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UAE's new space mission: 9 things to know about the grand plan to explore Venus, asteroid belt

nandini@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 5, 2021
Reuters file photo

When is the launch date? How long will the journey be?

Today, the UAE announced its next space mission: An ambitious plan to explore planet Venus and the asteroid belt.

“We have set our eyes to the stars because our journey to development and progress has no boundaries, no borders and no limitations...With each new advancement we make in space, we create opportunities for young people here on Earth,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said as he announced the mission.

Here’s what we know about the mega mission so far:

1. Year 2028 is the target launch

The primary goal is to explore the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the source of most meteorites that impact Earth.

The mission will make its first close planetary approach orbiting Venus in mid-2028, followed by a close orbit of Earth in mid-2029. It will then make its first fly-by of a main asteroid belt object in 2030. Finally, it will observe a total of seven main belt asteroids before its ultimate landing on an asteroid 560 million kilometres from Earth in 2033.

2. The UAE will be the fourth country to visit Venus and the asteroid belt

This will be the fourth mission to perform a landing on an asteroid.

Through its journey, it will study seven main belt asteroids that were rebuilt using the heritage and intellectual property (IP) acquired during the development of the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) and Hope Probe.

3. The Emirati spacecraft will embark on a 3.6-billion-kilometre journey

It is seven times longer than the distance Hope Probe travelled to reach Mars.

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4. It will orbit Venus, and then Earth

This will allow the spacecraft to build the required velocity to reach the main asteroid belt, which is located beyond Mars.

5. The mission will run for five years

It will be gathering scientific data that will allow humanity to have a deeper understanding of the formation of the solar system

6. The spacecraft will be operated with ‘very little’ solar energy

The UAE spacecraft will be 440m km from the sun, so the crew will have use special techniques to run the probe with minimal solar power

7. Science goals and instruments for the mission will be announced mid-2022

The mission brings ‘extensive challenges’ that go beyond the Mars mission — in terms of spacecraft design and engineering, interplanetary navigation and complex systems integration. All these require new levels of performance from its communications, power and propulsion systems, demanding intensive mission control.

8. Private Emirati companies will be part of the mission

Built on the knowledge and experience gained from the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), the new mission will involve significant participation from private sector companies.

This mission will be developed in partnership with the Laboratory for Atmospheric Science and Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. LASP was also the primary knowledge transfer partner for Emirates Mars Mission (EMM).

9. Five new initiatives have been launched

With an aim to accelerate the development of the country’s space sector, the UAE Space Agency is rolling out:

>> A fully funded programme to establish businesses in the space sector

>> Priority access to contracts and procurement for the mission by Emirati companies

>> A vocational training programme to train young Emiratis on component assembly and space subsystems engineering

>> A programme to bring local and international universities and research centres together to work on the mission, including LASP and Emirates University

Nandini Sircar





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