UAE scientists’ team with Falcon Eye 1 preparing for launch
The Space Agency of the UAE says that it will come back stronger to continue its ambitious space programme with the launch of launch Falcon Eye 2 soon. File photo Image Credit: WAM

Dubai: The loss of the Falcon Eye 1 satellite last week will not deter the UAE from pursuing its ambitious space programme but will propel it to soar higher with its Falcon Eye 2 launch “very soon”, a senior official said.

Falcon Eye 1 suffered a ‘major anomaly’ two minutes after lift-off during its launch to space on Thursday morning at the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana.

The UAE’s fourth reconnaissance satellite was the payload of the Vega Launch vehicle Flight VV15, the second Vega launch this year at the Guiana Space Centre.

Tracking data showed the Vega rocket’s velocity decreasing after a launcher anomaly occurred. It then deviated from its planned flight path, before falling into the Atlantic Ocean north of the space centre, according to Spaceflight Now.

Dr Mohammad Al Ahbabi, Director-General of the UAE Space Agency, deemed the loss as a challenge and is optimistic about the UAE’s upcoming space missions.

“The loss of UAE (Falcon eye 1) satellite due to (Vega) rocket failure, reminds us that space is hard and challenging,” Dr Al Ahbabi said in a tweet on Saturday night.

“But this is why the UAE has an ambitious space programme. We will come back very soon with Falcon Eye 2 stronger than ever before,” he said.

Dr Al Ahbabi said the UAE Falcon Space Progamme is characterised by maturity, proper planning and modern management. The programme ensures for the two Falcon Eyes to work together if the other encounters a problem or for one to work independently of the other.

“The loss of the Falcon Eye 1 does not mean the end. There is the second satellite, which will be launched by the end of this year… They are designed to operate alone or together.”

The Falcon Eye programme has two identical reconnaissance satellite under it that are scheduled for launch this year. Both satellites are in Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) which means they will travel from pole to pole to take images as the Earth rotates.

Each satellite features an Earth observation payload, with very-high-resolution optical capabilities of 70cm resolution across 20km swathe. It is also equipped with a ground system for monitoring, receiving and processing the images.

Once in orbit at 611km above Earth, Emirati engineers will control and operate the 1,197kg-satellite to support the UAE’s Armed Forces and provide images to the commercial market.

The exact date of the Falcon Eye 2’s launch has not been announced yet but it could be scheduled after the completion of the investigation being conducted on the Flight VV15 mission.

The European Space Agency and Arianespace had appointed a third-party body to “analyse the reasons for the Flight VV15 failure and define measures needed to ensure the resumption of Vega flights while fulfilling all requisite safety and security conditions”.

They also noted that Flight VV15 was the first Vega failure after 14 successful launches.