China Loses UAE As Lunar Mission Partner

An agreement for a United Arab Emirates (UAE) rover to fly on China’s Chang’e-7 lunar mission has reportedly been impacted by US export control rules.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Published: 24th Mar 2023 16:28 GMT
Written by: Zac Aubert

An agreement for a United Arab Emirates (UAE) rover to fly on China’s Chang’e-7 lunar mission has reportedly been impacted by US export control rules.

A memorandum of understanding was signed in September 2022 for the UAE's Rashid II rover to fly on the Chinese lunar lander Chang’e-7 mission; However, US government’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) prohibits the sale or export of certain defense-related components, technologies, and software, may now be restricting this partnership.

ITAR is designed to limit access to sensitive US made components, which restricts China's role in the global launch market and hinders cooperation. Some components developed to be ITAR-free have enabled collaboration between entities in China and Europe. China has also been providing turnkey space solutions to developing nations, offering launch services, spacecraft, and ground support, among other things, in an effort to circumvent ITAR restrictions.

Netiher the UAE or China have confirmed the ending of the agreement but when confirmed, will be a major blow to China’s efforts to attract partners for its lunar exploration plans, including its construction of an International Lunar Research Station in the 2030s. The loss of the Rashid II rover means a further 10 kilograms of payload will be available on the Chang’e-7 lander.

Chinese officials disclosed that they have narrowed down potential landing sites to Shackleton crater and the nearby Shoemaker crater at the lunar south pole, after previously considering a broader range of potential locations. The exact site for landing has yet to be determined.

NASA is also considering the possibility of landing at Shackleton for the Artemis 3 mission, and there are some overlapping potential landing sites that have been identified by both China and NASA in the past.

In order to support its upcoming lunar far side sample return mission, Chang'e-6, and the lunar south pole landing mission, Chang'e-7, China has planned to launch a relay satellite in 2024.

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