Thukten Zangpo 

The government has approved a Nu 41 million budget to build a satellite ground station and a laboratory for space-related activities this fiscal year.

Department of information technology and telecom (DITT) deputy engineer, Kiran Kumar Pradhan said that the joint satellite project with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India is in its final phase and would be launched by this September-end.

Four Bhutanese engineers are building the 30-cubic-centimetre satellite that will take pictures of the earth and allow wireless communication. Once in space, the satellite, weighing about 15 kilograms, will rove over Bhutan at least two to three times a day.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan said that the department would work towards establishing a ground station and other necessary facilities for the use of joint satellite. “We are planning to establish a ground station so that we can use it for future small satellites in Bhutan.”

Building the ground station, he said, requires antennas as per the frequency band of operations, which has to be steered using antenna rotators.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan added that transmitters and receivers which are also specific to frequency bands in use are required along with other components like amplifiers, cables, personal computers, and software, among others.

A basic laboratory for space-related activities similar to an electronics laboratory in a college will also be established. However, the devices and equipment required would be of higher specifications. The team is carrying out a site survey with the help of ISRO experts.

Kiran Kumar Pradhan said that the joint satellite will have a multi-spectral camera image of Bhutan which would be useful in carrying out land-use studies and mapping activities of forest coverage and water bodies. “We are also in process of identifying areas of usage for these images in consultation with relevant agencies. It is a nanosatellite so the images will be of moderate resolution only.”

However, Kiran Kumar Pradhan said that Bhutan’s journey into space is still in the early stages and there is more to learn.

Bhutan-1 country’s first satellite, an education CubeSat was launched in space on August 10, 2019 by four engineers with DITT as part of their master’s degree in Japan under BIRDS-2 project.