NASA: UAE to build airlock module for lunar station plus have astronaut fly there

According to a press release from NASA today, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will build the airlock module for the Lunar Gateway space station plus have one astronaut fly a mission to the station after it is built.

Under a new implementing arrangement expanding their human spaceflight collaboration with NASA through Gateway, MBRSC will provide Gateway’s Crew and Science Airlock module, as well as a UAE astronaut to fly to the lunar space station on a future Artemis mission.

I strongly suspect that the UAE will mostly pay for this module to be built, hiring outside contractors from either the U.S. or Europe to do the work.

Russia gets a launch contract!

In what has become a very rare event, Russia’s state-run press today announced that Roscosmos has won a launch contract for its Soyuz-2 rocket from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“On June 27th at 3:34 p.m. UAE time [2:34 Moscow time], [UAE’s] MBR Space Centre will launch its maiden mission, PHI-Demo, from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome using the Soyuz-2 rocket as part of the Payload Hosting Initiative,” the media office said in a statement.

The statement says that the initiative, jointly led by MBRSC [UAE’s space agency] and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), is aimed at providing space access and hastening the sustainable progression of novel space technologies.

The satellite will be a secondary payload on the launch of a Russian weather satellite.

It seems this UN office wants to help the Russians, and is working to encourage other nations to use its rockets to get into space. Because of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, it has lost all of its international launch business. UNOOSA is apparently working to recover Russia some of that business.

The UAE meanwhile appears to be trying to light the candle from both ends, working extensively with NASA and American private companies while also attempting to partner with Russia and China.

UAE asteroid mission will rendezvous with seven asteroids and will include lander

Though the mission was first announced in 2021, the UAE only recently revealed at a science conference the mission’s specific targets and plan.

From the conference poster [pdf]:

The mission will launch in 2028 and visit 7 main belt asteroids, including 6 high-speed flyby encounters en route to a rendezvous with the asteroid 269 Justitia. The mission is enabled by solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys of Venus, Earth, and Mars, bringing the total number of mission encounters to 10. The trajectory design presented will include the overall timeline of the mission, launch targets, launch period, overall duration of the encounters, design of the encounters, and trajectory modeling. Mission design analyses include designing the Deep space maneuvers (DSMs) prior to the rendezvous with Justitia and design Justitia’s orbits and maneuvers to accomplish the lander deployment.

As with the UAE’s Al-Amal Mars Orbiter, the country is relying on an American university, the University of Colorado, as well as the commercial company, Advanced Space, to design, build, and operate the spacecraft. In this sense the UAE is paying these American entities to fly the mission while requiring them to train its own engineers and scientists.

Al-Amal snaps first close-up images of Martian moon Deimos

Deimos with Mars in the background
Click for full movie.

During its first close fly-by of the Martian moon Deimos on March 10, 2023, the United Arab Emirates Mars orbiter Al-Amal (“Hope” in English) obtained the first close-up images of the moon.

The picture to the right show Deimos with Mars in the background. The full set of images, compiled into a movie, can be seen by clicking on the image.

The results were outlined by science lead Hessa Al Matroushi at a conference today.

During the 10 March fly-by, the mission team used all three onboard instruments to take readings spanning from the infrared to the extreme ultraviolet. The relatively flat spectrum the scientists saw is suggestive of the type of material seen on Mars’s surface, rather than the carbon-rich rock often found in asteroids, suggesting that Deimos was formed from the same material the planet. “If there were carbon or organics, we would see spikes in specific wavelengths,” she says.

These results probably put an end to the theory that Mars’ moons came from the asteroid belt. Instead, they either formed when the planet did, or were thrown free and settled into orbit after a very large impact, such as the ones that created either the Hellas or Argyre basins, both of which happened several billion years ago and thus provide ample time for the space environment to smooth the moon’s surface and add some craters.

Hakuto-R1 now scheduled to land on Moon on April 25th

Lunar map showing Hakuto-R1's landing spot
Hakuto-R1’s planned landing site is in Atlas Crater.

The private company Ispace yesterday announced that their Hakuto-R1 lunar lander, presently in orbit around the Moon, will attempt a landing on April 25, 2023, landing in Atlas Crater.

At approximately 15:40 on April 25, 2023, (UTC), the lander is scheduled to begin the landing sequence from the 100 km altitude orbit. During the sequence, the lander will perform a braking burn, firing its main propulsion system to decelerate from orbit. Utilizing a series of pre-set commands, the lander will adjust its attitude and reduce velocity in order to make a soft landing on the lunar surface. The process will take approximately one hour.

Should conditions change, there are three alternative landing sites and depending on the site, the landing date may change. Alternative landing dates, depending on the operational status, are April 26, May 1, and May 3, 2023.

The lander carries several commercial payloads, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Rashid rover. Ispace says the landing will be publicly live streamed, with more details to follow.

The company has from the beginning been treating this entire mission as an engineering test, with ten major goals, all related to proving out the lander’s systems. It has now completed eight of those goals, with a successful landing and successful operations on the surface the last challenges. If Hakuto-R1 succeeds, Ispace will become the first private company to complete a privately funded planetary mission to the Moon.

Furthermore, the company is already planning its second lunar landing mission, Hakuto-R2 in 2024, and a third more ambitious lunar mission for NASA, partnering with the American company Draper.

Axiom sets date for next commercial manned flight to ISS

Axiom and NASA yesterday announced May 8, 2023 as the launch date for the private company’s second commercial flight to ISS, this time carrying three passengers out of a crew of four, two from Saudi Arabia and the third, John Shoffner, completing his second paid flight with Axiom.

Two of its crewmates are Rayyanah Barnawi and Ali AlQarni, members of the first Saudi Arabian astronaut class. Barnawi will become the first Saudi woman ever to reach space, and she and AlQarni will be the first people from the kingdom to travel to the ISS.

Retired NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will command the mission for Axiom. The Dragon capsule used will be Freedom, making its second flight, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket with a new first stage. The plan is to be docked to ISS for ten days, which means for that time period ISS will have three Arab astronauts on board, including the UAE’s astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, who is in the middle of a six month mission and is about to do his first spacewalk.

Hakuto-R1 snaps first picture of Moon from lunar orbit

Hakuto-R1's first released image from lunar orbit
Click for original image.

The science team for Ispace’s Hakuto-R1 privately-built lunar orbiter/lander earlier this week released the spacecraft’s first picture of the Moon since entering lunar orbit on March 20, 2023.

That image is to the right, cropped and reduced to post here. The photo resolution is quite good. It also demonstrates that the spacecraft’s attitude control systems for pointing the camera are working correctly.

Launched on December 11, 2022 by a Falcon 9 rocket, Hakuto-R1 will land in Atlas Crater on the northeast quadrant of the Moon’s visible hemisphere sometime in April, making it the first successful private commercial planetary lander to reach another world. If successful, it will then release the United Arab Emirates Rashid rover, that nation’s first planetary lander but its second planetary mission, following the Mars orbiter, Al-Amal, now circling Mars.

SpaceX might get investment capital from Saudi and UAE investors

According to several reports in the business press, SpaceX is presently negotiating with investment companies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to possibly provide additional investment capital to the company.

Citing two individuals reportedly familiar with the matter, The Information noted that Saudi Arabia’s Water and Electricity Holding Company, Badeel, and the United Arab Emirates’ Alpha Dhabi are participating in the funding round. Morgan Stanley is reportedly organizing the investment effort.

At present it is unknown how much would be invested. It is also unclear if this foreign investment in an American rocket company can pass muster with the U.S. State Department.

SpaceX has already raised about $10 billion in private investment capital as well as $4 billion from NASA for the development of Starship/Superheavy.

Hakuto-R1 enters lunar orbit

Lunar map showing Hakuto-R1's landing spot
Hakuto-R1’s planned landing site is in Atlas Crater.

The lunar lander Hakuto-R1, privately-built by the Japanese company Ispace, has now successfully entered lunar orbit in anticipation of its landing sometime next month.

Tokyo-based ispace said that its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander entered orbit at 9:24 p.m. Eastern March 20 after a burn by its main engine lasting several minutes. The company did not disclose the parameters of the orbit but said that the maneuver was a success.

…Entering orbit is the seventh of 10 milestones ispace set for the mission that started with launch preparations. The final three milestones are completing “orbital control maneuvers,” the landing itself and going into a steady state of activities after landing.

The spacecraft carries several payloads, the most significant of which is the United Arab Emirates Rashid rover.

If Hakuto-R1 completes its 10 milestones successfully, it will lay the groundwork for Ispace’s second Hakuto-R mission to the Moon in 2024, and an even larger lander on a third mission to follow, this time built in partnership with the American company Draper and carrying NASA payloads.

UAE engineers shift Al-Amal’s orbit to do fly-bys of Mars moon Deimos

Engineers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday revealed that they are in the process of changing the orbit of their Al-Amal Mars orbiter so that it will be able to do several close fly-bys of the Martian moon Deimos.

Two of the three required manoeuvres have already been made, allowing it to reach a new orbit between 20,000km and 43,000km with a 25-degree incline towards the planet. “Previously, we didn’t have any reason to move the orbit,” Ms Al Matroushi said. “But now we’re exploring a new adventure and science mission.”

Engineers are using the probe’s three main science instruments to capture images and data of the moon. These include an exploration imager ― a high-resolution camera ― to photograph the moon, and the infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers to measure its temperature and observe its thermophysical properties, including its regolith, or dust.

The first Deimos fly-by took place in late January, and as the probe moves to its closest approach to the moon, it will take high-resolution images.

Eventually Al-Amal will dip as close as 60 miles of Deimos.

Hakuto-R successfully completes second mid-course correction

Lunar map showing Hakuto-R's landing spot
Hakuto-R’s planned landing site is in Atlas Crater.

According to Ispace, the private lunar lander company based in Japan, its Hakuto-R lander has now successfully completed second mid-course correction, and is functioning as expected on its way to the Moon.

The maneuver was carried out shortly after midnight on Jan. 2, 2023 (Japan Standard Time) and operations were managed from ispace’s mission control center located in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. This orbital control maneuver is the second maneuver to occur while the lander has been traveling to the moon. The first orbital control maneuver was completed on December 15, 2022. The second maneuver was carried out at a greater distance from Earth and lasted for a longer period than the first maneuver, verifying the company’s capability to carry out orbital maneuvers under various conditions.

As of Jan. 2, 2023, the lander has traveled approximately 1.24 million kilometers from the Earth and is scheduled to be at its farthest point of approximately 1.4 million km from the Earth by Jan. 20, 2023. Once the lander reaches its farthest point from Earth, a third orbital control maneuver may be performed, depending on its navigational status.

While Hakuto-R carries a number of commercial payloads — including Rashid, the first lunar rover built by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — its primary goal is engineering. Ispace is using this mission to demonstrate its ability as a company to do this, in anticipation of later commercial planetary missions.

NASA, Boeing, and the UAE negotiating partnership for building Lunar Gateway airlock

According to press reports in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that country is negotiating with NASA and Boeing on a partnership to build an airlock module for NASA’s Lunar Gateway Moon space station.

US aerospace company Boeing said it has held discussions with Emirates officials about the UAE providing an airlock module on the Lunar Gateway. This is an airtight room that astronauts would use to enter and exit the space station.

John Mulholland, vice president and International Space Station programme manager at Boeing, told The National that the company was “actively working” with the UAE on the concept and design.

It appears the UAE is offering to pay Boeing to build it for NASA, and would expect in exchange a larger share in the use of the station.

If this deal works out, the UAE will essentially replace Russia as a Gateway partner. Russia had signed an agreement with NASA in 2017 to build that airlock, but that deal is now null and void following the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its desire to partner with China instead.

For the U.S., this is a win-win, since it will now be an American company building the airlock, not Russia.

Hakuto-R sends first image back to Earth

Hakuto-R's first released images
Go here and here for original images.

The private Hakuto-R lunar lander, owned and built by the Japanese-based company Ispace, is operating as planned and has sent back its first images from two different cameras.

The larger image to the right was taken by a camera on one of Canada’s payloads. It shows the Earth two minutes after launch, with the rocket’s upper stage acting as a frame. The inset, reduced to insert here, was taken 19 hours after launch by the lander’s main camera, and shows the Earth at night. Both images demonstrate that the spacecraft is stable and functioning perfectly.

The goals of the mission remain mostly engineering. Its focus is demonstrating first that Ispace’s lander can do what it says so that future customers will be confident buying payload space. Similarly, the payloads, such as the UAE’s Rashid rover, are doing the same thing.

SpaceX successfully launches Ispace’s Hakuto-R private mission to Moon

Lunar map showing Hakuto-R's landing spot
Hakuto-R’s planned landing site is in Atlas Crater.

Using its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX tonight successfully launched Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander, the first private mission attempting to softly land on the Moon.

The Falcon 9 first stage completed its fifth flight, landing successfully at Cape Canaveral.

Hakuto-R, which is actually the first of two missions, carries seven payloads, including two small rovers, Rashid, which is the United Arab Emirates first lunar mission, and a smaller rover built by Ispace. Both will operate for about a week, one lunar day. Hakuto-R will land on the Moon in April, 2023.

A second payload is a cubesat from JPL, called Lunar Flashlight. It will go into lunar orbit, testing new fuel technologies while also attempting to identify water in the permanently shadowed craters at the lunar south pole.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

57 China
56 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab

The U.S. now leads China 80 to 57 in the national rankings, but trails the entire world combined 87 to 80.

The Middle East in Space

A space conference taking place this week in the United Arab Emirates has produced a number of somewhat intriguing stories, some indicating the growing the new colonial movement in space, and some marking the significant changes produced by the Abraham Accords, peace treaties negotiated and signed during the Trump administration between Israel and a number of Arab nations.

For example, Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, was invited to the conference to give a keynote speech, and he did so as part of a tour of several Arab countries, all of whom were Israel’s sworn enemies prior to the Abraham Accords.

In his address, Herzog touted Israel’s warming ties with Bahrain and the Emirates since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, and predicted a leap forward in space exploration. “I am very happy to be here and take part in this timely debate, under the auspices of my dear friend, President Mohammed bin Zayed. I have just arrived from Bahrain with my wife, Michal, where we conducted the first State Visit of an Israeli president in the Kingdom of Bahrain, and I am extremely grateful to His Majesty the King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.”

It appears that, even though the Biden administration has done little to promote further Abraham Accord agreements, many powerful Arab nations of the Middle East are embracing these deals regardless, and thus the tensions in that war-torn region have been largely reduced as a result. Israel still has enemies there, but it now appears to have, at a minimum, neutral partners willing to peacefully work with it.

The conference has also produced additional space news from other Middle East countries.
» Read more

SpaceX postpones launch of Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander

SpaceX tonight canceled the Falcon 9 launch of the private Hakuto-R lunar lander, built by the Japanese company Ispace and carrying the UAE’s Rashid rover.

After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, SpaceX is standing down from Falcon 9’s launch of ispace’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. A new target launch date will be shared once confirmed.

The first stage had flown four times previously. Apparently during their standard dress rehearsal countdown and fueling before launch they detected something that cannot be immediately resolved.

Ispace targets November 9-15 launch window for first commercial lunar lander

The private Japanese company Ispace has now scheduled the launch of its commercial lunar lander Hakuto-R on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for a November 9-15, 2022 launch window.

Though the lander’s primary goal is to see if this lander will work, it also includes several customer payloads, the most significant of which is the Rashid rover from the United Arab Emirates. Rashid, which is about the size of a Radio Flyer red wagon, will operate for one lunar day, about two weeks. While its main mission is to test the engineering and to train the engineers who built it, it will have two cameras for taking pictures. In addition, on its wheels are test adhesive patches of different materials, designed to see how each material interacts with the Moon’s abrasive dust.

September 16, 2022 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay, who trolls Twitter so I don’t have to.

Martian auroras as seen by UAE’s Al-Amal orbiter

Aurora types on Mars
Click for full image.

Using data gathered by the Al-Amal orbiter (“Hope” in English), scientists have identified three types of aurora on Mars. The image to the right, figure 1 from their paper, shows these types, crustal field aurora, patchy aurora, and sinuous aurora. From the abstract:

We categorize discrete auroral patterns into three types: those near strong vertical crustal magnetic field, patchy aurora near very weak crustal fields, and a new type we call “sinuous,” an elongated serpentine structure that stretches thousands of kilometers into the nightside from near midnight in the northern hemisphere.

All three types generally occur during the Martian night, and evolve quickly over periods of less than 45 minutes. The first type, which is generally the brightest, forms over terrain where Mars’ residual magnetic field is strongest and vertically oriented, and was most often seen over the southern cratered highlands centered between the large impact basins Argyre and Hellas. The third type, sinuous aurora, was more unusual:

These we are calling “sinuous discrete aurora,” due to their thin, elongated, and sometimes serpentine shapes. They share several key traits: (a) they appear in the northern hemisphere away from strong crustal fields, (b) they usually connect to the dayside in the far north but also sometimes separately at lower latitudes, (c) they extend for thousands of kilometers into the night side, (d) they appear on both dusk and dawn sides, and (e) their shapes change moderately and brightnesses shift by factors of up to two over timescales of ∼20 min (i.e., the time between swaths, as shown in the differences between Figures 1j and 1k [in the figure above).

The existence of aurora on Mars has been known since the 2000s. These observations however are the first that show more details beyond a fuzzy patch.

Dust and clouds in the Martian atmosphere, as seen by UAE’s Al-Amal orbiter

Two new science papers have just been released detailing results from the Al-Amal (Hope) Mars orbiter that was designed and built by American universities for the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Both papers used data obtained from the orbiter’s infrared spectrometer, dubbed the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS).

Daily cloud cover changes on Mars
Figure 1 from paper. Click for full image.

First, the instrument tracked the daily changes in the planet’s cloud cover.

A prominent region of clouds that is commonly observed near the equator during Mars’ cold season—known as the aphelion cloud belt—was observed to reach a minimum near midday, with more clouds typically observed in both the morning and afternoon. Distinct differences were found in clouds observed near volcanoes, which tended to reach a minimum before local noon and increase throughout the afternoon.

The figure to the right shows this. In the morning and afternoon (LTST’s 7 and 17), there is a high concentration of clouds in the equatorial region above the Tharsis Bulge where the highest Martian volcanoes are located. During the middle of the day (LTSTs 11 and 13) this cloud cover largely dissipates, with a corresponding increase in cloud cover in Hellas Basin, in the southern hemisphere.

The second paper took a more general look at the data, including the change in temperature depending on elevation as well as dust and water content during the Martian northern spring and summer. From the abstract:
» Read more

UAE names astronaut to fly on six month commercial ISS mission, purchased from Axiom

Sultan Al Neyadi in training
Sultan Al Neyadi in training

Capitalism in space: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday announced that 41-year-old Sultan Al Neyadi will fly on six month ISS mission, launching in the spring of 2023. purchased from Axiom.

The UAE purchased a seat on the Falcon 9 rocket from Axiom Space, a space infrastructure development company in Houston. This is the Falcon 9 seat that Axiom Space was given by Nasa after the company gave up its Russian Soyuz rocket seat for American astronaut Mark Vande Hei in 2021.

MBRSC did not disclose how much they paid Axiom for the seat, but the agreement includes transport to and from the space station; comprehensive mission support; all necessary training and preparation for launch; flight operations, landing and crew rescue services.

The deal behind this seat is very complex. Essentially, Axiom paid for the seat of Mark Vande Hei’s flight on a Soyuz capsule from 2021 to 2022 (because NASA had no authorized funds to purchase that seat), and got a later seat on a Dragon for an Axiom commercial customer. It then signed a deal with the UAE for Al Neyedi’s flight in late April.

The result is the first long term commercial mission to space.

Al Neyadi has been in training for four years, and acted as the back up astronaut to the first UAE manned flight to ISS, purchased from the Russians in 2019.

Ispace now aiming for a November ’22 launch of its lunar lander

Capitalism in space: The private Japanese company Ispace today announced that it is targeting November 2022 for the launch of its Hakuto-R lunar lander, carrying commercial as well as governmental payloads.

The launch will be on a Falcon 9 rocket. The payload includes two small rovers, one built by Ispace and a second, Rashid, built by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Rashid has already been delivered to SpaceX. This announcement indicates that Hakuto-R is on schedule for delivery in time for that November launch.

Both rovers are engineering tests, and will are expected to only function on the Moon for one lunar day.

UAE earmarks $820 million for space-related projects

The new colonial movement: The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced yesterday that it has budgeted $820 million for its space program, with the first project to be a constellation of Earth observation satellites.

Its first project will be to build a constellation of advanced imaging satellites, to be named Sirb, an Arabic term for a flock of birds. They will be used for environmental and land usage monitoring, data collection, and analysis. “These small-scale satellites are more agile, faster to develop and more powerful – an indicator of the types of new generation systems that technology is now making possible,” Al Amari said, noting the satellite’s use of SAR (synthetic aperture radar) technology.

The goal is to launch the first satellite by 2025, with the constellation completed by 2028.

It is not stated how else this allocated money will be spent, since such a constellation of smallsats should not cost almost a billion dollars to build.

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.

Axiom signs deal with the UAE to fly one astronaut to ISS in ’23

Capitalism in space: Axiom announced today that it has signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirate (UAE) to fly a UAE astronaut to ISS in ’23 for a six month mission.

Axiom was able to put its own passenger on this flight because of a complex deal with NASA that had Axiom act as the go-between for Mark Vande Hei’s launch on a Soyuz in April ’21. Axiom brought the flight for NASA (which didn’t have the funds), and got in exchange a free seat for a passenger on a later American launch. Axiom has now sold that seat to the UAE.

The UAE in turn solidifies its space effort, with a six month manned mission to ISS.

The deal also demonstrates the priceless value of leaving ownership to American companies. Axiom made this deal to sell globally its long term space station plans, and it will use a SpaceX Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to launch it. Both companies thus make money on their products, instead of the cash going to NASA. Such profits will only encourage further sales, not only to these companies but to other competing American rocket and space station companies.

Ispace secures first insurance deal for private lunar lander

Capitalism in space: The Japanese startup Ispace has now obtained the first insurance plan ever for a private lunar lander.

The startup has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (MSI), a Tokyo-based firm that started working with Ispace in 2019, to insure its first attempt to send a lander to the moon later this year. The agreement outlines intentions to finalize terms for the insurance in the months leading up to Ispace’s Mission 1 (M1), which is currently slated to fly on a Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than the fourth quarter of 2022.

According to Ispace, the insurance would cover any damage the lander takes between separating from the rocket in a trans-lunar orbit (TLO) and touching down on the moon. As well as covering a failed landing, the insurance would guard against issues stemming from radiation exposure as the lander travels through the Van Allen belts to its destination.

The insurance does not cover the payloads Ispace’s lander will carry, including a rover from the United Arab Emirates.

MAVEN and Al-Amal scientists sign agreement to collaborate

Scientists running the Mars orbiters MAVEN (from NASA) and Al-Amal (from the United Arab Emirates [UAE]) have signed an agreement to share data and — more importantly — coordinate their observations of the Martian atmosphere.

A new partnership that encourages the sharing of data between NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) project and the Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Hope Probe (Al-Amal in Arabic) will enhance scientific returns from both spacecraft, which are currently orbiting Mars and collecting data on the Red Planet’s atmosphere. The arrangement is expected to add value to both MAVEN and EMM, as well as the scientific communities involved in analyzing the data the missions collect.

MAVEN went into orbit around Mars in 2014. Its mission is to investigate the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Mars, offering an insight into how the planet’s climate has changed over time. “MAVEN and EMM are each exploring different aspects of the Martian atmosphere and upper-atmosphere system,” said Shannon Curry, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of California, Berkeley. “Combined, we will have a much better understanding of the coupling between the two, and the influence of the lower atmosphere on the escape to space of gas from the upper atmosphere.”

The EMM Hope Probe, which went into Mars orbit in 2021, is studying the relationship between the upper layer and lower regions of the Martian atmosphere, giving insight into the planet’s atmosphere at different times of the day and seasons.

What this agreement means is that the two science teams can more quickly match up the data from both orbiters, and figure out the relationships between both.

UAE wants to prioritize private enterprise for its space effort

Capitalism in space: According to officials of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) space agency, that nation is working to encourage the growth of a private space industry, funded initially using government money, in its effort to become a major world player in space.

“We’ve spent well over Dh1.5 billion ($408 million) on building capacity within the space industry over the last eight years and we’re more than doubling that over the next decade.”

Laws and regulations, including permits, which would allow interested companies to set up base in the UAE, are already available through a space law passed in 2019.

Companies would also have access to funding from a new initiative launched by the space agency, called Space Analytics and Solutions, which has a budget of Dh20 million. The programme aims to help start-ups build space-based applications that focus on food security, climate change, infrastructure and the oil and gas industry.

The space agency hopes that as these companies progress, they would become less reliant on government funding.

While the UAE’s Al-Amal Mars orbiter was mostly built and launched by foreign companies, it hopes its next major mission, to send an unmanned probe to seven asteroids, will be built almost entirely by companies run by UAE citizens, something they claim they have achieved with an upcoming smallsat Earth observation satellite.

The article also mentioned as an aside that the UAE has ended its 2019 agreement with Virgin Galactic to allow it to launch from the UAE. Instead, it is negotiating with Blue Origin “to set up spaceports.”

Global image of Mars from UAE’s Al-Amal orbiter

Mars as seen by Al-Amal in January 2022
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The United Arab Emirates (UAE) today released several new images taken by its Al-Amal Mars orbiter, showing the changing atmospheric conditions on Mars between September ’21 and January ’22.

The photo to the right, cropped and annotated by me, is the January image, showing the dust storm conditions that presently exist in the equatorial regions of Mars. The lighter puffy cloud-like features in the center of the image are a 1,500 mile wide dust storm centered on the equator. The white dot indicates the approximate spot where Perseverance sits in Jezero Crater, within that storm.

The previous Al-Amal image from September (available at the link) shows the whole Martian hemisphere with generally clear skies.

Below is a recent photo taken by Perseverance illustrating these dusty conditions.
» Read more

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