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  • Allistair Mitchell

Tales from the Edict 23 - First Launches for the Cartel

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

In 2028, following the founding of LOPEC, the UAE took the leadership role in the fledgling organisation with the rapid delivery of a number of deep space exploration missions using autonomous unmanned craft. These vehicles had been quietly commissioned and developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) and the UAE Space Agency (UAESA) in partnership along with a number of US universities, notably the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, with support from Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of California, Berkeley, which had been involved in the original Hope mission. Sharing the same core design and propulsion units, each of the satellites were tasked with specific goals. The first Ocean was launched in November 2028 from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan and controlled from UAE.

Weighing 2192kg (4832lbs) Ocean was one of two surveillance probes sent to Jupiter the other being Altair (2034) in 2034. This second vehicle was more than twice the size, at 5201kg (11466lbs) and as well as a raft of surveillance roles Altair could operate as an automated orbital platform, deploying the small atmospheric flyer Tooley designed to skim Jupiter’s exosphere to collect and return samples for analysis. Fitted with a nuclear primary power source, in 2036 Ocean made a successful rendezvous with Altair and residual fuel from the latter’s hydrogen fuel cell was transferred via Tooley (named for its ability to reconfigure for multiple functions). This will enable Ocean to continue in operation past 2040.

The second launch was the remote sensing orbiter Venture (2029) scheduled to make the 18-month transit to Saturn, but its journey was interrupted to study several Greek asteroids with a flyby of selected smaller iron meteorites. Venture (5312kg, 11710lbs) arrived in orbit in early 2031 and began a similar mission as that of Altair, releasing a pair of atmospheric flyers Bo and Peep to study the upper atmosphere and the rings, respectively. Both larger satellites were launched by SpaceX because of their size.

In 2030 LOPEC launched the third chronological mission, this time the 2286kg (5040lbs) Azure lifted off from Japan aboard a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA launch vehicle. The 120-month gravity assist route is expected to deliver Azure into orbit around Neptune in 2040. The satellite continues to function normally and sent outstanding images of Uranus as it passed close by, picking up additional speed for the final leg of its journey.

Five years behind Azure and following a different route is Wisdom the largest satellite launched by LOPEC to date. At 5859kg (12,917lbs) Wisdom is a set up like Venture, with a pair of atmospheric flyers Al-Kindi and IbnTufail (1,101kg and 921kg), themselves the equivalent of sub-satellites. Ibn Tufail is expected to make a survey of Neptune’s moon in 2041 to 2044.

As of 2040 LOPEC had come from a position of nowhere to be the leading solar surveyor organisation. Most of this information remains proprietary and a closely guarded secret, much to the anger of the wider astronomy and scientific community.

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