A new launch date for the UAE’s mission to Mars has been set for July 20, officials have announced.
Lift-off from Japan’s Tanegashima Island, 1,000 kilometres to the south west of Tokyo, will take place at 1.58am UAE time.
The launch of the Hope probe has already been delayed twice due to poor weather and it is possible further delays could occur. The Emirates-built craft aims to study the climate of the Red Planet and is due to arrive in February 2021, in time for the country’s 50th anniversary.
“The updated launch date and time for H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 42 is July 20, 2020 at 6:58:14 (Japan Standard Time),” said a spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the launch provider. “There are possibilities for further delay affected by the latest weather forecast.”
The Hope probe will begin the initial stages of its 500-million-kilometre journey on board the H-IIA rocket. After leaving Earth’s orbit, the 1.3 tonne craft will be released, travelling an estimated 200 days before it reaches Mars.
The probe’s launch was first scheduled for July 15 but was delayed for 48-hours. The July 17 date also postponed. The team has a relatively narrow window to begin the mission. After August 3, scientists will have to wait until 2022 until Mars and Earth are suitably aligned again.
Over the past few weeks, Tanegashima Island has been battered by heavy rain and strong winds – conditions that could potentially damage both the rocket and spacecraft.
Launch criteria of H-IIA rocket:
* Peak wind speed should not exceed 20.9 metres per second
* Rain should be less than 8mm per hour
* No cumulonimbus clouds in flight trajectory
* No atmospheric discharge in the flight trajectory
* No lightning within 10km of the launch site
* No lightning observed within 20km of flight path
Source: UAE Space Agency