UAE's 'Rashid' moon rover to launch in 2022, two years before deadline
Covid-19 has not affected the mission, the programme director emphasised.
As the UAE joins the league of nations looking to visit the moon, its lunar rover named Rashid - in honour of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai - is scheduled to be launched by the fourth quarter of 2022.
This was revealed during a webinar held by Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in association with their project partners, ispace.
Initially, the scheduled year for the launch was set in 2024. But MBRSC engineers reveal the launch date of the Rashid rover has now been preponed.
Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, Project Manager, Emirates Lunar Mission, MBRSC said, "We had thought of sending the Rashid Rover to the moon's surface before the end of 2024. Initially, that was the deadline. But after extensive discussions with ispace, we decided to have the Rover ready instead for a 2022 mission."
At the current stage, the mission is working on prototypes that will resemble a flight model. "This prototype will be tested during summer to go through different qualification testing and a simulated launch," he said.
Adnan AlRais, Mars 2117 Programme Director, MBRSC said, "We were aiming for 2024 but, in spite of the Covid-19 situation, the development of the mission will not be delayed. In fact, now, instead of spending four years, we will be spending three years in the development of the mission and, hopefully, launch in 2022."
Covid-19 has not affected the mission, he emphasised. "We have experienced teams from both (MBRSC and ispace) that will work out solutions."
The rover that will be launched onboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket from Florida in the US is an unusually small rover with just four wheels and a weight of 10kg.
Keeping the weight of the equipment under 10kg is a challenge in itself, explained Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi.
"Building small rovers is extremely challenging because having many instruments housed inside such a small rover is difficult," he said. "Aside from the science instruments, a lot of technologies and electronics are integrated inside this small rover and this is why working to house all these technologies is extremely daunting. Our engineers are fighting for each gram inside the rover and also a rover that has to drive for a couple of hundreds of meters on the lunar surface. Then, we have to accommodate a large part of that mass on the mobility system."
The Rashid rover is expected to operate for only one lunar day - equivalent to 14 days on Earth - avoiding the cold of the lunar night.
"We have a 'landing site working group' and we are working with ispace on that. The landing site has been pinpointed to a specific location and the announcement of that will come soon. This is a new landing site that has not been explored by previous lunar missions", adds Al Marzooqi.
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