Yangyel Lhaden

By end of this year Bhutanese engineers will complete building a prototype of Bhutan’s second satellite according to officials from the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT).

A team of Four engineers DITT, three from DITT and one from College of Science and Technology, returned last month from Bangalore after attending a two months course in the first phase of a joint satellite project with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Both parties decided on the type, design of satellite, and its payload. The team also received technical training from ISRO. The design of the satellite is based on previously launched ISRO Nanosatellite.

DITT Deputy Executive Engineer Kiran Kumar Pradhan said the satellite would be much bigger than Bhutan-1, which was a CubeSat with dimension 10*10*10, and much more complicated.

ISRO Nanosatellite can carry up to 3kg of payload and a total satellite mass of 11kg which provides an opportunity to carry innovative payloads, he said.

Payload is what performs the functions desired of the satellite such as earth observation and amateur radio, which the team is going to develop as the primary and secondary payloads respectively.

Earth observation is used to get centennial images of earth from space to study such as how glaciers recede, land usage, and forest types. Amateur radio is free frequency bands in space for tele-communication for which an individual need not pay unlike frequency used by mobile phones which are paid or licensed.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan said, “A different handset is required to use the free frequency bands.”

For the second phase of the project, ISRO and DITT teams will work on primary and secondary payloads respectively.

A miniaturised earth observation camera will be developed by ISRO and Bhutanese will develop text message repeating payload operating in amateur frequency band.

The two teams will meet again when their prototypes complete to jointly work on the assembly and integration of the whole satellite. The satellite will be launched in one of the rockets of ISRO.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan said they were expecting to launch the satellite by the end of this year.

The primary mission of the satellite would be imaging Bhutan by miniaturised earth observation.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan said the images could be used for agriculture and forest monitoring purposes. However, they have not specified the uses yet.

He said that amateur radio would help in building capacity in satellite tracking and communications. “Our main purpose with amateur radio is for education and outreach.”

He said that amateur radio was a good option for educating students in wireless communication. “We want to engage our students in tracking satellites and communicating with them through our payload.”

The team said that the main purpose of the satellite was for capacity development and by and by they were trying to put in applications to learn more about satellites.

The joint satellite project was announced in 2019 and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two governments on the cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space on November 19, 2020.