Hope Probe to be decontaminated ahead of Mars mission

The orbiter is due to be launched into space in July to study the atmosphere of the Red Planet

The UAE's Hope Probe is undergoing decontamination in preparation for its mission to Mars. 

The "bake-out" process, which is routine for spacecraft and their components, helps eliminate any unwanted molecules. It is taking place at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.

The process is an essential part of preparations for a launch, with craft prone to malfunctioning if it is not performed. 

"What will happen now is that we will expose it to a certain temperature and vacuum similar to space and it will cause all of the molecules, moisture, contaminants to go out of the spacecraft," said Omar Al Shehhi, integration and testing lead of the mission.

“We are aiming for 10 days of bake-out activity.

"The team will work by the hour monitoring every detail of the thermal chamber to ensure nothing is going wrong. If we go to space without doing this, contaminants will first contaminate the instruments and it may even hinder our mission."

The room has a thermal chamber large enough for the 2.37 metre-wide and 2.9 metre-tall spacecraft to fit inside.

The temperature and vacuum level used varies from craft to craft. The European Space Agency has vacuum chambers with thermal tents that can be heated up to 100°C or cooled down to minus 190°C using piped liquid nitrogen.

The spacecraft should be able to survive the temperature of outer space, which is -270.42°C.

After the bake-out, the integration process will take place. This involves installing Hope’s three key instruments – the exploration imager, Mars infrared spectrometer and the ultraviolet spectrometer.

The instruments will study the lower and upper atmosphere of the planet and will send back the data to the MBRSC’s mission control centre. Once complete, the spacecraft will be shipped to the Tanegashima Space Centre for the launch.

Hope is part of the Emirates Mars Mission, which is funded by the UAE Space Agency and being developed by MBRSC.

It is scheduled for lift-off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre mid-July. A total of 150 Emirati engineers, researchers and scientists worked on the spacecraft, in collaboration with three US universities, including University of Colorado, Boulder, the University of California, Berkeley, and Arizona State University.

The UAE probe – the first by an Arab nation – will study how the upper and lower layers interact with each other, providing the first complete picture of the planet’s atmosphere. It will also help to illustrate how the seasons on Mars are affected by the light of the Sun.