UAE Moon mission: You won't guess how far the Rashid Rover has travelled

Named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai, the rover lifted off on December 11 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida

by

Sahim Salim

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Published: Tue 3 Jan 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Tue 3 Jan 2023, 5:05 PM

The UAE-built Rashid Rover is darting towards Moon, carrying with it the space dreams of millions of Emiratis and expatriates. Named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, former Ruler of Dubai, the rover had lifted off on December 11 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

Japan-based ispace inc (ispace) — which will land the Emirati rover on Moon — said its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander has travelled approximately 1.24 million-km from Earth as on January 2, 2023. It is scheduled to be at its farthest point of approximately 1.4 million-km from Earth by January 20.


The company also announced that the lander has successfully carried out its second orbital control manoeuvre. The first was completed on December 15, 2022. Once the lander reaches its farthest point from Earth, a third orbital correction manoeuvre may be performed, depending on its navigational status. Mission 1 is set for landing after a four-month cruise phase.

The spacecraft is taking a low-energy route to Moon rather than a direct approach. Mission 1 is venturing out to deep space and back again on a sweeping trajectory designed to reduce the amount of fuel the spacecraft needs to carry.


“Since its launch on December 11, 2022, the lander has maintained stable navigation in accordance with the mission plan,” ispace said.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) had last month confirmed the successful completion of the initial health check of the Rashid Rover. Following the ‘telemetry lock’, which represents a fixed signal for data transmission, the team at the MBRSC Mission Control Centre will receive telemetry data once every 30 seconds throughout the operation. A thermal reading revealed that the subsystems are in good internal health.

Milestones

  • Cruise phase: The Emirates Lunar Mission is currently in the Cruise Phase, which could last up to 140 days. Operators will contact the rover almost daily for 10 minutes to perform basic health checks and coordinate with the lander ground control team to ensure the battery charging status of the rover is consistent.
  • Arrival phase: This involves entry, descent, and landing. This is the “most intense” of all, as the lander will have to land on the lunar surface based on its system’s calculation to chart a course for a specific landing spot.
  • Deployment, Commissioning and Drive-off phase: Following the completion of the post-landing checkout, instrument commissioning and initial data collection will commence.
  • Nominal Surface Operations phase: For 10-12 days, the Rashid Rover will be engaged in continuous surface research and image capture.
  • The final two phases: After the lunar day, which lasts 14 Earth days, comes hibernation, followed by decommissioning. The rover then prepares for the lunar night, which also lasts 14 Earth days. The chances of the rover restarting are slim. However, if the rover is activated after the lunar night, the mission will be extended to operate throughout the second lunar night, which ends with the decommissioning phase.

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