The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, has announced the completion of its commissioning and testing phase and its readiness for transition to its science orbit. The completion of testing is ahead of schedule and the transition to science manoeuvres will take place earlier than planned.
Speaking about the development, EMM Project Director Omran Sharaf, said: “We have completed twenty-one orbits of Mars since we arrived at the Red Planet on the evening of February 9. In that time, we’ve been busy calibrating the Hope probe’s three instruments, commissioning and testing the spacecraft’s instrumentation subsystems and using every opportunity to gather data while we’ve been in our capture orbit.”
The Hope probe’s elliptical capture orbit sees it travelling as close to Mars’ planetary surface as 1,063 kilometres and as far away as 42,461 kilometres. The probe has so far captured over 825 images of Mars using its three instruments, generating some 30 Gbits of novel data on Mars’ atmospheric makeup.
EMM Science Lead Hessa Al Matroushi, added: “We have already amassed a library of some 280,000 spectra of Mars using the Emirates Mars Infrared Spectrometer (EMIRS) alone. We have also been able to take a range of highly detailed images of the planet using our imager, helped by the fact that when we’re at the closest point in our orbit, we’re on the sunny side of Mars. We’re very excited indeed now to be moving to our science orbit and starting the flow of planetary data we aim to gather over the coming Martian year.”
The Hope probe will commence the first of two planned Transition to Science Manoeuvres (TSMs) on March 22, with a second on April 6. A third manoeuvre, originally planned by the team, is not expected to be required.
Sharaf added: “Our Mars Orbit Insertion was highly successful and precisely targeted and this has allowed us to plan a reduction in TSMs and also to move to our science orbit ahead of schedule. We will commence science data gathering earlier in April than we had originally planned and I think it’s fair to say there is huge excitement now in our science team and among Mars scientists around the world.”
Hope has a planned 20,000 – 43,000 km elliptical science orbit, with an inclination to Mars of 25 degrees. The probe will complete one orbit of the planet every 55 hours and will capture a full planetary data sample every nine days.
EMM and the Hope probe are the culmination of a knowledge transfer and development effort started in 2006, which has seen Emirati engineers working with partners around the world to develop the UAE’s spacecraft design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Hope is a fully autonomous spacecraft, carrying three instruments to measure Mars’ atmosphere. Weighing some 1,350 kg, and approximately the size of a small SUV, the spacecraft was designed and developed by MBRSC engineers working with academic partners, including LASP at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Arizona State University and the University of California, Berkeley.
The Emirates Mars Mission will study the Martian atmosphere, the relationship between the upper layer and lower layer and, for the first time, scientists globally will have full access to a holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day, through different seasons.
The Hope Probe’s historic journey to the Red Planet coincides with a year of celebrations to mark the UAE’s Golden Jubilee.