“The complexity adds up,” said Mohsen al-Awadhi, the program director of the mission.
And the spacecraft has to launch within a three-week period in March 2028 to be able to make all the planned flybys. If it cannot get off the ground then, the entire mission has to be replanned, probably with new asteroid destinations.
To date, NASA, the European Space Agency, China and JAXA, the Japanese space agency, have sent robotic spacecraft to asteroids.
The United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich country that is a bit smaller in size than the state of Maine, is a newcomer to spaceflight. Two decades ago, it did not have a space program.
Today it is increasingly active in space, part of a push to jump-start a high-tech industry in the country in preparation for a future when petroleum no longer flows as plentifully. That includes sending astronauts to the International Space Station, with one, Sultan al-Neyadi, currently in orbit.
In 2009 the Emirates’ first satellite, DubaiSat-1, reached orbit. It was built in South Korea, but Emirati engineers essentially worked as apprentices at the satellite manufacturer. Nine years later, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in Dubai built KhalifaSat, an Earth-observing satellite, without foreign help.