Sheikh Mohammed launches ‘Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt’ - GulfToday

Sheikh Mohammed launches ‘Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt’

Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Mansour attend the launch of Emirates Mission to the Asteroid Belt in Abu Dhabi.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, affirmed that the “Emirates Project to Explore the Asteroid Belt” is a huge national scientific, research and unique global project that includes the establishment of Emirati companies specialized in space technologies, and training Emirati cadres in various fields of space and its sciences.

Sheikh Mohammed said, “Praise be to God, we launched, in Qasr Al-Watan, the scientific details of one of our most important projects in the field of space, ‘The Emirates Project to Explore the Asteroid Belt.’ The project will last 13 years... 6 years of development and 7 years of exploration. During which the Emirati vehicle, the MBR Explorer, will travel 5 billion kilometres, bypassing Mars to explore 7 asteroids, and land on the last asteroid in 2034.

Sheikh Mohammed added: A huge national scientific project, which will include the establishment of private Emirati companies in space technology, and the establishment of a ground control center for deep space missions, to operate the mission and train new Emirati cadres in this sector. The vehicle will travel 10 times more than the Hope Probe.”

Sheikh Mohammed affirmed that “the Emirates can fly far in space for five billion kilometers for one reason: it is its belief in its youth and its empowerment of its children. And whoever does not believe in the capabilities of our ambitious Emirati youth in all sectors needs to review himself and review his love and loyalty to his country.”

This came during the UAE Space Agency's announcement, at an event held in Qasr Al Watan in Abu Dhabi, the goals and full details of the Emirates mission to explore the asteroid belt, the first ever mission to study asteroids in the main belt, and it will be launched during a 3-week launch window, starting in March 2028.

While he revealed the name of the explorer, who bears the name of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid, “MBR Explorer.”

The mission aims to gain a deeper understanding of the characteristics of asteroids, their origins, composition and evolution, and to open new horizons for understanding more about the formation of our solar system.

The mission will also measure the surface composition, geology, and internal density of many asteroids in the main asteroid belt, and measure temperatures and thermophysical properties on multiple asteroids, to assess the stages of surface development and history.

The mission extends over a period of 13 years, as it is divided into 6 years to develop and design the spacecraft, and 7 years to explore the main asteroid belt, and conduct a series of close maneuvers, to collect data for the first time on seven asteroids in the main asteroid belt.

A graphic illustration shows the MBR Explorer over the Asteroid Belt.

The design of the vehicle is based on the experiences gained from the Emirates Mars Exploration Project, the “Hope Probe,” to accelerate the development of the private space sector in the Emirates and the national capabilities in innovation and advanced technological development.

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Advanced Technology, Chairperson of the Emirates Space Agency, said, “The UAE mission to explore the asteroid belt will contribute to strengthening the UAE’s strategy aimed at developing national cadres, increasing and sustaining employment opportunities in this vital sector, as well as enabling private sector companies and its local institutions, and the expansion of emerging Emirati companies, which contributes to increasing future job opportunities for youth, accelerating the growth of innovation and creating new markets in space, its technologies and sciences at the national level.

Salem Butti Salem Al Qubaisi, Director General of the Emirates Space Agency, said, “Long-term space missions require extensive cooperation with local and international institutions and the private sector, and huge capabilities in research, development and financing. We are keen to expand strategic partnerships and empower the local private sector to contribute its expertise.” And its great capabilities play a vital role in supporting the achievement of our future goals from current and future space projects and initiatives.”

The spacecraft will travel a distance of 5 billion kilometers, on an orbital journey consisting of 6 flights, to the seventh asteroid “Justitia”, which includes 3 maneuvers with the help of the gravitational force of Venus, Earth and Mars, to increase the speed of the spacecraft, and support a series of close flights that begin in February. 2030 at the asteroids “Westerwald, Camira and Rocox”, and it will continue until 2034, and will end with the last flyby near the seventh asteroid, “Justiceia”.

The mission will provide great economic opportunities in space for new startups, and will contribute to strengthening international partnerships and local investment in the space sector, creating new business opportunities, to accelerate the growth of innovation and advanced technology companies in the country, and establishing a ground control center for deep space missions in the UAE, to carry out landing operations. And follow-up, led by an Emirati operator from the private sector.

The spacecraft carries 4 advanced scientific instruments, including: a visible camera, a medium-wave infrared spectrometer, a thermal infrared spectrometer, and an infrared camera.

These instruments will measure the surface composition, geology, internal density, temperatures and thermophysical properties of many asteroids in the main asteroid belt, to assess the stages of their surface evolution and history and to better identify their water-rich origins.

A group of academic and hardware development partners are participating in the mission, including: Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi, and the National Center for Space Science and Technology at UAE University. And national institutions: the Institute of Technological Innovation, Yahsat, local and international partners from the private sector, as well as partnerships with local and international agencies, institutions and universities, such as the Italian Space Agency, the University of Colorado in the United States, and the University of Arizona in the United States.

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