Flying the Busy Skies: UAE Signs Japan’s H-IIA for 2020 Mars Launch

Mars Bound Credit: UAE Space Agency

Mars Bound
Credit: UAE Space Agency

The space lanes between Earth and Mars about to get rather crowded during the 2020 orbital launch window.

The latest news comes from the United Arab Emirates, and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, who have announced a contract for Japan’s H-IIA launch vehicle to boost UAE’s HOPE mission to the Red Planet in 2020. Previous reports had suggested that India might provide launch services for the mission. The MHI press release follows below.

That wasn’t all however. On Monday, China shed some new light on its previously announced Mars 2020 plans as well. Its efforts will see a highly ambitious orbiter/lander/rover mission, building off the somewhat limited success of the 2013’s Chang’e-3 lunar mission, which featured the Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” rover.

According to an interview in Xinhuanet, Jia Yang, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-3 lunar probe, said the Mars rover, which will be solar powered and about the size of NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, will be much more autonomous than its lunar relative:

“The Mars rover should be able to sense the environment, plan its route, conduct scientific exploration and detect faults autonomously. It should be a mobile intelligence.”

Meanwhile, as previously reported, the second half of Europe’s ExoMars mission is tentatively scheduled for launch in 2018, but it appears that the 2020 timeframe appears to be more practical. Finally, unless it is cancelled rather quickly by a new administration in the United States, NASA is planning on launching Mars 2020, a large rover built along the same lines as Curiosity Rover operating in the Gale Crater, but this time equipped with both sample caching capability, as well as an In-Site Resource Demonstrator.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Press Release:

MHI Receives New Order for H-IIA Launch Services for UAE Emirates Mars Mission

Tokyo & Dubai, March 22, 2016 – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (Tokyo:7011) (MHI) has received an order for H-IIA launch services from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for launch of the Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Hope spacecraft. In order to better understand the Martian atmosphere and climate, Hope is expected to be launched in the summer of 2020 on MHI’s H-IIA launch vehicle, and is set to arrive at Mars in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE. This order for the EMM marks MHI’s fourth overseas contract for its launch services.

The UAE Space Agency (UAESA) takes administrative and financial responsibility for the EMM, and MBRSC is responsible for leading the design and development of Hope, as well as the execution of all phases of EMM, which includes technical coordination with the H-IIA launch vehicle.

The previous three orders received by MHI from overseas customers involved the 2012 launch of the Korea Multipurpose Satellite-3 (KOMPSAT-3) for the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), the 2015 launch of the TELSTAR 12 VANTAGE communications and broadcasting satellite for Telesat Canada, and launch of the KhalifaSat for MBRSC, planned in 2018.

MBRSC, or the former Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST), was newly established by the Dubai Government in 2006. The Space Centre is working to develop the science and technology sectors in the region, which include research and development in satellite manufacturing and systems development, and Earth observation through satellite images.

The H-IIA rocket is the most current and reliable launcher in Japan. MHI believes the H-IIA has a strong advantage with its high success rate of 96.7 percent (29 successful launches among 30 flights). It also has a brilliant on-time launch history in past flights, to customers’ great satisfaction.

MHI has been playing an important role in Japan’s development of space launch vehicles since a national program was started in Japan in 1975. Following technology transfer from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), MHI has been placed in charge of all aspects from manufacturing to launching satellites from the H-IIA No.13 (launched in September 2007) and the H-IIB No.4 (launched in August 2013).

With this partnership with the UAE to launch the EMM’s Hope spacecraft, MHI pledges to make full-fledged efforts so as not only to enhance the space industry in Japan, but also to make various contributions to the UAE’s endeavors in space-related activities.

Posted in: Japanese Space, Mars

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1 Comment on "Flying the Busy Skies: UAE Signs Japan’s H-IIA for 2020 Mars Launch"

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  1. PK Sink says:

    I do love that In-Site Resource Demonstrator. Also, if SpaceX happens to have their Dragons doing propulsive landings from orbit by 2020, can you say “Red Dragon Cache Catcher” three times fast? Maybe around the mid 20’s?

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