Dubai: The UAE has successfully launched its fourth reconnaissance satellite, Falcon Eye 2, on Wednesday at 5.33am (UAE time) aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket that lifted off from Guiana Space Centre, a French and European Space Agency spaceport in French Guiana, South America.
Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and chair of the UAE Space Agency, tweeted on Wednesday: “Today, the Falcon Eye 2 satellite was successfully launched from French Guiana aboard the Soyuz rocket. A new achievement is added to the UAE’s record in the field of earth observation. We congratulate all those involved in the success of the project.”
Falcon Eye 2 is part of the Falcon Eye satellite system, a programme where two identical satellites were manufactured for the UAE Armed Forces by the consortium of Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space. The previous one, Falcon Eye 1, that was launched in July last year, got lost in space after the European Vega rocket that carried it deviated from its orbit two minutes after blast off.
The launch of Falcon Eye 2 was also delayed a few times due to bad weather and COVID-19 pandemic. Mission managers scrubbed two previous launch attempts on Sunday and Monday due to poor weather and a problem with telemetry reception at a ground tracking station.
On Wednesday, Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace SA, Falcon Eye’s commercial launch service provider, confirmed that Falcon Eye is in the targeted orbit.
“Designed for a 10-year mission, the Falcon Eye 2 satellite will collect high-resolution images for downlink to the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates. With global coverage, the spacecraft gives the UAE an independent source of space-based surveillance data for use in military campaigns, intelligence analysis, and strategic planning,” according to Arianespace.
Falcon Eye’s mission
The satellite weighs approximately 1,190kg and will be placed in a Sun-synchronous orbit at 611km from the Earth. ‘Falcon Eye’ features a High-Resolution Imager (HiRI) imaging system with a ground resolution of 70cm across a 20km swath.
The images sent by Falcon Eye 2 will be used in mapping, agricultural monitoring, urban planning, urban regulation, natural disaster prevention and management, monitoring of changes in the environment, desertification, as well as monitoring of the UAE’s borders and coasts. The satellite also serves the armed forces in providing high-resolution images and maps to help them achieve their tasks efficiently and professionally, said WAM in an earlier statement.