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UAE’s Rashid lunar rover getting ready for November launch

The new colonial movement: Engineers have now delivered the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first lunar rover, Rashid, to France for testing and preparation for its early November launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The 10-kilogram rover will now spend a few weeks in Toulouse for vibration and thermal vacuum testing, a series of final checks to ensure it can survive the extreme environment during a rocket launch and spaceflight. It will then be moved to Germany, so it can be integrated with a Japanese lander, called Hakuto-R Mission 1, built by private company ispace inc, which will deliver the rover to the lunar surface.

Once completed, it will be shipped to the launch site in Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre in September.

Unlike the UAE’s Al-Amal Mars orbiter — which was mostly built in the U.S. by American companies and universities as part of a training program for UAE citizens, Rashid appears to have largely built in the UAE by those engineers.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Ray Van Dune

    UAE hands off to France, then to Germany and Japan, then to the US for delivery. I would be interested in knowing what constitutes “success” here:
    A soft lands on lunar surface
    B survives landing
    C ramp deploys
    D rolls down ramp
    E moves forward on surface
    F returns data
    F survives target timeframe

    I’ll take C.

  • Ray Van Dune: Note that in your list, A through C are the responsibility of the Japanese lander. The UAE rover only begins its work with D.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Noted Bob – I was referring to the divided responsibilities of the whole system, which is its greatest weakness. The US is used to interfacing with foreign systems, but the others not so much. That’s why I think it will get there, and the Japanese lander will land. But that’s it.

    I hope it succeeds, really, I just wouldn’t want my money riding on it!

  • Ray Van Dune: We are going to this divided responsibility a lot in the next few years. All of the U.S. lunar landers are following the same path, with private companies making the landers and others (including NASA) putting the instruments and rovers on them.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Bob, not saying divided responsibility can’t or won’t succeed, in fact you are correct that it inevitably must and will. But few countries have the expertise to make it work now.

    SpaceX can define the mechanical, environmental, and electronic interface specs, but beyond that it is only being paid to be a transportation service. I wonder how or if the Artemis Accords will provide consultation to newbies like the UAE, to help them learn to work with the big boys. Seems like it would be a great idea to enable that somehow?

  • Ray Van Dune: Your concern is correct, and your hope that the big boys help newbies like UAE is actually been demonstrated by the UAE and its various partners.

    Do a search on BtB for “UAE”. Its entire space effort has been designed as a partnership, which has allowed it to increase its capabilities step by step so that Rashid is actually something its own people largely built.

  • Edward

    Nice discussion, gentlemen.

    UAE is demonstrating the trend toward worldwide space investment.

    A quarter century ago, about 2/3 of the expenditures in space were made in the U.S. I commented to a colleague from Britain that because of this if someone wanted to work on space projects then he pretty much had to come to the U.S. He wanted to disagree, but he himself had come to the U.S. to work on space projects.

    With today’s commercial investment so heavy in the U.S., I would not be surprised if this ratio is still (or again) similar, $2 spent in the U.S. for every $1 spent in the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is increasing their own investments, and I expect this ratio to come down over time.

    What makes the U.S. different is the ease to start space companies, due to the freedoms that we have here. We also have the freedom to invest in these companies. But there is yet another difference, and it is recent.

    In the 1960s, geostationary communication satellites were almost the only space investment being made by companies, as opposed to government space projects. These satellites were made to requirements and specifications from commercial industry, not from governments. Ikonos in 1999 started the next successful space industry that was largely independent of government requirements and specs: earth observation. More recently, many companies have formed, independent of government as a customer, making products independent of government requirements and specs.

    Also in the 1990s, there had been some attempts to start a space launch industry independent of government, but that kept failing. The X-Prize (with a prize no later than 2005) and SpaceX (founded in 2002) were early successes in private commercial space, although the Dragon class spacecraft are definitely made to government requirements and specs. Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Virgin Orbit, and a couple others are also successes without depending upon government contracts or designs specific to government needs. NASA has recently relinquished its grip on space access and space exploration and is actively encouraging a commercial space economy. This is the biggest difference between the U.S. and most of the rest of the world.

    This last point, the encouragement, is important because up to very recently, government has been a virtual monopsony for space companies and a monopoly on space access, exploration, and research. Now that other customers are coming to market, government as a customer is slowly becoming less important. A space marketplace that thrives independent of government whims can be a healthy space market. Last year and this year, we saw two private astronaut teams perform their own research in space, independent of government. They weren’t earth shattering or breakthrough, but they were privately funded and privately performed by private individuals working through private companies.

    ’There is far more capital available outside of NASA [for use by commercial space marketplace] than there is inside of NASA.’
    — paraphrased from an interview with NASA Administrator Bridenstine on the Ben Shapiro radio show on Monday 3 August 2020.

    This should soon be true in many countries around the world, more capital available outside of government than inside it.

    What constitutes success?

    For the Japanese private company space inc’s Hakuto-R Mission 1, Ray is correct. So far, only government landers have successfully landed on the Moon, two private attempts failed, so a safe landing and deployed ramp are pretty much the completion of that company’s mission. I’m not sure if they have additional tests for their equipment on the Moon, such as continuing to be operational, for instance communicating with Earth after a lunar night.

    For the UAE rover, Rashid? The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre suggested that they did not design Rashid for survival of a lunar night but are hoping that their rover does survive.

    “But, from a science point of view, we have to finish everything within the first lunar day.”

    Completing the science before the first lunar nightfall is their measure of success. Anything that they may learn from lunar night hibernation or after waking from hibernation is a bonus.

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