UAE's historic Mars probe to launch on July 15

Officials expect the Hope mission to reach the Red Planet in time for the nation's 50th anniversary next year

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The UAE’s first Mars orbiter will launch into space on July 15 from Japan’s Tanegashima Island.

The lift-off has been scheduled for 12.51am UAE time, although a launch date has been reserved up until August 13 as a precautionary measure.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MIH), the company orchestrating the launch, revealed the date on Monday.

The rocket will carry Hope out of the Earth’s atmosphere before it begins a seven to nine-month-long solo journey to the Red Planet.

“Mitsubishi Heavy Industries hereby announces the launch schedule of the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 42 (H-IIA F42) which carries aboard the Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Hope spacecraft developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates,” a statement from MIH said.

The Emirates Mars Mission is the first of its kind in the Arab world and will, if successful, take UAE’s space industry to new heights.

Hope, which aims to study the upper and lower atmosphere of Mars, was built by a team of 150 Emirati engineers, scientists and researchers, alongside three US universities.

The probe was delivered to Japan last month despite the travel restrictions caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, a team of MBRSC engineers were also sent to Tanegashima Space Centre ahead of the orbiter to ensure they were out of quarantine in time to receive it.

A second group of engineers helped deliver the probe from the UAE on board an Antonov An-124 - one of the world’s largest aircraft.

The overall journey from Dubai to Tanegashima took 83 hours and involved multiple forms of transport, including truck, plane and ship.

"The Hope Probe represents a turning point for the Arab and Islamic world in the space sector,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai on April 25.

“Reaching Mars is not only a scientific goal, it sends a message to our Arab youth that we are capable and that hope transcends the distance between earth and the skies.

“Despite tough global travel conditions, our engineers are working according to schedule to complete the region’s top space science project.

“The probe was developed in less than six years, instead of 10, and at half the cost. We aim to launch in July, according to plan.”

Since the probe arrived at the space centre, it has undergone detailed processing operations for the launch.

The process was completed over 50 working days and included filling the fuel tank with about 700kgs of hydrogen fuel and ensuring there are no leaks.

The communication and control devices of the spacecraft were also tested, the probe was moved to the launch pad and it was installed on the rocket. Engineers also made sure the craft’s batteries were fully charged.

“The challenges overcome by the Hope Probe team amidst the global pandemic confirm the UAE mission’s commitment to achieve the impossible,” said Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences and the Emirates Mars Mission Deputy project manager.

“It is a mentality that has now been embedded within the current and future generations. This mission embodies the nation’s aspirations, sends a positive message to the world and demonstrates the importance of carrying on unabated despite barriers and challenges.”

“Our team continues to work diligently to ensure the mission’s success, and we look forward to collectively celebrate the arrival of the probe on Mars in February 2021 – also coinciding with our 50-year anniversary”.