Today, at 5.42 a.m. UTC, SpaceX launched its 15th Cargo Resupply Mission (CRS) to the International Space Station (ISS), with the Falcon 9 lofting the Dragon cargo spacecraft into orbit.
Along with numerous experiments and necessities, Dragon carried three CubeSats belonging to Malaysia, Bhutan and the Philippines. These CubeSats will be delivered to Japan’s ISS module known as Kibo, from where they will be launched into orbit.
All three CubeSats are part of the international BIRDS-2 project initiated by Japan’s space agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This is the second phase of the programme following BIRDS-1, which saw CubeSats from Bangladesh, Mongolia, Ghana and Nigeria being launched from the ISS in July last year. Under this scheme, non-spacefaring countries are given the opportunity to build their own satellites under the guidance of JAXA and Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology.
Malaysia’s CubeSat launched today was developed by Universiti Teknologi MARA, and is known as UiTMSat-1. UiTMSat-1 is the first nanosatellite developed by a Malaysian university, and has facilitated the setting up of a Center for Satellite Communication within the university.
Also significant is Bhutan-1, the country’s very first satellite. Developed by four Bhutanese engineers, the satellite’s payloads include two cameras and a message relaying system for amateur users from Bhutan’s Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC).
The third satellite from BIRDS-2 is Maya-1, the first CubeSat from the Philippines, and was developed by two graduate students. Maya-1 will complement Diwata-1, a 50-kg earth observation microsatellite that is part of the PHL-Microsat program implemented by the University of the Philippines Diliman and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The two will be joined by Diwata-2, the country’s second microsatellite, slated for launch later this year.