Thursday, March 24, 2016

UAE's Mars Mission to Be Launched from Japan

Artist's concept of the 'Hope' spacecraft at Mars. Image Credit:

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced on Tuesday, Mar. 22, that its first Mars probe will be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. A deal detailing this cooperation was signed by UAE’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) company. According to the agreement, the mission is scheduled for blastoff in July or August 2020 atop MHI’s H-IIA launch vehicle.

The signing ceremony that took place in Abu Dhabi was attended by Kanji Fujiki, Ambassador of Japan to the UAE, in the presence of Khalifa Al Romaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, and Hamad Obaid Al Mansouri, Chairman of MBRSC. The deal to launch ‘Hope’ by MHI is a part of a broader cooperation arrangement also signed on Tuesdays, by Al Romaithi and Naoki Okumura, President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), regarding cooperation in space activities and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

“The Emirates Mars Mission is the result of years of hard work in developing scientific and technical expertise in the field of space sciences. Many countries paved the way in this field, including Japan, which enjoys considerable experience in the exploration of outer space,” Al Mansouri said.

The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), will send an unmanned probe called ‘Hope’ to study the Martian atmosphere and climate. ‘Hope’ will be a car-sized spacecraft, having dimensions of 7.8 by 9.5 feet (2.37 by 2.9 meters) and weighing about 1.5 metric tons. It will be fitted with three solar panels, generating a total power of 3,600 W. The probe is expected to arrive at Mars between January and March 2021 to coincide with the country’s 50th anniversary.

The spacecraft will travel at a velocity of about 78,300 mph (126,000 km/h) and will stay in a 13,670 to 27,340 miles (22,000 to 44,000 km) orbit around Mars. If it reaches Mars, it will be the first-ever successful Arab mission to another planet in history.

Under the recently signed agreement, the UAE Space Agency takes administrative and financial responsibility for the EMM, and MBRSC will be responsible for leading the design and development of the probe, as well as the execution of all phases of EMM, which includes technical coordination with the H-IIA launch vehicle.

“The rocket we will be using is the H-IIA rocket and it’s the prime rocket that is used by the Japanese Space Agency. The space probe will be built in the UAE, while the rocket will be assembled in Japan, with the final launch also being done from Japan after we physically take the space probe to Japan,” Salem Humaid Al Marri, assistant director-general at MBRSC, told Gulf News.

According to Al Merri, Mitsubishi was chosen from ten possible launch service providers across the globe after a thorough vetting process. H-IIA is the company’s most commonly used launcher. MHI believes the rocket has a strong advantage with its high success rate of nearly 97 percent (29 successful launches among 30 flights). It is worth noticing that this model has been also selected to launch KhalifaSat – the first satellite to be constructed in the UAE by a 100 percent Emirati team.

Okumura noted that the deal would build upon an already well-established cooperation between the two space agencies.

“With our partnership dating back to 2009 we have already established a framework which we will be able now be able to expand on. The young generation will be better equipped to contribute to the development of the space sector in the country," he said.

H-IIA is a 173-feet (53 meters) tall two-stage rocket, used to launch satellites into geostationary orbit and space probe for deep space missions. It is capable of delivering up to six metric tons to the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The booster was launched for the first time on August 29, 2001.

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