UAE Mars mission: new potential launch dates announced

The much-anticipated launch of the Hope probe was postponed twice due to bad weather

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UAE’s mission to Mars will be launched between July 20 and 22, the UAE government announced on Thursday.

The launch of Hope probe was postponed twice this week due to unstable weather at the launch site on Japan’s Tanegashima island.

The weather is expected to improve within that time and officials said an exact date and time would be announced closer to the date.

"The Emirates Space Agency and The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center have announced that due to continued thunderstorms, clouds and unstable weather conditions in the coming days on Tanegashima Island, the launch site for the Hope probe, the launch is now scheduled to take place between the 20th and 22nd July 2020, depending on improved weather. The precise time of the launch will be confirmed in due course," the government said on Twitter.

Over the past few days, the island has been the site of heavy rain and strong winds – conditions that would have interfered with the launch and potentially damaged the rocket and spacecraft.

The Emirates Mars Mission team had been working continually to find the earliest lift-off opportunity, as the narrow launch window for missions to Red Planet closes on August 3.

If missed, the probe would not be able to launch until 2022 because that is when Earth and Mars are closest to each other next.

New potential launch dates for UAE's Mars Mission

New potential launch dates for UAE's Mars Mission

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the company providing the H-IIA rocket for the launch, has strict criteria that must be met before the lift-off. This includes stable wind and an acceptable amount of cloud density.

More than 150 Emirati engineers, researchers and scientists have worked on the mission since its inception six years ago with a budget of Dh735 million.

Hamad Al Mansouri, the chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, wrote a heartfelt letter to the team after the two delays.

“The Hope probe is standing tall and is waiting for the countdown,” Mr Al Mansouri said in the letter, which was shared on social media by Emirati astronaut Maj Hazza Al Mansouri on Wednesday.

“It’s ready to go, carrying with it the name of your dear homeland… I know that delaying the launch of the probe was not news you were waiting for. We are all waiting for that historic moment, however, the delay ensures flight safety.

“The moment is inevitably coming. You worked with sincerity and dedication, and God will not disappoint you. The Hope probe will go to its destination and will write history.”

The spacecraft is currently inside the payload fairing and is mounted on top of the H-IIA rocket.

The launcher remains parked at the Vehicle Assembly Building, a facility that is a short distance from the launch pad.

Launch criteria of H-IIA rocket: 

  • Peak wind speed should not exceed 20.9 metres per second

  • Rain should be less than 8mm per hour

  • No cumulonimbus clouds in flight trajectory 

  • No atmospheric discharge in the flight trajectory 

  • No lightning within 10km of the launch site 

  • No lightning observed within 20km of flight path