15 July 2020 Community news

UAE Hope Mission postponed again due to bad weather

The UAE's landmark Mars mission has been postponed for a second time because of "turbulent and unstable" weather at the launch site

The Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), where the UAE hopes to launch its Mars mission from, is the largest rocket-launch complex in Japan. Image: JAXA
The Tanegashima Space Center (TNSC), where the UAE hopes to launch its Mars mission from, is the largest rocket-launch complex in Japan. Image: JAXA

After extensive meetings, the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center through discussions with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, announced another further delay of the Mars Hope Probe launch due to unstable weather conditions at the launch site in Tanegashima Island, Japan.

A new launch date in July will be announced in the next 24 hours, said the UAE Government via Twitter.

It said the decision was made after extensive meetings and "due to the continued turbulence and instability of weather conditions on Tanegashima Island, the launch site for the rocket carrying the Hope probe."

The UAE's Hope spacecraft was initially due to launch on Tuesday at 20.51 pm GMT time and on Tuesday, teams were given the "go-ahead" to move the rocket to the launch pad. However the arrival of heavy rain prompted the decision to reschedule the launch. The team has a window until 3 August to launch the probe.

Speaking at a virtual briefing, Omran Al Sharaf, project manager of Emirates Mars Mission, said the team were keeping a close on the weather but there was a chance the launch would be delayed again.

“Is there a chance of further delay? There is always a chance because of the weather,” he said. "But we have a launch window that’s three weeks-long – we are targeting to launch within then."

“When it comes to [a launch on] Friday, it’s very difficult to tell you. We had our daily meeting and everything seemed fine for our launch on July 15. Then, this morning in our meeting it didn’t seem like a good idea. It totally changed compared to yesterday."

“We didn’t want to take the risk and lose the work we’ve done in the past six years because of launching at an unsuitable time,” Mr Al Sharaf said of the mission.

The UAE's orbiter is one of three spacecraft bound for the red planet this month, alongside the US and Chinese missions. All three are looking to take advantage of the favourable alignment of Mars, the Earth and the Sun which happens every 26 months.

If the UAE's opportunity is missed this time around, the launch must wait another two years for the favourable alignment to occur again.

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