Engineers in Japan will carry out a series of spacecraft, rocket and weather-related tests over the next few days before the launch of the UAE’s Hope spacecraft in less than two weeks.
Already fuelled and ready to be placed in the fairing – an external structure that protects the spacecraft while on the rocket – Hope will be mounted on the H-IIA rocket next week.
Suhail AlDhafri, the deputy project manager of the mission and spacecraft lead, described what the launch day at Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre will be like. He is one of about 15 other engineers who are on ground at the launch site, preparing for the lift off that will take place at 12.51am, UAE time, on July 15.
Weather and spacecraft checks
One of the most critical factors that will determine whether the launch will go ahead will be the weather conditions on the humid subtropical island.
“We cannot predict the launch weather from today, but we will be reviewing the weather three days before launch,” said Mr AlDhafri during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
On launch day, an hourly weather and spacecraft check will be carried out to ensure the lift off will be on time.
There are several weather tracking satellites across Japan, as well as on the Tanegashima island that track weather conditions.
The biggest one on the island is located about a five-minute drive away from the lift off site.
The Emirati engineers will be stationed at the control room centre on the island to monitor the launch.
They have used Japan’s launch facility before in 2018 for the KhalifaSat satellite.
Rocket roll out
The rocket is verticalized – the lift off position – ahead of time and is rolled out onto the launch pad in that manner.
It takes 30 minutes for the rocket to be transported to the lift off pad. The slow movement is to ensure the safety of the launch vehicle and spacecraft.
Responding to a question by The National, Mr AlDhafri said: "One day before the launch, there will be a weather, spacecraft and launch vehicle test. If these things are a go, then we will start moving the rocket from the assembly building to the launch point."
Project is in ‘launch campaign’ stage
The mission has reached the final stage before the lift off, which is when the spacecraft and launch vehicle are prepared for the big day.
Omran Al Sharaf, the project manager of the mission, said they reached a key milestone, as the spacecraft has been fuelled with 700 kgs of hydrogen.
“We are getting closer to the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope probe,” he said.
“Throughout the launch campaign, there were different tests that took place – checking the batteries, solar panels status, scientific instruments and the overall command and communication subsystems we have.”
The spacecraft will be routinely checked until lift-off.