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China’s Chang’e-7 mission to the moon’s south pole will launch the UAE rover

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The letter of intent was signed on September 16th by H.E. MBRSC Executive Director Salem Humaid Almari and his CNSA Deputy Administrator Wu Yanhua provide the first example of his two collaborations for space missions.

The United Arab Emirates will fly a Rashid 2 rover on China’s Chang’e 7 lunar landing mission in 2026, according to an agreement between the two countries.

Chang’e 7 is a multi-spacecraft mission that includes an orbiter, lander, rover, and a small repeater lander to study Shadow Crater. Surface spacecraft are supported by relay satellites operating in an inclined and highly elliptical lunar orbit. The mission will also carry a small UAE rover being developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) in Dubai. So far, no vehicle specifications have been announced.

The United Arab Emirates plans to launch rover Rashid 1, named after the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum of Dubai, later this year on a Falcon 9 rocket. The 10-kilogram rover will be carried by the Hakuto-R lander developed by the Japanese company ispace.

The United Arab Emirates has signed the US-led Artemis Accords, which aim to establish common principles for responsible behavior on the Moon, but does not prohibit cooperation with other parties. However, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which restricts and controls the export of technology, could pose another problem for the production of the Rashid 2 rover. China opened up the Chang’e 7 mission to potential partners for small rovers in June 2021 when it announced a roadmap for an international lunar research station in partnership with Russia.

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China has already landed her two lander missions, Chang’e 3 and Chang’e 4, on the far side and far side of the moon. In 2020, it also conducted a complex lunar sample return mission with Chang’e 5. The next scheduled lunar mission is Chang’e 6, which will attempt to collect samples from the south pole of the Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon. However, the landing site is expected to be at a similar latitude as Chang’e 5 and not near the lunar south pole. Chang’e 3, 4, and 5 all settled in the latitude in the mid-1940s, suggesting that the spacecraft were designed for the local light conditions.

Different solar array designs will be needed for the Chang’e-7 spacecraft to function in the harsh sunlight conditions at the lunar south pole. A fourth phase of Chinese lunar exploration, known as Chang’e-6, 7 and 8, is scheduled for launch this decade. These missions are referred regarded as the ILRS’s forerunners.

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