By the end of summer, late August side, Bhutan’s first satellite, a CubeSat called Bhutan-1 weighing less than 2 kilograms shall be released into low earth orbit with the other CubeSats. Once released, BHUTAN-1 will become operational and can be tracked from the ground station in Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC).
BHUTAN-1 was launched at 3:42 pm on Friday, 29th June 2018 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United States of America. It was on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with other payload being sent to the International Space Station (ISS), The launch took place together with the BIRDS-2 CubeSats of the Philippines and Malaysia MAYA-1 and UiTMST-1.
The four Bhutanese space engineers – Yeshey Choden, Kiran Kumar Pradhan, Cheki Dorji and Pooja Lepcha – pursued a two-year master’s programs in space engineering at the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) and developed the satellite. The CubeSat is expected to aid in research and was built by the students as a part of their Master’s program.
MoIC Minister, Lyonpo D.N Dhungyel, said Bhutan is proud to have its first satellite launched today and the four engineers working on the project in Japan should also be proud.
The Joint Global Multi Nation Birds Satellite Project called BIRDS project is a cross border interdisciplinary satellite project for non space faring countries supported by Japan.
The BIRDS-2 CubeSats will be launched with other payloads that the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is delivering to the ISS which include research hardware, crew supplies and spare parts for the ISS.
The mission finalized for the CubeSat BHUTAN-1 includes demonstration of CubeSat’s store and forward ability, that is, collecting data from remote sensors like weather stations and downloading it to central ground station, Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) GPS technology demonstration with low power to be used in CubeSats and nanosatellites and Single Event Latch-up (SEL) detection to study the radiation effect on satellites are missions finalized for BHUTAN-1.
It will also take photographs of the homeland via two onboard cameras of 5 Megapixel (MP) and Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS), receive and send text messages from an amateur radio and broadcast to all other amateur radio within the range. Uplink and downlink will operate in 145 Megahertz (MHZ) frequency band.
BHUTAN-1 will pass around the country for 4-5 times in a day for 3 to 4 minutes and the lifespan of BHUTAN-1 is 6 to 9 months.
A Cube Sat is a miniaturized satellite for space research that is made up of multiples of 10×10×11.35 cm cubic units. Cube Sats have a mass of no more than 1.33 kilograms.
DITT earlier stated that the participating countries developed identical CubeSats and Bhutan’s Cubesat it its first satellite.
“This Project is a good opportunity for Bhutan to build, launch and operate Bhutan’s first space-borne satellite, thus paving the way for Bhutan to move forward in the field of space and satellite technology. This also marks Bhutan’s first step towards development of Bhutan’s Space Science and Technology Program, which is a vision of His Majesty the King,” said the earlier release.
After the launch, a space agency has been setup within the information and communications ministry.
Training the four space engineers, building and launching the CubeSat and building a ground station cost the government around USD 280,000.