The UAE Space Agency (UAESA) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) have confirmed that the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM)’s Hope Probe, is in less than a year.
MBRSC said it plans to launch the Hope Probe into orbit around mid-July 2020, and it is expected to reach Mars orbit in the first quarter of 2021, the year of the Golden Jubilee of the UAE. The programme aims to collect information on Mars' meteorological layers and study the causes of loss of hydrogen and oxygen gases, the two main constituents of water, from the upper layer of the Martian atmosphere. For the first time, a space exploration mission will be able to take a global picture of the Martian atmosphere.
A joint statement said that the launch window of the Hope Probe, the first Arab project to explore another planet, is due to begin in the second half of July 2020. The launch window is the time during which the Hope Probe must be sent to Mars as Earth and Mars would be at their closest point, which happens only once every two years.
The Hope Probe will be launched from Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan, with a carrier rocket similar to that used for the launch of satellites, and it will take from seven to nine months to reach Mars. In its journey to Mars, the probe would need to change its position from time to time to point its solar panels at the sun to charge its batteries, and to point its antenna back at Earth to maintain contact with mission control. The Hope Probe is expected to collect more than 1,000 GB of new data on the Red Planet.
5 Intensive Environmental Tests
The five environmental tests are being conducted on the Hope Probe since June 2019, and will continue till the end of December 2019, to ensure that the probe is ready before the launch date. The tests include the Vibration test, the Electromagnetic Interference and Compatibility test (EMI), the Thermal test (on extreme temperature), the Vacuum test, and the Shock test.
The EMI and Compatibility test is designed to ensure that there is no impact on the generation, transmission, and reception of electromagnetic energy, or any magnetic interference, as well as any interference to signals when using radio frequencies, which may result in a drop or failure in the performance of electrical and electronic equipment.
The thermal test is designed to ensure that all the equipment in the probe will work electronically in the vacuum of space and withstand the changes in high temperatures. During the Thermal test, the probe will be exposed to a series of hot and cold temperatures, from -235 ° F (-148 ° C) to 215 ° F (102 ° C) to ensure that the probe can withstand different conditions in outer space.
The environmental tests also include testing the impact of separation shocks and vibrations on the Hope Probe, as well as the vacuum test, which aims to ensure that the equipment will operate electronically in the vacuum of space.
The launch date is approaching
His Excellency Dr. Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said, “We are approaching a historic Arab and Islamic achievement in space exploration with the final preparations to launch the Hope Probe. These preparations are being supported and guided by the wise leadership and by the sons of Zayed who seek to raise the UAE’s flag through this ambitious project, the largest of its kind in the region to explore another planet”.
“The Hope Probe will be a milestone in the UAE’s record of achievements, which began since the inception of the UAE. It is a confirmation to the whole world that the UAE has entered the global space exploration race and is determined to hold a leading position among the developed countries in this difficult and complex field. Only countries with people armed with science, ambition, a spirit of challenge and achievement can enter this field,” added Al Falasi.
His Excellency Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, Chairman of MBRSC, said, “At this point, the countdown to sending the Hope Probe to Mars orbit has begun. Less than one year left till we make a new historical achievement and add it to the UAE's record. We are certain that the data the global scientific community will receive about Mars through this mission, will be valuable and will contribute to enhancing our understanding and knowledge about the red planet; a knowledge that will be passed on to future generations. The success achieved by Emirati youth in the space sector and particularly, the Hope Probe, stems from their ambition and commitment to support the UAE’s global position”.
“The Hope Probe is a journey that began with hope and an idea. It is now a reality that is shared by Emirati scientists and engineers, who will transfer knowledge in the space sector to Emirati graduate and undergraduate students,” continued Al Mansoori.
“The Emirates Mars Mission – Hope Probe has already contributed to creating new scientific disciplines for Emirati students. It also established the presence of space technology as one of the key elements of modern life in the UAE. Like other international space missions, Hope Probe will directly and indirectly contribute to the emergence of new discoveries,” added Al Mansoori.
His Excellency Dr. Eng. Mohammed Nasser Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, said, “The success of the development of the Hope Probe until the last stages, according to the approved schedule, characterizes the national space infrastructure and the technical and scientific capabilities of Emirati youth who are committed to this ambitious project”.
“Only a few months left from realising the dream that we have long worked for. This project will be a major achievement for Arabs and Muslims in the world of space, and will restore the glory of our forefathers, in the service of humanity,” added Al Ahbabi.
His Excellency Yousuf Hamad Al Shaibani, Director General of MBRSC, said, “The achievements made by the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) team, which is working on all the stages of the Hope Probe, from design to assembly and testing, will be a title of pride in the UAE’s modern history.”
“The UAE is making history, and the future vision is becoming a reality due to the efforts of a team of young people who contribute to enriching human knowledge and placing the UAE among the leading countries in space science,” continued Al Shaibani.
The scientific devices the probe will be using are the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI), Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS), and the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS).
MBRSC revealed that all these devices operate efficiently in different environmental conditions. Several aspects related to the design, assembly of the structure, cameras and control have been verified.
A unique mission
For the first time, a Mars exploration project will be able to take a global picture of the Martian atmosphere, it will do so by taking an integrated picture of the atmosphere throughout the day and for a long period of time allowing it to do so in different seasons throughout the year.
The Hope Probe’s research team, which includes 10 Emiratis amongst a global team, will work on continuous research that will reveal the secrets of the Red Planet and transfer knowledge between the UAE and the world by analysing data to be sent by the Hope Probe.
The probe will collect more than 1,000 GB of new data from the Red Planet. The information will be professionally managed, analysed, and stored in a scientific data center in the UAE. The scientific team will index and analyse the data available to humanity for the first time, and later share it with the global scientific community interested in Mars.
There have been only 26 successful missions to Mars, from the United States, Europe, Japan and others. In July 2020, the UAE joins these countries to be among the only nine countries in the world to contribute to the discovery of Mars.
Implementation and supervision
MBRSC is responsible for the implementation and supervision of EMM – Hope Probe, and its various scientific, educational and awareness initiatives. The Centre is also responsible for the execution and supervision of all stages of the design, development and launch of the Hope Probe in 2020. The UAE Space Agency (UAESA) is funding and supervising procedures and necessary details for the implementation of this project. Following a journey of seven months, the probe is expected to enter the Red Planet’s orbit in 2021, coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of the Union.
This mission is in cooperation with international academic partners from the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL), and Arizona State University (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration.