The UAE’s Mars Hope Probe is scheduled to launch to the red planet on July 15, 2020, the Emirates Mars Mission has announced.
The first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, the probe will undertake a 495,000,000km journey to Mars. It is anticipated to enter Mars’ orbit in February 2021.
The countdown to the launch begins after the probe’s transfer from the UAE to Japan.
The launch is now scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, 2020 at 12.51am UAE time (5.51am local time) from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre, via the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI H2A) platform.
The date represents the opening of the launch window for the Emirates Mars Mission, which extends to the August 13, a statement said.
The MHI H2A platform was chosen due to its “high success rates in launching spacecraft and satellites globally”. The UAE has also previously collaborated with MHI to successfully launch the Khalifa Sat satellite.
Since its arrival in Japan, the Hope Probe has undergone detailed processing operations for the launch.
Completed over 50 working days, the process entails filling the fuel tank with about 700kgs of hydrogen fuel and ensuring there are no leaks. It also requires testing the communication and control devices, moving the probe to the launch pad, installing the probe on the rocket that will carry it to space, and ensuring the probe batteries are fully charged.
A team of Emirati nationals is leading the operation and supervising every aspect of the probe’s preparation for its launch.
Sarah Bint Youssef Al-Amiri, minister of State for Advanced Sciences and Emirates Mars Mission deputy project manager, said: “The challenges overcome by the Hope Probe team amidst the global pandemic confirm the UAE mission’s commitment to achieve the impossible.
“Our team continues to work diligently to ensure the mission’s success, and we look forward to collectively celebrate the arrival of the probe on Mars in February 2021 – also coinciding with our 50-year anniversary.”
The journey of moving the Hope Probe from Dubai to the launch site on Tanegashima Island in Japan spanned more than 83 hours and underwent three major stages.
The first phase involved the preparation and transportation of the probe from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center to Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, which spanned 16 hours. The second stage saw the probe’s 11-hour transfer from Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai to Nagoya Airport in Japan and included loading the probe and its supporting equipment into the giant ‘Antonov 12’ plane – the largest cargo plane in the world.
The third stage was the probe’s transfer from Nagoya Airport to the launch site on Tanegashima Island. It included the probe’s safe landing and land transportation to Shimama Harbor, and its final transfer by sea to Tanegashima Island.
In light of Covid-19 concerns, strict health procedures were followed to ensure the health and safety of the teams involved. A separate team also travelled earlier and underwent the mandatory quarantine procedures in Japan prior to receiving the probe upon arrival to oversee its transportation to the launch station.
The Hope probe project is being implemented by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, with the UAE Space Agency funding and supervising procedures.