BHUTAN1 to be launched this year

BHUTAN1 is a satellite developed by four Bhutanese engineers undergoing their Masters in Japan

Bhutan’s first satellite, BHUTAN1, developed by four Bhutanese engineers as part of their Masters program in Laboratory of Spacecraft Environment and Interaction Engineering at Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan, will be launched into space later this year.

The 1.5-kg CubeSat satellite with two cameras and antennae is capable of collecting data like images of weather and landscapes from the ground stations.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, Pooja Lepcha, a civil engineer from the College of Science and Technology in Gaeddu said that with the success of BHUTAN1, she is more confident. She has a role in developing the ground station terminal, a remote station from where the data is gathered and transmitted to the satellite. “After this, we can add high resolution cameras,” she said.

Though, CubeSat cannot be a real-time alarm system, it can be used for data collection to record and model. Pooja Lepcha said that the GST will be developed at Kyutech and brought to Bhutan for implementation.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan, 27, an electronic and communication engineer said that this new venture into satellite development is a novel experience which has enhanced his confidence. “This has enabled a developing nation like ours to venture into space. We can do more, we have the potential,” he said, “All disciplines of engineering can be applied to satellite development.”

Meanwhile, Yeshi Choden, a 25-year old space program graduate from Singapore who has a civil engineering background said the initiative worked out only because everyone involved worked with total devotion. “It is not difficult to develop a satellite with available courses in Japan. But we have to work in close collaboration with the parent department in Bhutan. The only hitch was we had to start from the beginning,” she said.

Cheki Dorji, another engineer doing his Masters in space engineering also said that the country has now proved capable of developing a satellite and has resources too. “It is a good start and we can go miles,” he said, adding that if the authorities prioritize, another satellite can be developed.

Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay during his visit to CST earlier this week said that the success of developing BHUTAN1 has proved Bhutanese capable of developing a satellite. “It is just a question of whether we do it or not,” he said.

He added that the satellite can be used in gathering information on weather and agriculture across the country for development planning.

BHUTAN1 is in line with Bhutan’s participation in the second joint global multi-nations BIRDS Project called BIRDS-2, along with Malaysia and the Philippines, initiated by Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan. Eleven members from the three countries comprise the group working on the satellite.

The project commenced in 2016 as a result of His Majesty The King’s vision for Bhutan’s venture into space science and technology. Each government has paid around US$ 0.2mn for the development of the CubeSat satellite.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing