Asian CubeSats Off To Space

Bhutan, Malaysia and the Philippines have successfully launched their cube satellites into space.

AsianScientist (Jul. 9, 2018) – Three Asian cube satellites (CubeSats) were successfully launched into space aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on Friday, June 29.

The CubeSats from Bhutan, Malaysia and the Philippines were included in the Dragon capsule payload, which also consists of supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) crew, weighing approximately 2,800 kg in total. The Dragon capsule reached the ISS on July 3, 2018 and is expected to be released into orbit by late August 2018.

The Asian CubeSats were developed under the BIRDS Project, a Japanese-led cross-border interdisciplinary satellite initiative. The first iteration of the BIRDS Project, known as BIRDS-1, began in 2015 and involved Japan, Ghana, Mongolia, Nigeria and Bangladesh. This was followed by BIRDS-2 in 2016, with Japan, Bhutan, Malaysia and the Philippines taking part.

Students from the participating countries who were enrolled in master’s or doctoral degree programs at Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan, were required to design, develop and operate CubeSats each weighing one kilogram and measuring exactly 10 cm by 10 cm by 10 cm.

Each CubeSat carries two identical cameras with different lens sizes to capture images and minimum-resolution video from space. These tiny satellites also contain Automatic Packet Reporting System Digipeaters (APRS-DP) and Store-and-Forward (S&F) systems.

When a CubeSat is in range, amateur radio users from ground can send text messages from their radio to the CubeSat, which will then broadcast the signal within its coverage area. As part of its S&F System, the satellite will collect data from remote ground sensors, store them onboard and download them to the mission control center. The CubeSats are also capable of recording radiation events and measuring magnetic fields in space.

The Bhutan-1 CubeSat, also known as Bird BTN, is Bhutan’s first satellite. This marks the kingdom’s first step towards the development of its own space science and technology program.

Meanwhile, Maya-1, or Bird PHL, was developed by students from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Named after a common small bird in the Philippines, the Maya-1 is the first Filipino CubeSat in orbit and complements the Diwata-1, a 50-kg microsatellite that has been orbiting the Earth since 2016.

“Placed into orbit in a constellation as a shared resource by several nations, [the Maya-1’s] value becomes greater than the sum of its parts,” said Dr. Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr., program leader of the Philippine Microsatellite Program.

Meanwhile, students from Malaysia’s Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) launched their CubeSat named UiTMSAT-1, or Bird MYS. UiTM is the first university in Malaysia to have successfully deployed a nanosatellite in space.


Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: BIRDS-2.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Shai Panela is an award-winning freelance science journalist based in the Philippines. She was part of the Asian Science Journalism fellowship program of the World Federation of Science Journalists in 2013 and covers stories in science, health, technology and the environment.

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