UAE leader confirms goal to land rover on Moon by ’24

The new colonial movement: The ruler of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has confirmed the initiation of a project to land a rover on the Moon by 2024, and have it built entirely by UAE engineers.

The Emirates Lunar Mission will be a 100 percent Emirati-built lunar rover that will land on the moon by 2024, according to a series of tweets by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE Prime Minister and Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The lunar rover has been named “Rashid” in honour of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum who ruled Dubai for 32 years from 1958 until his death in 1990 and who “sparked” the emirate’s advancement.

This is an ambitious goal, but not completely unreasonable. Their engineers were closely involved in the construction of their Hope Mars orbiter, mostly built by U.S. universities and subcontractors. That knowledge can now be applied to their own spacecraft. I also suspect that their 2016 agreement with India to invest billions there in exchange for space-related engineering assistance included technical information about India’s own lunar rover missions.

UAE outlines new plans in space

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had put forth a new set of goals in its space program, including sending another astronaut to space, sending an unmanned probe to the Moon, and encouraging the development of UAE-built Earth resource smallsats.

The lunar mission is targeted to launch in 2024, and it appears they wish to build it entirely themselves, rather than subcontract American companies and universities to do the bulk of the work, as they did for the Hope Mars orbiter. It appears they believe that the training their people got from the Hope mission development will make it possible for them to proceed now on their own.

I also suspect that instead of buying a Russian Soyuz launch, they are aiming to hire an American company, either SpaceX or Boeing, to fly their next astronaut, since they have made a deal with NASA for astronaut training.

UAE to train astronauts at NASA

The United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with NASA to train its two future astronauts to ISS.

UAE astronauts Hazzaa AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi have already begun their training at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston starting Monday, Salem AlMarri, head of the UAE Astronaut Programme, at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), said during a media briefing. AlMansoori and AlNeyadi had earlier trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Moscow, in September 2018 as part of their preparation for their launch to the ISS.

The two men will be launched to ISS by Russia using its Soyuz rocket and capsule. However, the UAE is smart to get them training in the U.S., as they need to work with U.S. mission control and U.S. systems on ISS. Moreover, I expect the UAE might wish to buy tickets eventually on either Dragon or Starliner, and this training lays the groundwork for that possibility.

UAE’S Hope Mars Orbiter images Mars

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Hope Mars Orbiter has successfully imaged Mars for the first time using its star tracker camera, proving both that the spacecraft is on course and that its pointing capabilities are working as well .

“The Hope probe is officially 100 million km [60 million miles] into its journey to the Red Planet,” Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, wrote on Twitter on Monday (Aug. 24). “Mars, as demonstrated in the image captured by the probe’s star tracker, is ahead of us, leaving Saturn and Jupiter behind. The Hope probe is expected to arrive to Mars in February 2021.”

The star tracker is designed to keep Hope on course, telling the spacecraft precisely where it is. In addition, the probe carries a more traditional camera for use once it arrives at Mars and begins its science work.

Arrival in Mars orbit will take place in February ’21.

Hope completes first course correction on trip to Mars

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Mars Hope orbiter has successfully completed its first course correction on its journey to Mars.

The success of this maneuver is a big deal, as it appears it was controlled from the UAE’s control center by its engineers. Up to now this project has mostly been a joint U.S/UAE project, launched by Japan, with U.S. universities doing the heavy lifting while training UAE personnel. Now the UAE engineers are in charge, and so they have to get it right.

They have another half dozen course corrections scheduled before arrival in February 2021, when the spacecraft will have its big maneuver, entering Martian orbit.

UAE to establish full diplomatic ties to Israel

Big news: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has agreed to recognize Israel and establish full diplomatic relations, in exchange for Israel’s promise it will not annex portions of the West Bank that the Oslo Accords reserved for Israel, as it has been considering doing.

The UAE is the first Gulf nation to recognize Israel, and the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan. This agreement signals publicly the growing secret ties and alliances within the Arab world with Israel that have developed in the past decade, most especially since Trump became president.

It also signals the growing weariness in the Arab world of Palestinian intransigence to any real negotiations. No matter what deal is offered them, no matter how good, their fundamental position remains the same: Israel must be destroyed (including all the Jews living there).

The deal also illustrates a fundamental split in the Islamic Middle East, between the allies of Iran (where chants of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” are encouraged by the government) and those more aligned with the U.S. The former apparently like the idea of war and genocide, while the latter are working to avoid both.

Why the UAE’s Hope Mars Orbiter is really a US mission for UAE’s students

Today there were many many news stories touting the successful launch of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first interplanetary probe, Hope, (al-Amal in Arabic), successfully launched yesterday from Japan. This story at collectSpace is typical, describing the mission in detail and noting its overall goals not only to study the Martian atmosphere but to inspire the young people in the UAE to pursue futures in the fields of science and engineering.

What most of these reports gloss over is how little of Hope was really built by the UAE. The UAE paid the bills, but during design and construction almost everything was done by American universities as part of their education programs, though arranged so that it was UAE’s students and engineers who were getting the education.
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UAE’s Hope Mars Orbiter successfully launched

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates first interplanetary probe, its Hope Mars Orbiter, was successfully launched by a Mitsubishi H-2A rocket today from Japan, and is now on its way to Mars.

It will arrive in February 2021, when it will attempt to inject itself into orbit, where it will then be used to study the Martian weather.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

16 China
10 SpaceX
7 Russia
3 ULA
3 Japan

The U.S. still leads China in the national rankings, 17 to 16.

Launch update on Mars missions

The launch status of the three missions to Mars:

First, the launch of UAE’s Hope orbiter by Mitsubishi’s H-2A rocket has been pushed back to July 20th due to bad weather. Their launch window extends to August 3rd, so they still have two weeks before it closes.

Second, China has rolled to the launchpad the Long March 5 rocket, with the Tienwen-1 orbiter/lander/rover. Though they have only said that the launch will occur between July 20th and July 25th, based on past operations, they usually launch six days after roll-out, putting the launch date as July 23.

China has also provided some clarity as to Tienwen-1’s landing site on Mars. According to this Nature Astronomy paper [pdf], published on July 13th, their primary landing site is in the northern lowland plains of Utopia Planitia. The Tienwen-1 science team has also considered [pdf] the northern lowland plains in Chryse Planitia, on the other side of Mars.

Since they will spend two to three months in Mars orbit before sending the lander and rover to the surface, it could very well be that they won’t make a final decision until they get into orbit.

Finally, on July 7th Perseverance was mounted on top of its Atlas-5 rocket for its July 30th launch. Its launch window closes on August 15.

Launch delays for SpaceX and UAE

The launches planned for tomorrow by SpaceX and Japan’s space agency JAXA have both been postponed, for different reasons.

The SpaceX launch of a South Korean military satellite was postponed in order to swap out equipment in the Falcon’s upper stage. No new launch date has yet been announced.

The JAXA launch, using Mitsubishi’s H-2A rocket, was to launch the United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter Hope. It was postponed due to bad weather. Their next launch window is July 16, but they have not yet announced a new launch date. Like Perseverance, they must launch this summer or they will have to wait two years for the next launch window to Mars to reopen.

Launch date for UAE’s Hope Mars orbiter set

The new colonial movement: Japan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have set the launch date for UAE’s Hope Mars orbiter, now scheduled for July 15 with a launch window that closes on August 13.

If all goes well it will enter Mars orbit in February 2021.

The probe is a UAE project in name only. Much of it was built in the U.S. by U.S. companies, working with UAE engineers and scientists. It is also being launched by Japan.

Regardless, the training and knowledge obtained by those UAE engineers and scientists is the real point of the mission. The UAE wants to diversify its economy away from oil, and it is trying to use the excitement of space exploration to do it. It hopes these engineers and scientists will use what they learned to come up with new projects that in the future will be built entirely in the UAE.

UAE’s Mars probe arrives in Japan for launch in July

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Mars orbiter, dubbed Hope, has arrived at its launch site in Japan in preparation for its July launch on a Mitsubishi H-2A rocket.

Previously I had thought the probe had been built in the UAE with help from engineers from India, but that was not the case. Instead, the probe was mostly built by Americans, in America.

Carrying three science instruments, the Hope mission will measure conditions in the Martian atmosphere from a unique semi-synchronous orbit high above the Red Planet. The mission is the first from the Arab world to travel to another planet.

About the size of Mini Cooper, the spacecraft was assembled at LASP’s facilities in Colorado [Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics], with the help of Emirati engineers and scientists. The probe was delivered to Dubai in February for additional testing, and then was supposed to be transported to Japan in early May.

But the coronavirus pandemic forced officials to shuffle the schedule, and mission managers decided to send the probe to Japan early. [emphasis mine]

In other words, this probe might be financed by the UAE, and it might have UAE engineers and scientists involved, but essentially the UAE paid LASP to build it for them.

I am not criticizing the UAE for this effort, but to call it an Arab mission is somewhat dishonest. This is a joint American-UAE probe. If it results in producing qualified engineers in the UAE capability of building their own future planetary probe, fine. They are not doing it now, however.

UAE’s first manned flight launches this week on Soyuz

This article provides a nice detailed Arab perspective on the upcoming September 25 launch of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first manned mission, sending one of their jet fighter pilots on a Soyuz to ISS for about a week.

The article not only also reviews the entire history of past Arab astronaut missions in space, the first on an American shuttle in 1985 and the second on a Soyuz in 1987, it summarizes the present-day space-related efforts throughout the Arab world, not just in the UAE. Good information in advance of this week’s upcoming launch.

Arianespace Vega launch fails

The launch of a United Arab Emirates military satellite on an Arianespace Vega rocket failed tonight two minutes after liftoff.

Luce Fabreguettes, Arianespace’s executive vice president of missions, operations and purchasing, said the failure occurred around the time of ignition of the Vega rocket’s solid-fueled Zefiro 23 second stage.

“As you have seen, about two minutes after liftoff, around the Z23 (second stage) ignition, a major anomaly occurred, resulting in the loss of the mission,” Fabreguettes said. “On behalf of Arianespace, I wish to express our deepest apologies to our customers for the loss of their payload.”

Prior to this failure the Vega had flown fourteen times successfully since its inauguration in 2012.

UAE’s space agency declares its Mars probe almost ready for launch

The new colonial movement: The space agency of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today announced that its 2020 Mars orbiter, dubbed Hope, is now 85% complete and on track for making its launch window.

The Probe has already entered an intensive testing phase to ensure its readiness before the launch date, with less than 500 days are remaining for the launch. It is planned to reach Mars by 2021, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

Several aspects related to the design, assembly of the structure, cameras and control have been verified. So far, the Probe’s systems and components, as well as its ability to communicate with the ground station have been checked by the team. The Probe has succeeded in all the tests it has been subject to so far, ahead of the five environmental tests to be conducted on the probe from June to December 2019.

While this is likely true, we must remain a bit skeptical. Though the link goes to a Reuters Arab news source, the story appears to be entirely a copy of the press release. I know this because five different Arabian news sources used the exact same language in their stories, apparently all copying from the same release.

Thus, we don’t have any independent press in the UAE looking at what is going on here. This could be true, but who knows?

UAE names astronaut to fly to ISS in September

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has named the man who will fly on a Soyuz rocket in September to become that country’s first astronaut.

“The Emirati astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori will fly for an eight-day space mission to ISS aboard a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft on 25 September 2019,” the organization said in a Twitter post late on Friday.

The UAE astronaut’s flight to the ISS is scheduled for September 25. He will spend about a week on board the ISS and will return back to the Earth with the Soyuz crew. Currently, there are two Emirati nationals prepping for the flight in the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center. The other astronaut, Sultan Al Neyadi, will serve as a backup.

No background was given on this man, but we will find out more with time.

UAE’s Mars mission on schedule for 2020 launch

The new colonial movement: According to one of the chief engineers for the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) unmanned mission to Mars, dubbed Hope, the spacecraft is on schedule for its 2020 launch by a Japanese rocket.

If all goes right, Hope will go into Martian orbit in 2021.

The quotes in the article from that chief engineer reveal somewhat the overall shallowness of UAE’s space effort at this point.

Omar Hussain, Lead Mission Design and Navigation Engineer for the Emirates Mars Mission, speaking at the Science Event 2019 held at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, said the team have had to overcome a number of challenges along the way.

“It is too early to talk about a specific date just yet but everything is on track and there have been no delays,” said the 29-year-old Emirati. “Speaking for myself, it has been challenging because I had to switch from planning for Earth-based projects to interplanetary missions.

“It took a lot of education to get to that point as I had never done a mission that goes beyond the Earth’s lower orbits. I had to study how I would get the spacecraft from Earth to Mars.”

The goal with their space program is to help diversify UAE’s economy. It might eventually do this, but for now, they I think are very dependent on the help they are getting from others. Japan is providing the rocket, and India the engineering expertise for the spacecraft.

Japan launches UAE satellite

The new colonial movement: A Japanese H-2A rocket today successfully placed into orbit the United Arab Emirates first home-built satellite.

This gives Japan six launches for 2018, matching that nation’s previous high, accomplished both in 2006 and 2017.

The UAE satellite, KhalifaSat, was essentially a cubesat, and could be considered comparable to the numerous student-built cubesats that have been built and launched by universities as teaching devices.

UAE passes a space law

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emuirates Cabinet has passed a space law, supposedly designed to encourage the development of their space sector.

I say “supposedly” because of this:

“Although the details of the new law are not yet publicly available, I believe it has tremendous potential and am excited by the UAE’s incorporation of educational guidelines into the legal framework,” said Sunil Thacker, senior partner at the STA law firm.

It is even unclear whether this lawyer has seen the language. He is quoted extensively, raving about the wonders this new law will bring, but states no specifics. In the top-down sheik-run UAE, he has no other choice.

UAE astronaut flight to ISS tentatively scheduled for April

Russia has now tentatively scheduled the flight to ISS of the United Arab Emirates first astronaut.

The first astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 5, 2019, and will return to Earth on April 16, 2019, the ISS launch schedule, shared with Sputnik, has shown. According to the document, an astronaut will fly to the ISS on board the Russian Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft.

It has not been determined yet if Hazza Mansouri or Sultan Nayadi will take part in the mission. Both astronauts have qualified for it and have begun their training in Russia earlier in September.

Though the goal of this mission by the UAE government is to encourage a private space industry in their country, the mission remains wholly a government creature. What has not been released is how much UAE is paying the Russians for their flight.

Had the launch of the U.S. commercial crew spacecraft not been slowed by NASA and had been operational, either SpaceX or Boeing could have competed for this business. Expect them to do so in the future.

UAE names the two finalists for its first manned flight on Soyuz

The new colonial movement: The leader of Dubai yesterday named the UAE’s the two astronaut finalists, one of which will fly on a Soyuz to ISS sometime next year.

The ruler of Dubai has announced the names of two astronauts from the United Arab Emirates who will be heading to the International Space Station, a first for the Gulf nation. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the UAE’s vice president and prime minister, made the announcement on Monday on Twitter.

Sheikh Mohammed named the astronauts as Hazza al-Mansouri and Sultan al-Nayadi. Their missions are scheduled for next year.

No biographical information about these two men has yet been released, but I am willing to bet that some UAE politics played a part in their selection. This is not to say that they are unqualified (because both men were cleared to fly by the Russians) but to note the realities that always lurk within any government run space program.

Russian medics have approved UAE’s astronaut candidates

The new colonial movement: Russian medics have now narrowed the candidates for the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first spaceflight.

Nine candidates were sent to Russia for testing. The article does not say how many candidates were given medical clearance. Further training in September will narrow the choices further, followed by a final decision by the UAE naming the one person who will fly to ISS.

Rocket Lab signs deal with UAE company for 10 Electron launches

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab today announced the signing of a 10-launch contract with Circle Aerospace, a new UAE satellite company.

The agreement sees Rocket Lab selected as the sole launch provider and primary provider of associated mission services for Circle Aerospace clients. Circle Aerospace missions will primarily launch from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch site, Launch Complex-1, in New Zealand. Launches may also be conducted from Rocket Lab’s US launch site as required.

Circle Aerospace appears to be positioning itself as a smallsat manufacturer for others, but it is unclear at this point who its customers are. What is somewhat clear is that the company has deep pockets, either from private UAE oil money or government money (which are usually the same thing in the Arab Middle East).

UAE signs deal with Russia for UAE astronaut flight

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia signed an agreement this week to fly an UAE astronaut on a Russian Soyuz capsule to ISS in April 2019.

The mission will be a standard 10-day tourist mission, though of course they are not describing it like that. The announcement also does not state if the UAE paid Russia for this flight, but I expect so, just like any tourist flight. The price however was likely a lot less than Russia has been squeezing from the U.S. for its astronaut flights. UAE had also been discussing this with China, and the competition probably forced Russia to lower its price.

I had been hoping that one of the U.S.’s commercial capsules could have gotten this business, but because of the delays NASA has imposed on their initial launches, they haven’t yet flown, so they lost the chance to compete for this.

UAE astronaut to fly to ISS on Soyuz?

According to a story in the Russian press a tourist on a flight planned for 2019 could be replaced by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The Russians and the UAE have signed a cooperative agreement, so this is possible. It could also be that the UAE has offered more money and thus moved up the queue. It could also be that this is premature. There have been many such stories in the past decade, but the Russians have not flown a tourist to ISS since 2009.

The UAE receives more than 4000 astronaut applications

The new colonial movement: More that four thousand citizens of the United Arab Emirates have applied to become one of that nation’s first four astronauts.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has received over 4,000 applications (aged between 17 and 67) from Emiratis aspiring to join the UAE Astronaut Programme, which was launched in December 2017 and was open for registrations for three months until March 2018. Funded by ICT Fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the programme saw females constitute 34% of applicants.

Qualified candidates will be chosen by a selection committee, following which they will need to pass a basic medical and psychometric test, an initial interview, an advanced medical and psychometric test and a panel interview. The top four candidates who will form the UAE Astronauts Team by the end of 2018 will then undergo a series of training programmes divided into year-long basic training modules and advanced training modules, which will be conducted over three years.

Three years from now the UAE should have have several different manned spaceship options to fly these astronauts on, from government manned capsules from Russia or China or private capsules like SpaceX’s Dragon or Boeing’s Starliner.

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