The United Arab Emirates' plan to send a shuttle to space by 2021 just rocketed forward.

The UAE cabinet ratified the National Space Policy in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum this week. The program will see around DHS20 billion ($5.45 billion) invested in the nation's space sector.

As part of the UAE Vision 2021, which aims to put the country among the most economically and scientifically progressed in the world by its 50th anniversary, UAE seeks to assert itself as a lead competitor in aerospace. The new National Space Policy is considered to be a centerpiece of the national plan to develop the space sector.

UAE had previously announced plans to create a space agency and send the first Arab mission to Mars by 2021. “The UAE Mars probe represents the Islamic world’s entry into the era of space exploration. We will prove that we are capable of new scientific contributions to humanity,” Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had said. The program is expected attract foreign investors to UAE and boost its economy. Space technology plays a role in telecommunications, navigation and monitoring weather and natural disasters.

The UAE has been working with NASA and France’s space agency CNES .

"We have the largest regional space transportation operator, the largest international companies providing satellite insurance services, an adequate legislative and regulatory environment, and a variety of research centres, all of which aim to ensure the well-being of our people and the world," said PM Al Maktoum.