UAE's Moon mission on track for October launch

Japanese lander that will carry the Rashid rover to the lunar surface is nearly ready

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The UAE will attempt to land a rover on the Moon in October, the chief of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre said on Tuesday.

The Arab world's first Moon mission was announced in 2020, with a launch date set for 2024.

However, the Emirates was able to secure an earlier flight when it partnered with Japan's ispace to use its Hakuto-R mission lander to deliver the rover to the lunar surface this year.

Salem Al Marri, the director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, confirmed the rover would launch in October.

“We plan to launch our first rover, which will be the first object from the Arab world to land on another celestial body,” he said.

“We will be landing on the Moon in October of this year.”

Engineers at the UAE space centre are assembling the Rashid rover.

Work on the mission started in 2017.

After years in development, the Japanese lander that will take the UAE rover to the Moon is nearing completion.

The Hakuto-R lander has been in development since 2019. Technical problems in 2020 delayed its first launch plan.

It is now in the final stages of assembly and will be ready to receive the Rashid rover for integration in April.

Final tests will be carried out before the mission heads to Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre for launch on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Securing an already available commercial lander offers the UAE the easiest access to the lunar surface.

The Emirates' entire Moon mission relies heavily on the Japanese lander, which will act as a “lunar taxi” for the rover.

“The year ahead is the most important yet for us. This is everything we’ve worked for,” ispace founder Takeshi Hakamada said.

“Every member of our team has contributed to our progress and I continue to be grateful for our employees each day.

“There is still a lot of work to do, so we must remain focused and steadfast as we progress toward our first mission.

“However, by this time next year, I am optimistic that we will be able to look up at the Moon during the New Year celebrations and see it in a way we’ve never seen it before.”

The lander will also provide the Rashid rover with wired communication and power during the cruise phase and wireless communication on the lunar surface.

In the months ahead, engineers will install radiators, insulation layers, solar panels, landing gear and deployment mechanisms on the lander.

The lander is carrying seven payloads from space agencies and private companies.

They include a lunar robot by the Japanese space agency, 360-degree cameras by Canadian company Canadensys Aerospace, and an artificial intelligence flight computer by another Canadian organisation, Mission Control Services.

If the lander reaches the Moon and delivers these payloads, it will mark a major milestone for the commercial space industry.

More private companies are seeking to establish delivery services to the Moon to cater to space agencies and private organisations that wish to reach the lunar surface.

Intuitive Machines, a private space company in Houston, will soon launch its own lunar lander on top of a SpaceX rocket.

The Nova-C lunar lander will carry five commercial payloads to the Moon’s surface for Nasa and private companies.

The Nasa-sponsored flight will also carry the first British mission, a small rover built by private company Spacebit, to the Moon’s surface.

Updated: January 26, 2022, 2:06 PM