Video Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The Emirati-made Rashid Rover lifted off to the Moon today at 11.38am (UAE time) aboard a Japanese-made lunar lander. It was sent to space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA. Follow the the event as it happened:

More lunar missions

Rashid Rover is just the first of the UAE’s multiple missions to the Moon. A couple of months ago, in September, MBRSC signed an agreement with China National Space Administration (CNSA) to kick start joint space projects and future lunar exploration, including sending the next UAE rover aboard Chang’e 7, a robotic Chinese lunar exploration mission expected to be launched in 2026 to target the Moon’s south pole.

First signal confirmed

First communication signal from Hakuto-R is confirmed. The launch and deployment of Hakuto-R carrying the UAE-made Rashid Rover is a complete success. Amer AlSayegh AlGhaferi, senior director of Space Engineering Department, and other senior officials and engineers at MBRSC now giving a media briefing.

Rashid Rover is on its way to the Moon, carrying with it the pride and dreams of the UAE - and the entire Arab world.

Waiting for the first signal from Hakuto-R

We are now awaiting the media briefing to be given by a senior official from Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. The mission control centre in Dubai is awaiting the first signal coming from Hakuto-R. The Japanese-made lunar lander will also provide wired communication and power during the cruise phase to the Moon.

Advanced cameras

Rashid Rover has 3D cameras, advanced motion system sensors and communication system that are powered by solar panels. There are four cameras that move vertically and horizontally, including two main cameras, which are Caspex (camera for space exploration) that can withstand vibrations during launch and landing

Lunar landing site

Hakuto-R carrying Rashid Rover will land on Atlas Crater, located at 47.5°N, 44.4°E on the Moon’s southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (Sea of Cold). From there, the UAE-made lunar rover will capture photos and collect information of the unexplored crater area and the vast basins on Moon’s surface that were formed billions of years ago.

Rashid Rover will provide about 10 gigabytes of recorded material, scientific data and new images to the global scientific community.

Rashid Rover: Small but powerful

Rashid Rover is the world’s most compact rover that could land on the Moon. Its height is 70cm, length is 50cm and width is 50cm. Its weight is approximately 10kg with payload, but it can climb over an obstacle up to 10cm tall and descend a 20-degree slope.

Rashid Rover
File photo

Once on the moon, Rashid Rover will study the characteristics of lunar soil, the petrography (composition and properties of lunar rocks) and geology of the Moon. It will also take photos of the moon’s dust movement, surface plasma conditions, and the lunar regolith (blanket of superficial deposits covering solid rocks).

UAE Rashid Rover takes off for Moon
Image Credit: Twitter@MBRSpaceCentre

Inside Hakuto-R

Aside from Rashid Rover, the one-ton robotic Hakuto-R lander is also carrying other payloads to the Moon, including a transformable lunar robot from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency; a test module for a solid-state battery from NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd., an artificial intelligence (AI) flight computer from Mission Control Space Services Inc., a multiple 360-degree camera from Canadensys Aerospace, a panel engraved with the names of Hakuto crowdfunding supporters, and a music disc containing the song ‘Sorato’ played by Japanese rock band Sakanaction.

After the successful separation of Hakuto-R from the launch rocket’s upper stage, the lunar lander will activate its spacecraft systems and set a series of thruster firings to fix its long-duration but fuel-efficient journey to the Moon.

Fuel-saving route

We are now few minutes away from Hakuto-R spacecraft separation from the launch vehicle. The Japanese-made lunar lander carrying Rashid Rover and other payload to the Moon will take a low-energy route to the Moon rather than a direct approach. This means the landing on the Moon will take about five months after launch, in April 2023.

Mission 1 orbit
Mission Control Centre at Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

Dr Hamad Al Marzooqi, project manager of Emirates Lunar Mission at MBRSC, told Gulf News the rationale for the fuel-saving but long route. He said: “The main factor is the cost of the mission. The cost comes from the volume and mass of the spacecraft. In order to reach to the moon within six days – which is the shortest path – you would need to burn a lot of fuel which means that you need a big tank and a big propulsion system to do that.”

“But it will have a huge impact in cost so, in order to reduce the cost of the mission, ispace (our partner) has selected their approach that they can reach to the lunar surface within five months but it will be less costly because it will burn much less fuel. They will use a smaller tank and propulsion system, therefore the launch cost and the cost of developing the developing system will be lower,” he further explained.

What’s next for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket?

What’s next for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket? After sending the Japanese-made lunar lander, Hakuto-R, to its lunar trajectory, the rocket booster will shut down and separate from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then reverse course to descend back to Cape Canaveral.

The rocket will re-ignite a subset of its engines to steer itself back to the Florida coast, before settling onto the circular concrete pad at Landing Zone 2.

Awesome view as SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is burning its rocket engines. The mission has gone past the first stage and the rocket’s upper stage will fire its engine to reach a low-altitude parking orbit, before sending the Hakuto-R lander that is carrying Rashid Rover on a speedy trajectory carrying it far away from Earth and onwards to the Moon.

UAE Rashid Rover takes off for Moon

The lauch was a success. And it was on time. We have a lift-off. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA

Sheikh Mohammed
Image Credit: Screengrab

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai; Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, are at the Mission Control Centre inside the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre to witness the historic launch of Rashid Rover

Launch timeline

• T+00:00: Liftoff
• T+01:12: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
• T+02:13: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
• T+02:17: Stage separation
• T+02:24: Second stage engine ignition
• T+02:29: First stage boost back burn ignition (three engines)
• T+03:06: Payload fairing jettison
• T+03:26: First stage boost back burn cutoff
• T+06:33: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
• T+06:53: First stage entry burn cutoff
• T+07:44: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
• T+07:52: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
• T+08:16: First stage landing
• T+40:02: Second stage engine restart
• T+40:58: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
• T+46:59: Hakuto-R spacecraft separation

Astrophysicist lauds UAE Mission

Dimitra Atri, astrophysicist at New York University in Abu Dhabi, praised the UAE and its burgeoning space programme. He told Gulf News: “Planetary exploration using rovers is technically challenging and the fact that Rashid Rover was built in the UAE demonstrates the capabilities and ambitions of a country with a very young but rapidly growing space program. If successful, the UAE, along with Japan will become the fourth country in space exploration history to successfully land on the Moon after the United States, former Soviet Union and China.

Dimitra Atri, astrophysicist at New York University in Abu Dhabi
Dimitra Atri, astrophysicist at New York University in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Painstaking preparation

For any space mission, painstaking and thorough preparation is the key to success. Abdulla AlShehhi, Rover Mechanical Engineering Lead, told Gulf News: “We have done a lot of preparation for the launch – from creating simple to complex engineering models and conducting several rounds of test to ensure a safe journey to the Moon," he said.

"The most critical part would be the landing phase but we have prepared Rashid Rover to sustain the shock load. We have tested all types of materials until we reached with the final flight model that is placed inside the Hakuto-R lander," AlShehhi added.

Conditions favourable for launch

Weather conditions are favourable for lift-off. Ten days after grounding the mission to resolve technical issues with the launch vehicle, Falcon 9 rocket, all systems are go for today’s launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, USA.

Engineers at MBRSC are monitoring the health of Rashid Rover which is inside stored inside Japanese-made lunar lander Hakuto-R M1 (mission 1), which will be carried to space by SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Dr. Mohammed AlZaabi, Lunar Surface Operations Lead, explained details of the historic mission to Gulf News.

“We are all exicted for the launch"

We are now an hour away from lift-off and excitement is high at the mission control centre (MCC) inside the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in Dubai.

No one is more excited for the launch than the group Emirati engineers who built the Rashid Rover from scratch with their own hands. Abdulla AlShehhi, Rover Mechanical Engineering Lead, told Gulf News: “We are very excited for the launch of the first mission by the UAE to land on the Moon. We built Rashid Rover with our own hands and if you have built something with your own hands and you see the name of the UAE on it and it will go to the Moon, the feeling is really indescribable.”

Live streaming from SpaceFlightNow

SpaceflightNow is streaming live video and commentary ahead of SpaceX's launch of the Rashid Rover and Hakuto-R moon lander to the space.

'A day to mark the future'

Today, the UAE makes another history. Rashid Rover – named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, builder of modern Dubai – is set to take off at 11.38am (UAE time) to start a 385,000km space journey to the surface of the moon.

Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai
A view of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, on the day of the launch.

This is a "day to be carved in history; a day to mark the future”, the Dubai Media Office tweeted on Saturday. It is indeed historic as the UAE is set to become country and among the first countries in the world to land a spacecraft on the Moon, after the United States, former Soviet Union and China.

Gulf News journalists at MBR Space Centre

Senior Repoter Angel Tesorero and Senior Visual Journalist Ahmed Ramzan will be sending updates from Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai on the historic lift-off.

Gulf News journalists at MBR Space Centre
Gulf News journalists at MBR Space Centre Image Credit: Gulf News/Ahmed Ramzan

Gulf News will give insights and updates of the historic moonshot that will make the UAE the first Arab nation and among the first countries in the world to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

Historic launch