Hope Probe reaches Japanese Island
Hope Probe in Japan Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: After two postponements, a new launch date for the UAE’s Hope Mars mission has yet to be announced but it was tentatively set to take place between July 20 and 22.

The launch of the Hope Probe has been delayed due to unstable weather at launch site in Japan. In the meantime, the UAE Space Agency and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) tweeted on Thursday the launch criteria of the H-IIA Rocket that will carry Hope Probe to space.

Peak wind should be 20.9m/s (75.24kph) and the amount of rainfall on launch day should be below 8mm/hour.

There should also be no cumulonimbus clouds or dense, towering vertical clouds associated with thunder storms and heavy precipitation in flight trajectory.

Atmospheric discharge (electrical discharge in air) should not be present in the flight trajectory and there should be no lightning within 10km radius of launch site at Tanegashima Island in Japan.

There should also be no lighting within 20km of the rocket’s flight plan.

When is the launch?

Fair weather is crucial for the safe and successful launch of spacecrafts. The launch of Hope Probe was twice scrubbed or delayed this week – first on July 15 then on July 17 - due to continued thunderstorms, clouds and unstable weather conditions on Tanegashima Island.

“The launch is now scheduled to take place between July 20 and 22, 2020, depending on improved weather. The precise time of the launch will be confirmed in due course,” the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) tweeted on Thursday.

Why is it raining in Japan?

Japan is currently under rainy season, which starts from June and lasts until mid July. A lot of rainfall takes place during this period, including intense downpours.

Hope Probe was originally scheduled for launch on July 15, 2020 at 12:51am (UAE time) from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC), but storm clouds rolled in around the launch pad ahead of the scheduled liftoff. A new launch date is yet to be announced.

When will the weather improve?

Based on a weather forecast by Japan Meteorological Agency, it will be cloudy with occasional scattered showers around Kagoshima Prefecture, where Tanegashima Island is part of, until Sunday.

Weather, however, is expected to improve by Monday (July 20), when it will be sunny but mostly cloudy. The probability of precipitation or chance of rain is at 30 per cent on July 20 that will decline to 20 per cent by Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wind gust is from a low of 7-11km/h on Monday morning up to 20-27 km/hr at 9pm (Japan time) on July 20.

Journey to Mars

Hope Probe will lift off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC). It will be carried by a H-IIA rocket manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).

This will be the 42nd launch for MHI since 2001. The H-IIA rocket can reach a launch speed of up to 34,082kph and has a 97.6 per cent successful launch rate.

While waiting for the launch date, the first Arab interplanetary spacecraft is safely placed inside the payload fairing or the top protective cone of the launch vehicle.

The H-IIA rocket, meanwhile, is inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, a TNSC facility that is a short distance away from the launch pad.

Omran Sharaf, EMM Hope Probe project manager, is confident there is still enough time to launch Hope Probe within the so-called launch window, which is until August 3, 2020.

The launch window or the period when Earth and Mars are closest to each other is open until August 3, 2020. Hope Probe must be launched within this time to take advantage of the shortest period and least amount of energy needed to reach Mars orbit.

On launch day, Hope Probe will take-off toward the east, on a trajectory that takes it over the Pacific Ocean. As the rocket accelerates away from the Earth, the solid rocket boosters are expended, followed by jettisoning the fairing once it is no longer needed to protect the Hope Probe from the Earth’s atmosphere.

Once the first stage is completed, the rocket is jettisoned and put into the Earth’s orbit. It stays in the Earth’s orbit until the exact alignment with Mars is achieved after which it is reignited to push it on a trajectory towards Mars