100% foreign ownership: UAE launches economic free zones for space firms


Foreign companies to have 100 per cent ownership without the need of a local partner.

The UAE has launched economic free zones and infrastructure for space firms, with 100 per cent ownership, to attract more space investment into the country.

This is part of the National Space Strategy 2030 and Space Investment Plan, which has now been approved by the government and is in effect.

The UAE Space Agency made the announcement on Tuesday and officials said the new strategy aligns with the regulatory and legal framework in the UAE’s space sector.

The new strategy will offer commercial space firms like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Blue Origin the legalities and infrastructure to operate in the country. These firms focus on commercial human space flights, specifically space tourism flights. Though, there are also many satellite development and launch firms who can benefit from the new strategy.

“We are already an investor of Virgin Galactic. Mabudala has a 33 per cent share,” Nasser Al Rashidi, director of Space Policy and Regulations at the UAE Space Agency, said.

“There has already been some tests done for Virgin Galactic flight tests in the US. All the tests have been positive and we are definitely supportive of such flights. The UAE investor is proud of the results Virgin Galactic has been achieving and see more commercialisation happening.”

Khaleej Times reported previously that the UAE Space Agency signed an MoU with Abu Dhabi Airports and Virgin Galactic to open a spaceport at the Al Ain Airport.

On Tuesday, the agency also signed a MoU with Dubai South, where the Al Maktoum International Airport is located, for further collaboration in space-related activities.

Dr Mohammed AlAhbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency, told that Dubai South has an interest in space and aerospace.

“We will work together to promote space investment. We have not decided what needs to be done and we will explore. The goal is to promote space investment,” he said.

Though, previous news reports have revealed the possibilities of using the Al Maktoum Airport as a space flight hub.

Under the new UAE company ownership laws, foreign companies in the space sector will have 100 per cent ownership without the need of a local partner.

The country has also introduced laws and regulations for space mining, space tourism and other activities to “inspire investor confidence”, such as being able to legally own and trade meteorites and other space rocks.

“The investment plan seeks to increase the national space sector’s contribution to economic diversification and attract foreign investment in the national space sector. Moreover, it aims to transform the UAE into the go-to destination for investors wishing to participate in the space sector,” Dr Al Ahbabi said.

“These documents represent the fruits of the continuous and extraordinary efforts of our exceptional team at the UAE Space Agency. The team has reviewed years of achievements and studied all aspects of the space sector, discovering its strengths, capabilities and opportunities in order to build upon the incredible success we have experienced since our founding five years ago.”

The strategy aims to achieve six goals within 10 years, including providing competitive and world-class space services, enhancing advanced local capacity in space science, research and developing and manufacturing space technology, launching inspiring space missions, establishing high-level national expertise in the space sector, forging effective local and global partnerships and investments in the space industry and developing a future-proof supportive legislative environment and infrastructure across the sector.

A total of 20 programmes and 80 initiatives will be carried out to achieves these goals.

Nasser Al Rashidi said the National Space Strategy aims to ensure the industry’s sustainable growth over the next decade and beyond.

“The UAE Space Agency is working to devise the activities, mechanisms, and tools necessary to stimulate entrepreneurship and attract more local and international investment to the space sector,” he said

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