Satellite disintegrated over South America on Nov, 19

Yangyel Lhaden

Bhutan-1, the country’s first satellite has reached the earth’s atmosphere and is predicted to have disintegrated over South America on November 19.

All satellites are bound to disintegrate, a natural process. The life span of Bhutan-1 was six months but it had been in space for two year and three months and orbited the earth more than 13,000 times.

The last contact with the satellite was made on November 16, through the ground station of the Department of IT and Telecom (DITT). The last data showed that all technical parameters of the satellite were normal.

On July, 2020, Bhutan-1 was at around 330 km above earth’s surface. By November it came 250 km closer to the earth surface from which the altitude decrease was much faster.

“The decrease indicated the satellite will reach earth’s atmosphere anytime soon and it is predicted that on November 19 the earth’s gravity and atmospheric particles have disintegrated the satellite,” Cheki Dorji, engineer with DITT said.

Bhutan-1 was launched to the International Space Station (ISS), located at about 400 km altitude above the earth’s surface. The satellite was released into earth’s orbit on August 10, 2019 from the ISS.

Bhutan-1—an educational satellite— is just a beginning. The satellite provided engineers firsthand experience on how to build a satellite, launch it in space, and operate it from ground station, according to DITT officials.

An engineer with DITT, Yeshey Choden said that having experienced the birth of Bhutan-1 till the end of its journey made her feel accomplished and wholesome by successfully fulfilling the objective of learning about the satellite.

The team looks assured and confident as they look forward to building another satellite in India with International Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

On November 20, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced that ISRO would send Bhutan’s satellite by next year.

The Deputy Executive Engineer with DITT, Kiran Kumar Pradhan is the focal person on the project to build a satellite with India.

He said that Bhutan-1 was a small satellite weighing about one kg and they were aiming to build about 10 kg satellite with ISRO. “We look forward to apply our knowledge, learn more about satellites with exposure and expertise of ISRO.”

The space engineers said that the wait won’t be long for Bhutan to launch satellites with applications such as earth observation and tele-communication because the cost of building satellites was becoming affordable.

Bhutan-1 is an important milestone for Bhutan’s journey in Space. Bhutan depends on international satellite’s data for the early warning system of flood, monitoring of glaciers and glacier lake outburst flood. Some satellite data are  availed for free, while some come with a huge price.

Bhutan-1 was built by only four engineers. Kiran Kumar Pradhan said that to keep the space venture thriving, it was important to encourage younger generation to take keen interest in space science.

Meanwhile, the team that will leave for India includes two new members, a lecturer from College of Science and Technology and an engineer with DITT. The team is also doing ground works to see the feasibility of satellite and which type of satellite would be most appropriate for Bhutan.

It won’t be a long wait to see many Bhutan’s satellites hovering in space, say engineers.