On July 7, 2017, from 5:45 p.m. to 6:30p.m. JST (Japan Standard Time), five CubeSats springing from an international collaboration between universities were successfully deployed from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Kibo module on the International Space Station (ISS).
As part of the Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite Project, “BIRDS” for short, students from five nations came together to design, assemble, test and operate identical 1U (1 kg, 10 cubic cm) satellites to form a constellation operated by 7 ground stations.
Host nation Japan initiated BIRDS, headed by Kyushu Institute of Technology, in order to encourage non-spacefaring nations to initiate sustainable space programmes in their home countries.
Students from Bangladesh, Mongolia, Ghana and Nigeria were sent to Japan in July 2016 to build CubeSats for their own countries. As a result, four CubeSats from these non-spacefaring nations, along with one from Japan, were launched to the Kibo module on 4 June 2017 aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.
After pre-deployment preparations, the five CubeSats were deployed from the ISS to the Low Earth Orbit (LEO), where they will capture images of their home countries, exchange songs via the UHF band and measure Single Event Latchups (SEL) in orbit.
The CubeSats will be monitored by ground stations located in the five participating nations, as well as Thailand and Taiwan, whose tasks are to determine the precise locations of the satellites, measure atmospheric density, and demonstrate ground stations networks for CubeSat constellations.
BIRDS is one of JAXA’s efforts to assist infant space programmes, which began in 1993 with Japan’s establishment of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) and which has expanded to include numerous collaborations with developing nations.