UAE Moon Mission: Rashid Rover launch delayed for fourth time

MBRSC took to social media to share that SpaceX has 'announced a stand down from today's launch'

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 1 Dec 2022, 6:32 AM

Last updated: Thu 1 Dec 2022, 9:54 PM

The launch of the UAE's Rashid Rover — which was supposed to happen today — has once again been delayed due to technical reasons.

An announcement will be made once a new target launch date for the UAE Moon mission has been confirmed.

Today, ispace, inc. (ispace), a global lunar exploration company, announced that the “Dec. 1, 2022, launch attempt of its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander has been postponed, which will allow SpaceX to perform additional pre-flight checks of the launch vehicle.”

SpaceX in a tweet this morning said: “After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, we’re standing down from tomorrow’s (today) launch of ipsace_inc’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1; a new target launch date will be shared once confirmed.”

“To allow SpaceX to perform additional pre-flight checks of the launch vehicle, we are no longer targeting Dec.1 for our HAKUTO-R M1 launch.”

It is the fourth delay of the highly anticipated launch. Initially, the Rashid Rover was supposed to blast off on November 22, but the attempt had been moved thrice to November 28 , November 30 and then December 1.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) also tweeted about the latest update: “SpaceX announced a stand down from today's launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, carrying abroad the Rashid Rover, after inspections of the launch vehicle and data review. A new target launch date will be confirmed."

Why are backup dates important in space launches?

For space mission, it is usual to consider backup launch dates because of multiple reasons — from weather anomalies to mechanical issues associated with the rocket.

This will ensure that launch agencies have enough time to analyse the space mission carefully.


Explaining the reason behind launch delays: Sarath Raj, project director at Amity Dubai Satellite Ground Station and AmiSat, Amity University Dubai, said: “It takes a tremendous amount of effort to launch a rocket. Numerous factors can cause launches to be delayed. The major causes of the launch delay include technical glitches in the vehicle and weather situations.”

It is said that even on a given day, there are specific periods of time called “launch windows”, during which a rocket is permitted to launch. This can last from about half an hour to a few hours per day. But even those windows are not available daily.

There are also “launch periods,” which are durations of days when the Moon lines up with the planet, making the conditions favourable for the mission.

Raj added: “The flight meteorologist will analyse 14 meteorological data for the safe launch. The wind being analysed primarily; the launch cannot take place if the sustained wind speed at the 162-foot level of the launch pad is greater than 30 mph. Typically, upper-atmospheric winds blow at substantially higher speeds, which increases vertical wind shear. The most crucial phenomena to keep an eye on in connection to space launches are lightning and thunderstorms. If lightning is seen within ten nautical miles of the launch site or the flight route, then the launch cannot take place for 30 minutes until the required circumstances can be met.

“Thunderstorm-related sky electricity is another criterion that needs to be measured; if a thunderstorm's edge that has produced lightning in the past 30 minutes is within ten miles of the launch site, then the launch will be aborted.”

Clouds, too, pose a threat to the rocket's security, Raj said.

“A launch will be cancelled if a cloud layer is more than 4,500 feet thick, stretches into sub-freezing temperatures, and is within 10 nautical miles of cumulus clouds," he explained.

"In the event of any type of precipitation, a rocket cannot launch. Rocket launches frequently go off without a hitch in hot weather. However, temperatures below 8.88 degrees Celsius might cause a hazardous ice formation. Increases in cloud cover, rain, and humidity might also cause a launch to be aborted. Another common reason for cancelling rocket launches is the presence of large quantities of high energy particles in near-orbit space.”

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