As Bhutan’s first satellite BHUTAN-1, a 10x10x10 CubeSat, is scheduled to be launched in June, the engineers building it shared their stories at the BHUTAN-1 workshop held at the College of Science and Technology (CST) yesterday.

The four engineers claimed it started with their masters’ programme in space engineering.

Yeshey Choden, 25, the youngest of the four, who is from Babesa, Thimphu, said she did not give a second thought when the programme was announced.

Although from a civil engineering background, she said she was interested in space studies.

“Similarly, I wanted to serve the nation,” Yeshey Choden said. “And I took it up.”

Yeshey Choden said young minds today should determine their field of interest and advance. “There will be a way.”

Pooja Lepcha, 26, a former CST electronics graduate said she never knew Bhutanese could build a satellite until she became part of the masters’ programme through the Nano-Satellite Technology scholarship.

“Bhutanese are complacent,” she said and explained that her team is learning a lot on technology and hard work in the Japanese society.

From Tashichholing (Sipsu), Pooja Lepcha said it was her interest in space engineering, which made her try the masters programme.

She worked with the Royal Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) as an electrical engineer before she went to pursue masters programme.

Another engineer, Cheki Dorji, 27, who also has a civil engineering background, said it has been a fantastic journey so far.

“A lot of scopes would come along with the satellite project,” he said, explaining BHUTAN-1 was the introductory one. “There will be many spinoffs.”

Cheki Dorji said he was extremely glad to be a part of the satellite project, which is His Majesty The King’s vision.

Once launched, the satellite will operate at a low altitude of about 500km to 1,500km. With the help of two high-end cameras fitted on the satellite, it will take high-quality photographs of the country.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan, who is from Lhamoizingkha in Dagana said he had no idea at all about building the satellite. “We went with the blank sheet and started.”

BHUTAN-1 is the country’s first satellite designed and built by four Bhutanese engineers as a part of their masters programme in Japan.

BHUTAN-1 is in line with Bhutan’s participation in the second joint global multi-nations BIRDS Project called BIRDS-2, along with Malaysia and the Philippines, initiated by Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) in Japan.

The project commenced in 2016 as a result of His Majesty The King’s vision for Bhutan’s venture into space science and technology.

Talking to Kuensel, one of the four engineers, Kiran Kumar Pradhan said they are expecting to launch by sometime in June this year.

“But we cannot give the exact date,” he said, adding there were still certain requirements to complete.

Initially aimed for an April launch, Kiran Kumar Pradhan said it did not happen because there were International Telecom Union (ITU) processes to complete.

“In June, the satellite would be launched with the cargo to International Space Station from where it will be delivered to the orbit (space),” he said.

BHUTAN-1 workshop, meanwhile, is the first of its kind in Bhutan.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay graced the event and met the CST electronics and communications students.

“Bhutanese can do anything,” Lyonchhen said, adding students should think big and never give up. “It is not about doing enough or not. It is about whether to do or not.”

The Prime Minister also said that the vision for the country’s first satellite comes from His Majesty The King.

He said studies and investment for BHUTAN-1 were done by Bhutan. “Once launched to space, the satellite would be helpful in generating information on disaster management, agricultural development, and environmental conservation.”

Officials from Kyutech and the ambassador of Bhutan to Thailand also attended the workshop.

Rajesh Rai | |Phuentsholing