Key Points

  • The ‘Yahsat’ dual-satellite Y1A & Y1B communication systems were launched in 2011 and 2012 through Thales Aleina space and Astrium.
  • Thales’ Falcon Eye program was signed in 2014 in order to produce two high resolution Pleiades-type satellites – launching in 2017 and 2018.


Although the Middle East has a less powerful stance with regards to space technology in comparison to its western peers, both the UAE & Egypt are the region’s primary representatives. In 2007, the Al Yah Satellite Communications Company “Yahsat” awarded a contract to the joint venture composed of Thales Alenia Space and Astrium, in order to build a dual-satellite communications system. Y1A & Y1B satellites were successfully launched in 2011 and 2012 respectively and the systems are now fully operational.

In 2014, Thales officially signed a contract to develop the very-high-resolution payload for the Falcon Eye program, within the scope of a consortium led by Airbus Defense and Space. The contract includes the construction of two satellites and a training programme for UAE-based engineers who will eventually be controlling and operating the satellites once they are in orbit.

Falcon Eye optical observation satellites are meant to provide a new capability to the military and represent the most advanced optics that France has ever sold to another country. The aim for the customer is to have state-of-the-art capabilities in Surveillance, Intelligence, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR). The high-resolution Pleiades-types will monitor the entire globe 24/7. Both satellites, weighing less than 1,500 kg each, are to be launched in late 2017 and 2018.