Nepal and Satellite

April 18-2019 at Morning 2:31AM, Nepal had officially launched its first ever satellite “Nepalisat-1” into space. Nepalisat-1 is the nano satellite commenced into space marking the unprecedented feat by Nepal creating a historic breakthrough into space.

nepal first nano satellite nepalisat-1
Nepal’sfirst nano satellite NEPALISAT-1 with imprinted name of Engineers making it

Brief Detail:

Nepalisat-1 is the nano satellite of Nepal having dimension 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm and weighs approximately 1.3 Kg. It was built in Japan with technical collaboration of  Japanese Kyushu Institute of Technology. Coupled with Sri-Lanka and Japan, this whole mission was under BIRDS-3 project. The 3 satellites under birds3 projects were named as: NepaliSat-1 (Nepal), Raavana-1 (Sri Lanka) and Ugiusu (Japan).

Images taken by Nepal's first satellite- Nepalisat-1
Images taken by Nepalisat-1 Source: Birds3 project

The above image is captured by Nepalisat-1. We can see the snow which is on the top of Himalayas.

The Nepalisat-1 was funded by NAST-Nepal Academy of Science and Technology. According to NAST, around 2 crores have been spent on this. This was possible with the help of Nepalese students named  Aabhas Maskey and Hariram Shrestha. These students were studying space engineering in Japan.

The satellite was launched from the Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. This nano satellite would remain in Lower Orbit of International Space station (ISS), which is 400Km above from earth. It is important to know that, it is revolving satellite alike Geo-Synchronous. The maximum duration it would be in our sky would be from 5-10 minutes every day.

The life span of such nano satellites would be around 2 years. However, past reports suggest that, nano satellite could last for 3 years. NAST Technology Officer Dr Rabindra Dhakal also fear that vibration and friction of outer space could shorten the life span. In reality around 50% of the nano satellites launched are malfunctioned within 6 months due to above conditions.

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Nano Satellite Statistics!

According to Nanostats, as of April 19, 2020 around 1317 nano-satellites were launched. Due to low cost, the countries launching nano sat also reached to 66 and is expected to grow exponentially. If this goes in the same manner, by 2025, more than 2500 nano satellites will be orbiting the earth.

Nano satellite launches with forecasts // Source: Nanostats

The number of countries launching nano satellites are increasing day by day. At first rank, USA comes with its 894 nano satellites followed by China-74 and so on. The majority of nano satellites are launched by University and private company for research. The image below depicts the number of nano satellites country wise as of April 19, 2020.

Nano Satellite Launched Countries including Nepal
Nano Satellite Launched Countries

From above image, we can see many underdeveloped and developed countries have launched nano satellites. This includes the countries from Africa, South Asia, South America and European Union where huge and large satellites is still a misery. Still, only 13 countries have their own satellite stations which can be used to launch rockets and satellites.

Nano satellite are Future!

Nano satellites cost only around 20 Million dollars. Due to the affordable cost, many companies are interested in making this as a business model. Using this information, many underdeveloped countries are trying to lift their space knowledge by studying and implementing this nano satellites.

These nano systems are ready to overtake their colossal counterparts due to this economic features.

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Ranging from few hundred KGs to few grams in weight, they can be used in different fields in Nepal similar to large satellites as below:

  1. Traffic management: Vehicles traffic can be observed and monitored accordingly
  2. Weather forecast, research and analysis: Nepal is surrounded by high himalayas, so the prediction of dynamic weather can be predicted correctly and precisely.
  3. Climate change: Glacier melting in Himalayan regions leads to outbreak of lakes. This can be used to analyse and mitigate any future problems with the help of these nano satellites.
  4. Natural calamities observation: Yearly, hundreds of landslides and flood sweeps many houses in Nepal. So with the use of satellites, information can be generated for future reference.
  5. Communication: The lower orbit satellites can be used for high speed data rates.
  6. Celestial observation: With advancement, this type of satellites can be used for celestial observation and analysis.

Surprisingly, nano sat can be combined to form an array for continuous image and data fetching process. Dr Rabindra Dhakal of NAST have emphasized about its benefit, with a great hope in his following interview. This video also covers about the details of the Nepalisat-1.

Dr Rabindra Dhakal’s interview about Nepal’s first Nano Satellite- Nepalisat-1

An Inspiring stories!

A group of 4 graduate engineering students from Khopwa Engineering College have been designing and working in pico satellite. The dimension of this pico-sat will be 5 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm and weighing approximately 250gms.

Actually, the main tutor behind this pico sat is Mr Rakesh Chandra Prajapati. He holds a Masters degree in Electronics with Space Technology from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

Mr Prajapati who has been working in Switzerland in space organizations for 5 years, have inspired to teach the space technology to the Nepali aspirants. Students from Kathmandu University and Khowpa Engineering College, summing of 20 have been working in R&D of the pico sat.

“This is the first sat which is made in Nepal by the Nepali students. Aside other electronics, two layer PCB (Printed circuit boards) is needed to be made in china” said one of the fellow graduate who seems intrigued about this project. They had expect to launch in space by 2020 but due to covid-19, planned get stucked.

The total cost incurred on this project would be greater than 2.5 Million rupees. The whole expenses is now supported by Mr Prajapati. He also urged the donars to support the project. He have officially registered the company named “Orionspace” to support and enhance the work in the field of space technology.

They even have developed the ground station to receive the data from the pico stat, a feat which even NAST is unable to achieve.

Rukesh Prajapati works on an antenna for the ground station that will receive data from pico satellite. Source: Kathmandupost

The demonstration of this antenna was done by receiving the signals from the Nepalisat-1.

Government Vision in satellite!

NTA-Nepal Telecommunication Authority, governing body for telecom in Nepal have issued a notice for EOI (Expression of Interest) in 2016 for commencing its own satellite in space. 20 international firms had shown interest and finally French aerospace manufacturer “Thales Alenia Space” had been bind on this project.

On March 12, 2019 NTA release a notice stating-“The Nepal Telecommunications Authority and France-based Thales Alenia Space, a Joint Venture between Thales (67 %) and Leonardo (33 %), have signed today an agreement under which, Thales Alenia Space will build the national satellite telecommunication system for Nepal,”

This satellite is scheduled to launch in space by 2022. The satellite will be positioned at the 123.3° E orbital slot reserved for Nepal by the International Tele-communications Union (ITU).

Upon implementation, the project will provide Nepal with high-speed internet facility along with advancements in specialty fields such as TV Broadcasting, telemedicine, e-learning, e-government, disaster management, Information Technology, agriculture, tourism, hydropower and other value-added services.

The existing ISP’s and telecom operators have been using other’s satellite to provide the services. The Nepal’s Dish Home DTH service provider is using Hongkong based AMOS satellite.

SAS-South Asian Satellite was wasted!

Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, in 2014 during SAARC submit in Kathmandu have announced to develop the common satellites for South Asian countries. After 3 year on May 27, 2017 India launched the SAS(South Asian Satellite) or GSAT-9 with aim to share and corporate the technologies advancements with the neighboring countries.

From that satellites, under the SAS, India agreed to provide at least one transponder with a bandwidth of 24,000 to 36,000 MHz to Nepal. However, Nepal should establish its own ground station so that the data to the satellite can be sent and receive. The sad moment here arrives is that, Nepal couldn’t avail this opportunities and still hadn’t. Some suggest that there would be lack of data privacy and security if using other satellites while some contradict that Nepal’s need to use and make a maximum benefit.

Conclusion: With the launch of Nepalisat-1, there have been a new motivation towards satellites. New aspirants are needed in this field to leapfrog our position in space. Amid, individual effort, government should also make a vision creating R&D facilities to attract the new youths.

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