A historic Mars launch has been delayed again by troublesome weather conditions at the launch site.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is eager to launch its first-ever interplanetary mission, a Red Planet orbiter dubbed Hope. But the mission's launch site, Japan's Tanegashima Space Center, has been struggling with poor weather conditions throughout the launch window, which opened on Tuesday (July 14). The Hope Mars orbiter will launch on a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket to begin its trip to the Red Planet.
The UAE Space Agency is now targeting a launch between July 19 and July 21, according to statements from the mission team. (The launch would occur between July 20 and July 22 local time at the launch site due to time zones.)
According to another statement from the Hope Mars Mission's Twitter account, the H-IIA rocket on which the spacecraft is launching requires peak winds below 70 feet per second (21 meters per second), with very little rainfall, and no cumulonimbus clouds, atmospheric discharge or lightning along the flight path. More dramatic weather could send a rocket off course or make it a target for lightning strikes.
Personnel with the rocket company, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the Hope mission are continuing to monitor the weather at Tanegashima and will later announce a specific launch time within the new dates.
A Mars 'Hope': The UAE's 1st interplanetary spacecraft aims to make history
Why did the launch date of the #HopeProbe change? #HopeMarsMission pic.twitter.com/V2qHixX1N6July 16, 2020
The Hope mission needs to launch by Aug. 3, local time, in order to make it to Mars this year. If weather continues to interfere, the spacecraft will need to wait 26 months before the trajectories of Earth and Mars are again favorable for a launch.
Ironically given the cause of the delays, the Hope mission's job is to study weather and atmosphere on the Red Planet, offering scientists their first global view of how weather on Mars changes over the daily and seasonal cycle.
Email Meghan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
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Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.