The United Arab Emirates’ first of its kind Mars mission was initially slated to kick off on Wednesday morning at 12:51am. With over 150 Emirati engineers, scientists and researchers involved in its six-year-long planning, the spacecraft’s launch faced a delay due to heavy rains and a new date (Friday, 17th July) was locked in. The mission has now, however, suffered further interruption, once again because of unstable and unpredictable weather conditions at the inauguration site. UAE Space Agency and Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre revealed the decision to postpone the Friday launch was taken in consultation with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the company that built the rocket that the Hope probe will be launched on.
The entire project has cost approximately Dh765million. A new launch date for July will be announced within the next 24 hours. “It was decided to postpone the launch of the Hope probe, the first Arab mission to explore Mars, from July 17 to a new date in July. The new date will be announced within the next 24-hours,” the UAE Government posted on Twitter. It said the decision was made after extensive meetings and “due to the continued turbulence and instability of weather conditions on Tanegashima Island, the launch site for the rocket carrying the Hope probe.”
The team has time until August 3 to launch the Hope probe, or else they will have to wait another two years until Mars and Earth realign favourably, which is necessary for such missions. After the first postponement, Omran Al Sharaf, project manager of Emirates Mars Mission, said the team would continue to monitor the weather and there was a chance the launch would be delayed again. “Is there a chance of further delay? There is always a chance because of the weather,” he said. “When it comes to Friday, it’s very difficult to tell you. We had our daily meeting and everything seemed fine for our launch on July 15. Then, this morning in our meeting it didn’t seem like a good idea. It totally changed compared to yesterday.” He mentioned strict safety standards had to be met before the rocket can be launched.
“We didn’t want to take the risk and lose the work we’ve done in the past six years because of launching at an unsuitable time,” Al Sharaf added. “We are talking about a rocket here and it will pass different areas of the atmospheres and unstable weather conditions are present, from storms to heavy rainfall. Not only could this affect the rocket but it also endangers the probe inside the fairing. The team has been working to launch the probe as soon as possible, but at the same time, we will not put the probe and the airspace at risk. This is a unanimous decision we have reached, in co-ordination with the UAE government and the Japanese partners.”