Rashid Rover
Rashid Rover’s core scientific mission is to better understand how lunar dust and rocks vary across the moon. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE is on track to launch its lunar rover Rashid to moon in about 30 days, the chief of the country’s space agency revealed at Dubai Future Forum on Wednesday.

Speaking to Gulf News after a panel discussion at the forum, Salem Al Marri, director general, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, said the launch will happen between the window of November 9 and 15.

He confirmed that there is no change in the launch of Rashid Rover despite the deadly wrath of Hurricane Ian in Florida. The launch is scheduled to take place from the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Floria. “Nothing has changed as of now,” said Al Marri.

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai has also tweeted to congrulate the team for their efforts in develping the Rashid Rover. "We thank the team at @MBRSpaceCentre for their efforts in developing the Rashid Rover, the UAE’s first mission to the Moon. The rover has officially cleared all required tests, bringing the first Arab mission to the lunar surface one step closer. Our next stop: the Moon," he tweeted.

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Final integration

Meanwhile, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre also confirmed that Rashid rover, the UAE’s first mission to the lunar surface, has officially cleared all required tests, pushing the mission one step closer to its launch pad rollout and liftoff. Rashid Rover is now ready for the final integration process with the launch vehicle before its launch window, MBRSC announced.

Designed and developed fully by an Emirati team, the Rashid rover is the ‘world’s most compact rover’ to land on the moon.

In a statement, Al Marri congratulated the Emirates Lunar Mission (ELM) team. “Congratulations to the ELM team that worked tirelessly to get Rashid Rover ready for the launch,” he said.

“The lunar mission will engineer a new scientific reality for Emiratis and pave the way for more space exploration missions by MBRSC. This mission also exemplifies the nation's spirit of innovation and scientific progress, while also contributing to global space science research and explorations,” Al Marri added.

Rashid Rover
Rover has cleared required tests, bringing the first Arab mission to the lunar surface

Rigorous reviews

Over the last four months, the rover was exposed to a series of rigorous internal and external reviews. The reviews were designed to test out each and every one of the multitudes of systems and subsystems of the rover during the launch stage, cruise stage, and descent stage.

Beginning of the year, the ELM rover completed the assembly and first set of full functional tests of the flight model in the laboratories of MBRSC. This phase of testing included assessments of all the functionality of the hardware and software within all the possible on-surface (lunar) scenarios.

This phase also included a heavy vibration test of the model at the EDGE’s Electro-Optics Centre of Excellence (EOCE) laboratories based in Abu Dhabi.

Second phase

In the second phase, the Rashid Rover completed a series of environmental tests at Toulouse, France. This included two sections of the evaluation: the first was the final thermal and vacuum tests at the CNES labs, in which the Rover was heated and cooled to simulate the pressures and temperatures of its journey through space and on the moon's surface.

The second and last section of the environmental tests included rigorous vibration and shock checks of the flight model at Airbus facility. For this, the rover was shaken on a vibration table simulating the environment the rover will encounter during the launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as well as be subjected to the same shocks it will experience decelerating in the lunar atmosphere, the intense impact of deployment and touchdown.

The tests campaign concluded in Germany with the final phase of checks on the interfaces with the ispace lander that will safely deliver the rover to the Moon's surface. This phase also included instrument alignment checks, such as imaging systems, and a final functional test of the integrated system following the environmental campaign.

All cleared and ready

Dr. Hamad AlMarzooqi, project manager of the Emirates Lunar Mission added by saying, “MBRSC can’t wait to see the Rashid Rover begin its long-awaited flight to the moon. We are now all cleared and ready for the next step, which is the launch vehicle integration process, which is the final stage of our lunar mission before launch. The science and technology of this mission are going to help us address major questions about the geologic and surface science of the moon that we’ve been working on for years, and we’re excited to share our journey with the world.”

Built by innovative Emirati minds within the state-of-the-art laboratories of MBRSC based in the UAE, the rover is equipped with the latest technologies and a deliberated design to enable all the planned scientific research work.

The primary goal of the mission is to study the moon’s plasma and to provide answers about moon dust, the lunar surface, mobility on the moon’s surface, and how different surfaces interact with lunar particles.

ELM is one of the missions funded by the ICT Fund of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA).