Young Emiratis team leads the preparations for the country's first space mission to explore Mars.
Gulf Today, Staff Reporter
As the launch of the ‘Hope Probe’ prepares for the liftoff at 00:51:27 UAE time on Wednesday 15 July 2020 from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan, the young Emirati team continues the monitoring, tests and final checks to prepare the Probe for launch, capping six years of scientific and logistical efforts to complete the Emirates Mars Mission.
The Emirati team is working round-the-clock to complete the preparations according to a strictly defined schedule, and a set of related test tasks spread over 50 working days, which the team members multitask and accomplish to adhere to the launch date, overcoming all logistical and technical obstacles including overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic scare.
While the launch date of 15 July, 2020 has been set, the launch window for the Hope Probe runs till 3 August, 2020, after accurate scientific calculations of the Earth and Mars orbits, in order to facilitate the successful arrival of the Probe on the Mars orbit in the shortest possible timeframe and the lowest energy consumption. Since the arrival of the Probe at the launch station in Japan, the UAE team has continued to test all the spacecraft’s functions, including communication, software, navigation, remote control and driving systems, as well as power and probe propulsion systems.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine and health regulations in place, the EMM team working on the Mission is divided into three sub-teams – considering the challenges on transportation, travel, logistics and adhering to the health procedures. While the first set of team members reached Japan on 6 April and underwent the mandatory quarantine and health checks, the second team arrived on 21 April. The third team is still in the UAE, offering the necessary back-up support to the Mission.
Talking about the mission, Eng. Suhail Al Mheiri said: “We are an integrated team of engineers within the inspection, integration and systems engineering team. As the deputy project manager, it is my responsibility to ensure that the launch vehicle is ready and all communications systems with the ground control are in place. We are working on the project with a unified team spirit and unlimited ambition and passion. The Hope Probe is a testimony to the capabilities of the UAE and the Arab world to accomplish mega projects and important scientific missions.”
Suhail joined MBRSC soon after its foundation as the Emirates Institute for Advanced Sciences in 2006 as a Research Engineer in the Space System Development Department, working on the development of Payload Electronics of DubaiSat-1 and going on to become a Payload System and Electronics Design Engineer.
In 2013, he became the Space System Section Head, managing four engineering units: system engineering; mechanical manufacture; assembly and integration and electronics manufacture. These teams worked on the development of KhalifaSat. In 2014, he became EMM Deputy Project Manager and Spacecraft Lead, responsible for the spacecraft technical design and development as well as engineering teams. He obtained his Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering from the American University of Sharjah in 2006 and his Master’s in Aerospace Engineering (Space Systems) from the University of Daejeon in South Korea in 2013.
Engineer Omar Al-Shehhi from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, said: “From the onset of the project, we began working on the designs of electrical and mechanical ground equipment, starting with planning tests on the satellite, and the environments that the Probe faces at different stages, such as the vibrations resulting from the launch environment, high and low thermal environment in space, and the assembly and installation of the probe in coordination with different teams.
He added: “After receiving the Probe in Japan, the first thing we prepared was the ground testing equipment to ensure that it was not affected as a result of the shipping process. We continue to test the ground control to ensure that the Probe can communicate with the station and exchange data and coordinates, especially as the project plans to share the information to more than 200 scientific institutions and research centres.”
Omar heads the assembly and integration unit at MBRSC, planning, evolving and conducting test procedures and plans for complex systems in spacecraft development. He previously worked as an Avionics engineer with Emirates Airline, and he holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering management from Dubai Men’s College, and a master’s degree in Engineering Management from Abu Dhabi University.
Weight, Mass and Movement
Mohammad Omran Al Ameri, Ground Support Engineer, said: “I joined the Probe Hope project in 2016 with a task to make sure that the probe’s systems are correctly integrated and assembled. I also helped design and make ground support equipment, such as the equipment that help integrate scientific devices on the probe to control its movement and direction accurately.”
He added: “We moved the probe after receiving it in Japan and installed mechanical equipment. We then measured its weight and central mass before and after refueling to make sure it’s ready. I also helped prepare the solar panels on the mechanical level and how they can be correctly folded in low and high temperatures since the probe will face both types of temperatures.”
Khalifa Al Mheiri, Satellite Telecommunications Engineer and Communication Subsystem Lead said: “I worked since 2016 within the Probe communications design group to ensure the integrity of communication throughout its journey from Earth to Mars. This is important for receiving all information from the Probe and sending orders to it from the earth station.”
He added: “The frequency and the communication wave must be calculated precisely along with the electromagnetic radiations especially since the process of sending or receiving communication data with the Probe takes anywhere from 13 to 20 minutes due to the distance. We designed communications systems that make the data work within the correct frequency and at the correct speed to comply with the international standards approved by the International Telecommunication Union.”
Khalifa joined MBRSC as a Satellite Telecommunications Engineer, going on to head the Communications Unit of the space engineering department at MBRSC in 2018. He was involved in the design and analysis of the communications subsystem, developing test procedures and scripts for performance testing and issues analysis and management on the probe. Khalifa graduated from the American University of Sharjah with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering.
Dreams, Ambition and Dedication
Heyam Alblooshi, Manufacturing, Assembly, Integration and Test (MAIT) and Quality Assurance Engineer, said: “The Hope Probe is more than its scientific goals; it’s a testament to the UAE’s readiness to tackle challenges and proves to be the ideal incubator for youth by inspiring them to follow their dreams. The Hope Probe project was developed by a group of diligent and enthusiastic Emiratis who achieved it in record time, and our wise government has provided opportunities to excel in all fields. It represents an Emirati contribution to benefit all humanity.”
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Heyam graduated from Khalifa University in 2011, she was one of eight female students to graduate from mechanical engineering department with honors. Heyam received a research fellowship after graduation from NASA at the Ames Research Center in California where she worked for five months on the development and improvement of grey water filtration system used in space and earth applications. Upon her return to the UAE, she joined GASCO to work in the Ruwais Fractionation Plant as a Planning Engineer. This made her the first female engineer alumna to work full time in an
The Hope Probe
The Hope Probe is a national project that achieves the vision of the UAE’s wise leadership to build an Emirati space program that reflects the country’s commitment to international cooperation and partnership and finding solutions to global challenges for the better of humanity. The Hope Probe, which is the first Arab interplanetary mission, carries a message of hope for all the people of the region to revive a rich history of Arab and Islamic achievements in science and embody the UAE’s ambition and its continuous drive to challenge and overcome the impossible and nurture this culture in the country’s citizens. It is also the UAE’s contribution to shaping and making a promising future for humanity.
The probe is expected to reach Mars’ orbit in February 2021 to coincide with the UAE’s celebrations of its golden jubilee.
The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, announced the scheduled launch of its Mars Hope Probe in a 495,000,000km journey to reach and orbit the Red Planet.
The cost of the Hope Mars Mission reached US$ 200 million (Dhs735 million), which is considered among the lowest in the world when compared with similar programmes.
Achieving a critical milestone in its readiness for launch, the Emirates Mars Mission - Hope Probe spacecraft was encapsulated within the payload fairing ahead of its liftoff from the Tanegashima Space Centre (TNSC), in Japan on July 15, 2020.
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