190831 sheikh Mohammed
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Image Credit: Twitter

The UAE has launched a new space mission to explore Venus and 7 asteroids in the solar system, in the latest in a series of missions that fall under the projects of the 50.

The new project was announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

On his twitter page, Sheikh Mohammed said: “The UAE launched today a new space mission to explore Venus and 7 other asteroids in the solar system. We will also out the first Arab landing on an asteroid at the end of the 3.6 billion km journey (7 times the Hope Probe trip to Mars).

“Our space journey is still at early stages and our missions will not stop. We have projects to develop space scientists, astronauts, and spacecraft. A third of the stars in the sky had Arab names because Arabs were pioneers in astronomy. Our mission will resume our Arab civilization and if we don't act today, when will we do?” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, lauded the new mission, said that the UAE is determined to make a meaningful contribution to space exploration.

“The launch of a new project to explore Venus and the asteroid belt sets an ambitious new goal for our country’s burgeoning space programme. The UAE is determined to make a meaningful contribution to space exploration, scientific research and our understanding of the solar system,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said: "This new mission tests and extends the capabilities of Emirati youth in achieving Zayed’s ambition to explore space. We are certain that our talented local engineers, academic and research institutions, which have so far made quantum leaps in developing our space sector, are well equipped to take on this daring new challenge.”

The scientific mission to explore Venus and the asteroid belt will take 5 years, extending from 2028 to 2033. The new project includes sending a spacecraft that will take 7 years to develop and be ready for launch at the beginning of 2028.

Using gravity for speed

The spacecraft will undertake a 3.6 billion-kilometre, five-year journey, which will see it perform gravity assist manoeuvres by orbiting first Venus, then Earth in order to build the velocity required in order to reach the main asteroid belt, located beyond Mars. Its trajectory around Venus will see it reaching a solar proximity of 109 million kilometres, requiring substantial thermal protection and a furthest distance from the sun of 448 million kilometres, requiring high levels of insulation and spacecraft operation with minimal levels of available solar energy.

The UAE project is the fourth in the world to explore Venus and the asteroid belt, and will carry out the fourth global landing on an asteroid 560 million kilometers from Earth in the solar system. The new project is slated to enhance the country’s scientific development and consolidate its position in space exploration.

Most complex mission

Sarah Al Amiri, Chair of the UAE Space Agency, said: “Our goal is clear: to accelerate the development of innovation and knowledge-based enterprises in the Emirates. This can’t be done by going steady-state, this requires leaps in imagination, in faith and the pursuit of goals that go beyond prudent or methodical. When we embarked on the Emirates Mars Mission, we took on a six-year task that was in the order of five times more complex than the earth observation satellites we were developing. This mission is in the order of five times more complex than EMM.”

The mission is to be developed in partnership with the Laboratory for Atmospheric Science and Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. LASP was the primary knowledge transfer partner for EMM, bringing over seventy years’ experience in spacecraft and instrumentation design and development and helping advise, train and develop the team of Emirati engineers, software developers and scientists who worked on EMM, many of whom will go on to work on this new mission.