India-Bhutan SAT to be operational for few more months

The India-Bhutan SAT (INS-2B) which was launched on November 26, 2022 with an operational life span of 6 months, which has a design life span of 6 months will continue to operate for an additional few more months.

An official from the Government Technology (GoVTech) Agency said, “Although the design life is 6 months, the satellite is still operational and is expected to be operational for another few more months.”

In addition, the official said that post launch of the satellite, initial operation and configuration commenced at the ground station and was established for INS-2B imaging downlink at GovTech with support from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).

GovTech in partnership with the ISRO inaugurated the joint satellite ground station on March this year as an instrumental in building Bhutan’s capabilities in leveraging space technology so to overcome challenges such as rugged mountains, deep valleys, and dense forests for easy delivery of essential services and with the hope that Bhutan will be able to utilize remote sensing technology to overcome such challenges and accelerate the journey to become a developed nation.

Since then, according to the GovTech official, the agency has been carrying out daily operation and monitoring of INS-2B including downloading of image data from the Nano-MX camera (primary payload) onboard INS-2B.

With the launch of the satellite in November, 2022, it is also said that the satellite image data will also be used for applications such as forest canopy mapping, human settlement growth, landslide studies and rooftop solar power potential estimation by the remote sensing group, amongst others. 

For instance, the official said that the satellite images received from India-Bhutan SAT was used and the remote sensing group were able to conduct landslide mapping of weak geological areas, particularly the South Western part of Bhutan, urban settlement mapping of Thimphu and solar potential assessment of Samtse, amongst others.

“The studies were carried out to understand the applicability and use of satellite images for various applications,” the official said, adding that, right now, preliminary studies have been conducted and moving forward, more detailed studies will be carried out with high resolution satellite images.

Meanwhile, the official form the GoVTech shared that the agency has started further collaboration with the ISRO on sharing of high resolution images from their existing fleet of earth observation satellite.

“This initiative is undertaken to meet the satellite image requirements of our agencies so that more advanced applications are carried out successfully,” the official said.

Meanwhile, ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) launched the satellite jointly developed by India and Bhutan into space. The PSLV C54 carried the India-Bhutan SAT, along with India’s Earth Observation Satellite-06 and other satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andra Pradesh.

The satellite has the primary capability of acquiring optimal images using the Nano-Mx payload, which was developed by the ISRO. This will capture images of Bhutan in four spectral bands.

The secondary payload, which is designed and built by Bhutan, will be able to broadcast text messages from the orbit for amateur radio users using its digipeater payload.

India has provided hands-on training in satellite building and testing, processing and analyzing satellite data to the Bhutanese engineers at the UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.

The satellite was built by four engineers from GoVTech agency.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu