Israel, UAE Agree to Collaborate on Lunar, Earth Observation & Satellite Missions

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will collaborate on a mission to the moon, analyze data from an Israeli-French Earth observation satellite, and launch a joint education satellite under a landmark agreement signed last week to cooperate on a range of space projects, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) announced.

The two nations will collaborate on Genesis 2, an $100 million Israeli mission to launch an orbiter to the moon and deploy landers at two different locations on the lunar surface. The mission, which is to be half funded with foreign contributions, is scheduled to launch in 2024.

The project is a follow-on to Israel’s unsuccessful Genesis 1 mission, which attempted to place the Beresheet lander on the moon in April 2019. The vehicle, built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for SpaceIL, crashed into the surface after suffering an engine failure during descent. Beresheet was Israel’s first lunar mission.

SpaceIL had competed in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), which offered a $10 million prize to place the first privately-built rover on the lunar surface. GLXP ended in 2018 with no winner. SpaceIL was able to launch Beresheet with financial and technical assistance from IAI, ISA and billionaire Morris Kahn.

UAE will also help to analyze data from a joint Israeli-French Earth observation satellite named Venus that was launched into orbit in 2017. The joint study will provide valuable data about global warming, precision agriculture, desertification, water usage and other issues of joint interest to the two nations. 

Israeli and UAE students will also build and launch Loner-Sat, also known as Ramadan-Sat, as part of a STEM project focused on satellite engineering and astronomy. The spacecraft will determine the exact timing of the lunar new moon, which will help determine the start of Ramadan.

The Israeli-UAE agreement is expected to lead to a broad range of cooperative space activities between the two countries, including the development of satellites, space technologies, robotics and optical systems.

The cooperation was made possible by a peace agreement signed between the two countries in September 2000. The space accord was the 15th cooperative agreement signed between the two nations since the peace deal was reached.

UAE is a rising space power that has undertaken a number of programs in cooperation with other nations. In 2019, Maj. Hazza Al Mansouri spent eight days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after flying there aboard a Russian Soyuz transport. UAE officials have held talks with NASA about sending an astronaut to ISS aboard an American spacecraft.

On Feb. 9, 2021, UAE’s Hope spacecraft entered orbit around Mars. The spacecraft was built by the the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics with the cooperation of scientists and engineers from UAE, Arizona State University and the University of California Berkeley.

UAE has also announced plans to send a small rover named Rashid to the lunar surface in 2022. The rover will be carried aboard the Hakuto-R lander launched by ispace of Japan. ispace also began existence as a GLXP competitor.