UAE’s space exploration to reach new heights in 2023

Next year set to be the Emirates’ busiest yet, with missions including reaching the Moon with a tiny rover

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From landing a rover on the Moon to sending an Emirati astronaut for a six-month trip to the space station, 2023 is set to be the UAE’s busiest year for space exploration.

The Emirates will etch its name in history books many times next year if its space missions go as planned.

Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi will take on the Arab world’s first long-duration mission, while the Rashid rover could become the first Arab spacecraft to reach the Moon.

The impending missions follow a string of achievements by the UAE, including reaching Mars with its Hope probe in 2021 and launching Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut, into space in 2019.

But a number of advanced missions are lined up to take place in the same year for the first time, all being carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

The National looks at the UAE space missions planned for 2023.

Rashid rover to reach lunar surface

The 10-kilogram rover is scheduled for launch in November from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

It will sit inside a Japanese lunar lander, called Hakuto-R Mission 1, and together the spacecraft will blast off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Once in space, the journey to the Moon will take approximately three months.

In early 2023, Hakuto-R Mission 1 will attempt to land on the Moon.

If successful, the rover will then descend on to the lunar surface, climbing down a ramp built on to the lander using its four wheels.

If things go as planned, the UAE would become the first Arab country to reach the Moon.

Emirati astronaut heading for International Space Station

Dr Al Neyadi, 41, will become the first Arab astronaut to fly in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. He will ride the Crew Dragon Capsule to the International Space Station next spring for a six-month stay.

The former IT professional and his SpaceX Crew-6 colleagues have been busy training in Houston, Florida and California.

They are learning how to operate the capsule, so they can safely fly to the orbiting science laboratory.

Dr Al Neyadi served as a backup astronaut for the UAE’s first space mission when Maj Al Mansouri blasted off on Russian Soyuz rocket for an eight-day trip to the ISS.

This latest mission is the first long-duration space mission by an Arab country and could feature the first spacewalk by an Arab astronaut.

MBZ-Sat

A model of the MBZ-Sat, the second satellite to be designed and built entirely by Emirati engineers. Photo: MBRSC

Late next year, the UAE hopes to launch MBZ-Sat, the region’s most powerful advanced-imaging satellite.

The 800-kilogram satellite will be carried into orbit on a SpaceX ride-sharing mission on board a Falcon 9 rocket in 2023. It has been named after President Sheikh Mohamed.

MBRSC is working with five private companies in the UAE to manufacture the satellite, including aerospace company Strata, engineering solutions company EPI, management consultancy Rockford Xellerix, Halcon, a company that makes precision-guided systems and Falcon Group, an inventory management company.

The UAE hopes to support the local space industry through this mission, with 90 per cent of the mechanical and 50 per cent of the electronic modules for MBZ-Sat built in the Emirates.

This is the second Earth-observation satellite to be built entirely by Emirati engineers. The first was KhalifaSat, which has been in operation since 2018.

Payload Hosting Initiative satellite

The PHI-Demo satellite. Photo: MBRSC

A small demo satellite with unique payloads is also scheduled for launch next year.

It is being developed under the Payload Hosting Initiative, a platform by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs that offers start-ups and developing space nations opportunities in space.

Engineers at the MBRSC have constructed the PHI-Demo satellite and two private companies have added their payloads.

One of the payloads on the 20-kilogram demo satellite is a propulsion subsystem that uses water to fuel the spacecraft.

Built by UK-based company SteamJet Space Systems, the technology offers a greener and more sustainable use of space.

OQ Technology, a company in the US that hopes to build a global satellite constellation dedicated to 5G, has built the other payload.

It includes an Internet of Things communication system that stores and forwards collected data from IoT devices in remote areas, industries and autonomous vehicles using 5G technology.

A second satellite, PHI-1, will be built in partnership with the UN’s space office.

Updated: August 23, 2022, 5:06 AM
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