UAE's Hope Probe to observe Mars' natural satellite Deimos as it transitions to new orbit

The slight change in the Probe’s orbit will allow it to capture new observations of Deimos, while capturing data on the red planet’s atmosphere

by

Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 9 Feb 2023, 8:44 PM

One of Mars' natural satellites Deimos will be a subject of close study as part of Emirates Mars Missions' new operations, with the Hope Probe transitioning to new orbit.

The orbital transfer will allow the first Arab-led planetary exploration mission’s spacecraft – Al Amal, to fly within approximately 150km and capture unprecedented data on Deimos, the smaller and outermost of the two satellites of Mars.


Explaining why the ‘small and lumpy, heavily cratered object’ is an area of interest for scientists at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) Eng. Hessa Al Matroushi, Emirates Mars Mission Science lead says: “The Deimos campaign aims to provide the international scientific community with previously unseen observations and data. The Hope Probe will capture high cadence images and data of the irregularly shaped, crater-heavy moon, during fly-bys at different times.”

The Hope Probe to transition into a new elliptic orbit around Mars, following a Lambert orbital transfer manoeuvre utilising the change in its velocity. This will facilitate gathering data on Deimos, while allowing the Probe to continue its original mission and capture data on Mars’ atmosphere.


Matroushi said Deimos is the least observed compared to the Red planet’s second moon, Phobos, which has been widely observed since its discovery in 1969. Orbiting Mars on a larger orbit, Deimos completes a revolution around the planet every 30 hours.

The Hope Probe’s first Deimos fly-by began late January and continues through February 2023, as it moves to its closest approach to the moon. To enable the orbital transfer manoeuvre, the Hope Probe completed two out of three manoeuvres using its main thrusters in September 2022 and January 2023, marking the first time the thrusters were activated remotely to make the necessary orbital corrections.

She said: “We are trying to start understanding the Moon itself. We will be looking specifically into the observations taken from our three scientific instruments. So, our Emirates Exploration Imager (EXI) will take highly detailed observations of the moon that will give us information about its shape, surface, and what features can we see there. We will get observations from the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS) instruments..”

The probe is in its elliptic orbit of Mars between 20,000 and 43,000km with a 25-degree incline towards the planet, giving it the unique ability to complete one revolution around the planet every 55 hours, capturing comprehensive data every nine days.

The slight change in the Probe’s orbit will allow it to capture new observations of Deimos, while capturing data on the red planet’s atmosphere.

The Probe’s achievements open up broad prospects for the development and prosperity of the national space sector aimed at boosting its contribution to the UAE’s GDP – as it is one of the most prominent sectors of the future economy based on innovation and knowledge.

Reiterating Matroushi’s thoughts he adds, “currently, studying the Deimos Moon is our target and it (as when we find new data) there will be new discoveries for the scientific community. The team is studying Deimos and looking to get more data. This is an exciting moment for all of us as we strive to understand Deimos and what it actually looks like,” he added.

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