, launched into space

  • KhalifaSat, the first satellite to be fully engineered by Emiratis, is a monumental step for the Arab world
  • The successful launch drew praise from the UAE’s leaders

DUBAI: History was made on Monday as the first satellite to be fully engineered and developed by Emiratis was successfully launched into space from an island south of Japan’s mainland, marking a meteoric milestone for space programmes in the Arab world.

The eyes of the world were watching as KhalifaSat — the most sophisticated satellite built by the UAE, which was tested and manufactured entirely by Emirati engineers — was loaded onto a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket and launched live on Monday at 8:08am UAE time from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The launch is among a raft of space programs that will be led by the UAE and countries across the wider Gulf region in the coming years.
Dr Ahmed Murad, dean of the college of science at United Arab Emirates University, told Arab News that the launch of KhalifaSat is a monumental step for the Arab world’s ambitious space programs, adding that it will spur further diversification of the country’s economy and inspire innovation across the GCC.

“This launch is a very significant achievement for the country as one of the main strategic pillars in the UAE National Strategy of Innovation,” he said, referring to the aim to make the UAE one of the most innovative nations in the world by 2021. “Also, this launch will make the UAE the ‘hub’ of space science. The country has achieved their ambitious plan by entering the industry sector of space science, which will build a knowledge-based economy.
“The country is building this sector through the policy, governance, financial resources and building national capacity. I am sure and confident that the UAE will lead the Arab region in the space science sector as all requirements are available and built in-country.”
Designed and built at the space technology laboratories at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai, KhalifaSat, which bears the name of the UAE president, will deliver high-quality images of Earth, assisting governmental and private organizations all over the world with environmental monitoring, disaster relief and urban planning.
The successful launch drew praise from the UAE’s leaders, with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the crown prince of Dubai, tweeting his praise to the KhalifaSat team shortly after takeoff. “Congratulations to the leaders and people of the UAE on the successful launch of ‘KhalifaSat,’ a satellite built completely by Emirati engineers — a true reflection of the aspirations of our youth and our nation,” he said. “(I am) proud of the talented Emirati personnel at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC). They are the heroes behind this important project that carries the name of our president. Taking a picture of our founding father to outer space adds a wonderful note to our celebrations for the Year of Zayed.”
Sheikh Hamdan also referenced future ambitious plans under the UAE’s space program, including the Emirates Mars Mission, which will, in July 2020, see the launch of the Arab world’s first “Hope” spacecraft that aims to land on the planet in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s founding, and the UAE’s first astronaut training program, which aims to send two emiratis into space in April 2019.
“The Hope Mars Mission and the UAE astronaut program are two great initiatives that are part of our efforts to follow in the footsteps of Zayed to serve humanity and bring happiness to people,” he said.
The UAE Space Agency also tweeted: “The launch of the UAE’s first Emirati-made satellite
#KhalifaSat has been successful. The highly advanced imaging satellite will now begin to orbit the Earth from pole to pole, at a distance of 613 km with its state-of-the-art positioning, controlling systems and digital cameras.”
Circulating on social media was a picture of Hamad Obaid Al-Mansoori, chairman of Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, hugging Abdulla Harmoul, KhalifaSat’s launch manager, after the launch. Ahead of the historical day, Amer Al-Sayegh, the KhalifaSat project manager, said the project helped create a key partnerships between the UAE and Japan.
“It’s not only the technical work that we are doing with our Japanese colleagues, it is the bonding of two teams and two cultures working together for the same vision,” he said. “The UAE now has a highly qualified team equipped with knowledge, expertise and strong teamwork for the new missions for the UAE.”
A team of MBRSC engineers had travelled to Tanegashima Space Center to monitor the launch of KhalifaSat, one of the world’s most technologically advanced satellites, with five patents to its name. The spectacle was broadcast live on Dubai TV and streamed live on many channels, including Dubai TV and YouTube, and online viewers watched as, about 10 minutes after blast-off, the satellite disappeared from sight, and on-site engineers announced the flight path was “proceeding as expected.”
It was the latest in a long history of Arab satellites in space, which began when the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat) sent the first Arab satellite into space in February 1985: Arabsat-1A was performed by a French Ariane rocket and was used to provide communication services to the Arab states.
Founded in 1976 by the 21 member states of the Arab League, Arabsat is largely funded by Saudi Arabia and operates from its headquarters in Riyadh and two satellite control stations in Riyadh and Tunis. The launch of its sixth generation satellite — ArabSat-6A with a Falcon Heavy rocket — is planned for January 2019.
Last year, King Salman signed an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, committing both countries to space exploration cooperation, while also in 2017, the Kingdom, together with five other Arab countries — Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria and Bahrain — converged for talks related to space, with Sudan, Oman and Kuwait later joining the group.
Farther afield, Space Generation (Kuwait) aims to gather the youth of Kuwait to express their thoughts and ideas about establishing a space program in the country, while in Jordan, the Regional Center for Space Science and Technology Education, based in Amman, is the regional centre for the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). It aims to assist participating countries in developing and enhancing the knowledge and skills of their citizens in relevant aspects of space science and technology to effectively contribute to national development and space programs.
It reflects a general will across the GCC — as economies gradually shift away from oil — for more investment in space science, including technology such as satellites and exploration involving missions to the Moon and Mars.
“By launching KhalfiaSat, the country will participate with other satellites to provide new insights about the inner and outer space, which will help to push the research agenda in the region,” Dr Murad said.


Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

Updated 13 July 2020

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

  • Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines
  • In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment

CAIRO: Their accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt’s most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape.
Some were minors when the alleged crimes took place. In all, more than 100 accusers have emerged online in the past two weeks.
It’s resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.
Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines; many in Egypt have previously portrayed harassment as a problem of poor urban youth.
Women’s rights champions hope the authorities’ swift response signals change in how Egyptian society handles accusations of sexual assault.
“What’s before this case is totally different from what’s after,” said Nihad Abuel-Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims.
Sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems in Egypt, where victims must also fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically ties female chastity to a family’s reputation. In courts, the burden of proof lies heavily on the victim of such crimes.
In a statement, the public prosecutor’s officer said the accused man acknowledged he blackmailed at least six girls, saying he would send sensitive photos of them to their families if they cut ties. Several attempts by The Associated Press to contact him or his lawyer were unsuccessful.
Amr Adib, Egypt’s most prominent TV host, said in a recent episode that he’d spoken with the young man’s father, who occupies a high-ranking position at a telecommunication company. He said his son dismissed the allegations.
At least 10 women have officially reported their claims, according to Abuel-Komsan, of the women’s rights center. Activists also set up the Instagram account @assaultpolice to collect allegations, said Sabah Khodir, a US-based writer who helps run the account. She said there are more than 100 accounts.
“We are demanding to be listened to … We are just using what we have, lending our voices to hopefully create some kind of change,” she said.
A court has ordered the accused to remain in custody pending an investigation into an array of accusations that include attempted rape, blackmail and indecent assault, according to a five-page statement by the public prosecutor. In the same statement, the prosecutor urged more alleged victims to come forward.
Last week, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi moved to amend the country’s criminal law to increase protections for the identities of sexual assault victims, which activists have welcomed. The amendment still needs parliamentary approval and El-Sisi’s signature to be made law.
The allegations against the student cover a period of at least three years.
Many of the anonymous accounts appear to be from fellow students at the American International School, one of the country’s most expensive private high schools, and the American University in Cairo, which school officials said the accused left in 2018. It would appear that he then enrolled at the European Union Business School in Spain, in an online program last year.
In February, he spent three weeks at its Barcelona campus, but the school expelled him after an accusation of online harassment that was subsequently proved false, said Claire Basterfield, a spokesperson for the EUBS. The school has filed a 54-page criminal complaint with the Spanish police, seeking further investigation into his actions.
The head of the American University in Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, said the university has a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment, but that he would not comment on an ongoing case.
According to accusations posted on social media in the past two weeks, the former student would mine the pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs. He would start with flattery, then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he later used to blackmail them to have sex with him. If they did not, he would threaten to send the pictures to their family.
In some cases, he “attracted their sympathy by claiming he was going through a crisis,” then lured them to his home in an upscale compound where he sexually assaulted them, the prosecutor’s statement alleged.
In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment. During and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, women were frequently harassed, groped — and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted — during mass protests.
This time, there are signs of wider ripples throughout the society. The current series of complaints has prompted Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, even challenging the widely held belief that a woman is at fault if her clothing is less than modest. It’s a departure from the norm for the conservative Muslim majority country where most women wear headscarves.
There are also other corners where accusations of sexual harassment are emerging, such as in civil society groups and businesses.
Two rights groups said they fired one employee and suspended another, and opened investigations after allegations of sexual misconduct against them were made public. Authorities also detained a prominent publisher over the weekend after a poet filed a complaint with the Cairo police, accusing him of sexually harassing her, the state-run Al-Ahram reported. The publisher denied the allegations in a Facebook posting. He was released late Sunday on 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($313) in bail, pending an investigation.
The recent cases — reaching into the Egyptian elite — have “refuted all previous arguments and justifications for harassment, from poverty to illiteracy and things like that,” Abuel-Komsan said.