Emirates Mars Mission Launching in Partnership with LASP at CU Boulder

The Emirates Mars Mission Hope Spacecraft prior to shipment to Dubai and the Tanegashima Launch site, with fully deployed solar panels and instruments visible (facing the floor) measuring nearly 5 meters across. (Credit: MBRSC/Ken Hutchison)

BOULDER, Colo. (LASP PR) — The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is scheduled to launch this month on Mitsubishi H-IIA launch platform from Tanegashima, Japan and arrive at Mars in February 2021, coinciding with The Emirates’ 50th anniversary as a nation. 

The mission is being carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the UAE in collaboration with a number of US research institutions, including the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The orbiter, named ‘Hope’ (Al Amal in Arabic), will spend two years (one Martian year) orbiting the red planet gathering crucial science data. An extended two-year mission is also envisioned.

The spacecraft, which is about the size of a small car, was constructed at LASP by a joint MBRSC/LASP team led by Project Director Omran Sharaf from MBRSC, Program Manager Pete Withnell from LASP, and Deputy Program Manager and Science Lead, Sarah Al Amiri. The overall team working on the Mission comprises some 200 staff from MBRSC, 150 from LASP and 100 from other partners, as well as an international science team.

The Emirates’ goal for the mission is to provide knowledge transfer to the next generation of Emirati scientist and engineers through a hands-on learning environment and knowledge-transfer program. The mission’s scientific goal is to provide an unprecedented global view of the Martian atmosphere in order to reveal the interconnections between different regions, times of day, and altitudes.    

“Collaboration and knowledge transfer have been key to the development of the Emirates Mars Mission,” said Sharaf. “Our partners at LASP have been key to ensuring the success of the mission, delivering an extraordinary spacecraft in almost half the time of conventional missions but also in providing the resources and knowledge we need to drive our own development of space systems engineering and planetary science.”

The scientific goals of the mission are to provide a complete picture of the lower and upper Martian atmosphere. Unique to Hope is its orbit, which enables near-complete daily and geographic coverage, providing a weather-satellite style view of the Martian atmosphere. 

To achieve these goals, Hope carries three scientific instruments, the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrograph (EMUS), Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI), and Emirates Mars InfraRed Spectrometer (EMIRS) all developed through international collaboration between MBRSC, UC Berkeley, Arizona State University and LASP. 

The Hope Probe attached to the payload support structure and encapsulated within the payload fairing, is set to board the H2A launch vehicle on July 10. (Credit: MBRSC)

The mission will give scientists greater insight into the connections within and between the upper and lower atmospheres and how those connections help to drive atmospheric escape.

“Hope will capture the ebbs and flows of weather on Mars to a degree that wasn’t possible before. It’s a showcase for how space exploration has become an increasingly international endeavor,” said the Director of LASP, Dr. Daniel Baker.

“Mars is the beginning of an important adventure for our country in moving toward a global citizen contributing to science and technology,” said Al Amiri.

Pete Withnell offered, “It has been an extraordinary adventure working alongside our Emirati partners to develop this mission and to be part of a global enterprise for positive change.  LASP is both honored and privileged to be part the EMM family, and we look forward to EMM’s scientific achievements for years to come.”

The mission’s name, Hope, was chosen to send a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs, according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai for whom MBRSC is named. The resulting mission data aims to make major advances in our understanding of the Martian climate system and will be shared freely online with more than 200 institutions worldwide.

About the Emirates Mars Mission

Announced in July 2014 by Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi and Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, the Emirates Mars Mission was developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) working in conjunction with its knowledge transfer partners and funded by the UAE Space Agency.

EMM was conceived to disrupt and accelerate the development of the UAE’s space sector, education and science community and will send the Mars Hope probe to orbit Mars in February 2021. Hope aims to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year.

EMM and the Hope probe are the culmination of a knowledge transfer and development effort started in 2006, which has seen Emirati engineers working with partners around the world to develop the UAE’s spacecraft design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

The Mars Hope Probe will reach Mars orbit in 2021, the 50th anniversary of The Emirates, which became an independent nation on 2 December 1971.