CubeSats from Malaysia, Bhutan & the Philippines deployed from the ISS

Image courtesy of JAXA.

On 10 August 2018, Japan’s space agency JAXA deployed three CubeSats from the International Space Station (ISS), using the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD).

These Cubesats belong to Malaysia, Bhutan and the Philippines, as part of JAXA’s international BIRDS-2 programme. They were launched on 29 June aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9, where they were taken to Japan’s ISS module known as Kibo, and prepared for deployment.

The three CubeSats are identical, and are known as Bhutan-1 (Bhutan), Maya-1 (the Philippines), and UiTMSat-1 (Malaysia). This initiative is Bhutan’s first satellite, and the Philippines’ first Cubesat. Each CubeSat has a design life of one year, and measures 10cm x 10cm x 10cm (a 1U CubeSat). Together, they will form a CubeSat constellation with the following missions:

Earth observation

Each CubeSat will carry two camera modules with different lens sizes to capture images with varying resolutions. The main objective of this mission is to capture images of the participating countries from space. The camera also has video capabilities and this will be used to capture minimum resolution videos while the satellites are being released from the ISS.

Data relay demonstration

When the CubeSat is in range, an amateur radio user on the ground can send a text message from the radio station to the CubeSat, which in turn will broadcast the message within the coverage area of the CubeSat. The same device will also be used to demonstrate the range and forwarding capabilities of the CubeSat. The satellite will collect data from remote ground sensors, store it on board, and download it into the Mission Control Centre on the ground.

Text message exchange

The CubeSat is equipped with an automatic packet reporting system digipeater and using this device, demonstration of text message exchange between amateur radios and the satellite will be conducted.

Evaluation of effects of space radiation & Geomagnetic Field observation

Because of space radiation that may hinder the operation of the CubeSat, the purpose of this mission is to observe its effects in the space environment.

GPS chip demonstration

A newly-designed commercial GPS chip has been installed on board the CubeSat to demonstrate its operational capability in space.

Ground network demonstration

With 10 ground stations, including from BIRDS-1, a demonstration of a ground network for a CubeSat constellation will be conducted. These ground stations are located in Japan, Malaysia, Bhutan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Ghana and Nigeria.

Said Norimitsu Kamimori, Director of Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate of JAXA, “JAXA is very happy to contribute to the countries, particularly to Bhutan’s first satellite, and the first CubeSat of the Philippines”.

Said H. E. Tshewang C. Dorji, Bhutan Ambassador to Thailand, “While this is a small step into space, it is a proud moment for Bhutan as we join the global community in its quest to harness space technology and its applications for the greater good of mankind. Bhutan-1 is our first CubeSat. It is significant not only because it marks the country’s first endeavor into space, but also because it has been built entirely by Bhutanese engineers. The launch is a historic milestone for our country since this lays the foundation of a space and satellite technology programme for Bhutan as envisioned by His Majesty the King”.

He continued, “Space and satellite technology plays an important role in opening up opportunities to strengthen communication, infrastructures, disaster management, education, agriculture, environmental protection, and national resource management, for developing countries to attain sustainable development. It is therefore crucial that non-spacefaring countries like Bhutan build strong international linkages with other non-spacefaring countries and spacefaring countries, and their institutions, so we can continue to work together to explore the opportunities that space holds for the betterment of humanity.”

Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, Undersecretary of DOST, the Philippines, said, “The Philippines Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the University of the Philippines congratulate our researchers, and of course, everybody who was involved, especially Kyushu Institute of Technology. We are very grateful to JAXA for partnering with us in this very historical time, to have our first nanosatellite in space. We’d like to acknowledge Malaysia and Bhutan for joining with us in this very important era of space for developing countries, and of course, space for everyone.”

Professors Dato’ Dr. Hassan Said, Vice Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi MARA, said “I would like to congratulate everyone, especially to Kyushu Institute of Technology, for leading the BIRDS-2 team members…We are looking forward to establishing a Centre of Excellence, the National Centre for Satellite Research & Development, at UiTM”.

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