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UAE's Hope Mars orbiter nails first big maneuver in deep space

The United Arab Emirates' first-ever interplanetary spacecraft, Hope, has nailed its initial post-launch course correction, pointing the mission toward Mars for its February arrival.

Hope launched on July 19, the first of a trio of Mars-bound spacecraft to take advantage of a three-week window of opportunity to head toward our tricky neighbor. And the UAE announced yesterday (Aug. 17) that the spacecraft had successfully completed its first post-launch trajectory correction maneuver, or TCM1, which required firing up Hope's engines for the first time.

"TCM1 was a major milestone for us, not only because it is the first time we have deployed the spacecraft's Delta-V thrusters, but also because it defines our path to cruise to Mars," Omran Sharaf, project director for the mission, said in a statement emailed to Space.com. "Hope has exceeded our expectations and is now on target to reach its Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI), requiring less adjustment to its course than we had originally planned."

Related: The United Arab Emirates' Hope mission to Mars in photos

An image of the six thrusters on the UAE's Hope spacecraft, which executed the mission's first trajectory correction toward Mars in August. (Image credit: Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre)

The spacecraft will complete another half dozen trajectory corrections between now and its arrival at Mars in early February 2021. Once it arrives at the Red Planet, Hope will get to work studying the Martian atmosphere and climate for one Mars year (nearly two Earth years).

"We are delighted with the performance of the Mars Hope probe to date and are now well on our way to achieving our goal of reaching the Red Planet and commencing our science mission." Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Space Agency, said in the statement. "Every new challenge, every first we achieve on the journey, is an incredible accomplishment for the team — and a step nearer to delivering on our mission objectives."

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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