Blast off is at 9.34am UAE time…

One small journey for man. Another giant leap for the UAE’s space programe. Yes, the United Arab Emirates is earning some more space stripes today with the news that Emirati astronaut, Dr Sultan AlNeyadi is strapping in for a journey to the International Space Station (ISS).

It was due to take place on Monday morning but due to an issue with ignition fluid — the primer for the rocket’s engines — the decision was made to call off the countdown with just two and a half minutes left on the clock. The launch was then rescheduled for this morning, Thursday March 2 at 9.34am (UAE time).

This sort of countdown interruption happens relatively frequently in astronautics — with a lot on the line, and having to juggle high risk variables – it makes sense to delay launch and play it safe, if conditions are suboptimal. Even if that also means extra expense — not least because the smallest inconsistencies can result in catastrophe.

Space 2.0

The carriage is the (very sci-fi series sounding) SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and specifically the pressurised, life-sustaining Dragon Capsule hab zone attached to the rocket.

Once safely separated from the earth’s surface AlNeyadi, along with the other members of Crew 6 (the sixth crewed operational NASA Commercial Crew flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft), will be put through some intense physical pressures in the 25-hour journey to the ISS. Particularly those moments leading up to, and during, hitting that all important escape velocity, with sustained exposure to g-forces equivalent to three times earth’s own pull.

Aboard the ISS, the team will conduct more than 200 science experiments in their 180 day orbital staycay —  with particular focuses on life and physical sciences; advanced materials; technology development; in-space production applications; and, as an inspiring touch, student-led research.

You can watch the launch live via the embedded video below.

The launch is taking place at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, USA — but will be closely monitored from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) here in Dubai. The countdown is scheduled to come to an end at 9.34am UAE time but you can watch the catch all the launch preparations on the NASA video above.


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AlNeyadi follows in the ‘giant footsteps’ of Hazza Al Mansouri, the pioneering astronaut and first Emirati in space who spent eight days on the ISS in October 2019. And further cements the UAE’s credentials as a space-forward nation.


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Sustainable space flight

Part of the attraction of the SpaceX method for space travel is that many of the components are reusable. After the stages (parts of the rocket) separate for example, Falcon 9’s first stage should return safely to the hilariously named floating droneship — ‘Just Read the Instructions’ anchored in the Atlantic Ocean.

Images: Instagram