A United Arab Emirates interplanetary probe was successfully launched aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket late yesterday.
The UAE Hope probe was launched aboard a H-IIA rocket on its way to Mars at 21:58 UTC on July 19. After its liftoff from Tanegashima Space Center in Southern Japan, the probe was deployed successfully into a low Earth parking orbit.
Following a coast phase, the H-IIA rocket’s cryogenic upper stage fired for a second time to break free of Earth’s gravity on a transfer trajectory to the Red Planet. The probe was then separated successfully from the rocket’s upper stage.
Initially, there was concern that one of the Hope probe’s two solar arrays had not been deployed successfully. However, ground controllers at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai soon confirmed the spacecraft’s propulsion and communication systems, solar arrays, and computer were operating nominally.
The launch was celebrated as the first interplanetary mission from the “Arab world” by the chairman of the UAE Space Agency, Ahmad Al Falasi.
“The Emirates has successfully launched the first interplanetary mission in the Arab world, commencing a 493-million-kilometer (306-million-mile) journey to Mars,” said Al Falasi. “This is a huge leap forward for the UAE’s ambitious space program.
The Hope probe will spend the next six months traveling to our closest celestial neighbour. It is expected to complete an orbital insertion around Mars on February 15, 2021.