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An H-2A rocket carrying the Hope Probe blasts off from Tanegashima Space Centre in southwestern Japan for the first Arab space mission to Mars. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Mars-bound Hope Probe, the first Arab interplanetary mission, has successfully completed is first trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM1) en route to its seven-month journey to the Red Planet, the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) announced on Monday.

Following the successful launch of Hope Probe from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan on July 20, a trajectory correction manoeuvre is required to adjust the precise path of a spacecraft. During its seven months of travel through 493 million kilometres in space, the orbiter’s path is adjusted to make sure it reaches Mars’ orbit safely.

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TCM1 marks the first firing of the Mars Hope probe’s six Delta-V thrusters, which were deployed for the first time in the vital course correction that will now see the probe directly targeting its Mars capture orbit.

Hope Probe is expected to make at least 7 TCMs from the operation control at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Al Khawaneej, Dubai.

“TCM1 was a major milestone for us, not only because it is the first time we have deployed the spacecraft’s Delta-V thrusters, but also because it defines our path to Mars,” said EMM project director Omran Sharaf.

Trajectory control manoeuvres

Sharaf explained the importance of trajectory control manoeuvres, saying: “In order to meet planetary protection protocols, Mars and other planetary missions are typically launched on an initial flight path that is intended to ‘miss’ the mission’s planetary target until tests have confirmed the spacecraft is performing nominally, thereby mitigating the chance of an unplanned crash on the planetary surface and subsequent potential contamination with Earth-originating pathogens. For this and flight planning reasons, trajectory control manoeuvres are performed during flight.”

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Members of the media watch the Hope Probe take-off, at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai. Image Credit: AFP

He further said that the performance of the launcher and spacecraft during the Launch and Early Operations Phase (LEOPs) has achieved an outstanding accurate trajectory.

“Hope has exceeded our expectations and is now on target to reach its Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI), requiring less adjustment to its course than we had originally planned,” Sharaf informed.

MOI or Mars Orbit Entering is scheduled to take place early in February 2021 as Hope Probe will begin its mission to create the first full picture of Mars’ climate in full Martian year or 687 Earth days.

Deep study of Martian atmosphere

Hope’s mission is focused on atmospheric dynamics. It will explore the atmosphere of Mars globally while sampling both diurnal (daily) and seasonal timescales. This has never been done before by any Mars mission.

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According to EMM, which was developed by MBRSC and funded by the UAE Space Agency, “understanding atmospheres of other planets, allows us to better understand our own planet (since there is another sample to compare with) and better understand other planets in the universe. Its unique science orbit supports the first complete picture of Mars’ weather”.

For the first time, scientists based in more than 200 universities and research institutes globally will have access to a holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day, through different seasons.