UAE Mars mission launch postponed until Friday due to bad weather

“The UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, in collaboration with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have announced a delay of the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope Probe launch due to the weather conditions at the launch site of Tanegashima Island in Japan.”

Mission managers decided to delay the launch shortly before the moment when the 174-foot-tall (53-meter) H-2A rocket was to roll out to its launch pad at Tanegashima for fueling and final countdown preparations. Officials said the new target launch date will be announced in a few hours.

A Mars orbiter developed by the United Arab Emirates in partnership with U.S. scientists has been mounted on top of a Japanese H-2A rocket and its battery charged for liftoff Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center.

The Emirates Mars Mission — also known as Hope, or Al Amal — was raised atop the H-2A rocket July 6 inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Tanegashima, located on an island at the southern end of the Japanese main islands.

Since then, engineers have completed a series of integrated checkouts to ensure good connections between the H-2A rocket and the Emirates Mars Mission spacecraft. Teams also completed a flight readiness review and charged the spacecraft’s battery in preparation for liftoff.

The H-2A rocket is scheduled for liftoff at 2051:27 GMT (4:51:27 p.m. EDT) Tuesday from Tanegashima, launching on a trajectory over the Pacific Ocean. After dropping its two strap-on solid rocket boosters, payload fairing, and first stage, the H-2A will ignite its cryogenic upper stage to accelerate the nearly 3,000-pound (1,350-kilogram) spacecraft on a trajectory to escape the gravitational bonds of Earth.

The United States and China are also taking advantage of this window to launch their Mars orbiters.

More than 150 Emirati engineers, scientists and researchers have spent six years working on this mission, which cost nearly Dh765million.

Engineers had been concerned about the heavy rain that had plagued the area for weeks with record rains falling over the Kagoshima prefecture, which includes the island city of Tanegashima.

“There is concern about rain and lightning from the afternoon of the 14th until the launch time,” said Keiji Suzuki, director of the Mitsubishi launch site service team.

“But we will proceed as planned while judging the weather.”

The Hope probe is to study the atmosphere of the Red Planet, delivering data which will be crucial to future efforts to launch human missions to Mars.

Launch scrubs because of weather are common and are made to ensure the safety of the rocket and spacecraft.

In January, a rocket launch carrying a satellite to space from the Tanegashima island was postponed because the weather had deteriorated.

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