Final countdown for the UAE's first home-grown satellite

KhalifaSat is due to launch on Monday morning

An H-2A rocket, carrying a government information gathering radar satellite, lifts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima space centre on the Japanese island of Tanegashima in March, 2017. KhalifaSat will be launched from the same site on a similar rocket. Kyodo / Reuters
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It’s the most sophisticated and technologically advanced satellite ever produced by the UAE, designed and built entirely by Emirati engineers.

On Monday morning, KhalifaSat will face its most testing moment with the launch into Earth orbit.

The observation satellite has already made the 7,500 kilometre journey from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai to the launch site on the Pacific Ocean coast of Japan.

The next and final leg is just 600 kilometres, as part of the payload of a Japanese commercial rocket.

With the launch currently set for around 8am UAE time on Monday, KhalifaSat is all ready to go, loaded on top of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-2A rocket.

The flight will end several hours later as KhalifaSat separates from the launch rocket and unfolds the solar panels that will power it.

A team from the space centre has travelled to Japan and completed the final checks on the satellite, working with the Tanegashima Space Center, operated by Japan’s national space agency Jaxa.

The countdown and launch will be live-streamed by the MBRSC from its website.

It is the first time the UAE has chosen a Japanese launch system. The HR-2 was developed by Mitsubishi in 2001 and has proved to be extremely reliable, with only one failure in 37 missions.

It has now completed 31 successful launches in a row, including two already this year, from the Tagama Island space centre, in the far south of Japan’s island chain.


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The success of the KhalifaSat launch will still be greeted with relief. The risks of space exploration were highlighted this month when a Soyuz rocket carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station was forced to abort its flight after booster problems.

KhalifaSat, named in honour of President Sheikh Khalifa, is the third to be built for the MBRSC in collaboration with a South Korean company, Satrec Initiative.

Emirati engineers have been trained by the South Koreans to the point at which they can design and built satellites, while developing skills that will further build the country’s space industry.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, has called the launch “the dawn of a new era in the national space sector and a new achievement to be added to the UAE record.”

DUBAI, 3rd February, 2018 (WAM) -- Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum visited the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) to inspect the progress of the KhalifaSat project. KhalifaSat is the first satellite to be fully built by Emirati engineers, an achievement that highlights the UAE’s growing expertise in satellite technology. The satellite is set to be launched later this year, following a series of rigorous tests. Wam
Engineers pose for a photograph with a model of KhalifaSat - the first satellite to be built entirely by Emirati engineers. Wam

KhalifaSat was built in a special “clean room” at MBRSC and is the successor to DubaiSat1 and DubaiSat2. Weighing 300kg, its design includes a sunshield to protect its sophisticated camera from radiation and temperature fluctuations.

Once deployed, the satellite will spend five years in a Low Earth Orbit capturing high-quality detailed images and sending them to the ground station at MBRSC. The images will be used to help urban planners, monitor the effects of global warming and aid relief efforts for natural disasters.


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