The Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has announced the scheduled launch date for the first mission of the Payload Hosting Initiative – PHI-Demo. Earmarked for lift-off on June 27 at 3:34 pm UAE time, the programme’s maiden mission, PHI-Demo, is set to ascend the skies from Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome aboard the Soyuz-2 rocket.
This initiative, jointly led by MBRSC and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), is at the forefront of global collaborations, providing space access and hastening the sustainable progression of novel space technologies. The programme’s design provides a cost-efficient and effective pathway for the first-time assessment of emerging space technologies in their true operational environment – in space.
Following rigorous environmental and flight review assessments, the state-of-the-art 12U modular satellite platform is primed for launch, carrying two partner technology payloads onboard.
The advanced IoT communication payload is engineered by OQ Technology, a UAE-based start-up under MBRSC’s Space Ventures initiative. It enables the storage and forwarding of data collected from IoT devices in remote areas, industries, and autonomous vehicles, utilising state-of-the-art 5G technology.
The satellite platform incorporates a revolutionary green propulsion subsystem developed by SteamJet from the United Kingdom. This subsystem employs water as the primary propellant, ensuring a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to space propulsion.
Commenting on the first mission of PHI, Salem Humaid AlMarri, Director General, MBRSC, said: “MBRSC is boldly charting new frontiers as we broaden our missions and programmes. Our aspiration is to permeate various sectors in the UAE and beyond with cutting-edge space technology, accelerating the realisation of our nation’s visionary goals. The upcoming launch of PHI-Demo, our first endeavour under the Payload Hosting Initiative initiated last year, is a significant milestone on this journey. We are not just reaching for the stars; we are building bridges to them.”
Zakaria Al Shamsi, Project manager of Payload Hosting Initiative, MBRSC, added: “PHI-Demo is an innovative initiative, the first of its kind in the region, designed to escort our partner entities’ payloads to space while extending operational support. This mission not only serves as our trail for all forthcoming PHI missions but also holds significant value as a programme that will be beneficial for a lot of organisations and entities within the region. The programme and the PHI missions will empower our partners to actualise their space ambitions, thereby catalysing a push for an advanced tomorrow.”
The anticipated launch of the Soyuz-2 rocket, carrying PHI-Demo, is slated to occur within the given window of 3:34 pm UAE Time. The first major milestone of the launch, the separation stage, will initiate a two-hour countdown for the dedicated team at the MBRSC ground station to establish the first signal from PHI-Demo. This critical first connection serves as a health check for the modular satellite, confirming its resilience after withstanding the intense turbulence of the launch.
Twenty-four hours post reaching its orbital position, which is at an altitude of about 550 km, PHI-Demo will mark another significant milestone, the establishment of the second communication with the satellite, operated from the labs of partner universities – American University RAK and Khalifa University. The successful inception of this communication will confirm the successful launch of the mission.
Post successful launch, a meticulously planned five-day period has been allotted for this critical phase, during which the MBRSC technical team will maintain daily, precise 10-minute communications as the PHI-Demo traverses above the UAE. These moments of connectivity allow MBRSC to execute operating commands that initiate and establish a robust line of communication with the payload.
Upon successful completion of the five days, the team will embark on payload operations, a collaborative endeavour between MBRSC, Khalifa University, and the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. Command operations will be expertly handled from the ground stations located within the university campus, with the university’s faculty members leading the operation. This mission is key, as its results will profoundly shape the future PHI endeavours.