BAHRAIN launched its first-ever satellite yesterday, making history, and advancing the kingdom’s fledgling space science sector.
The nanosatellite Light-1 was launched aboard the SpaceX Falcon-9 CRS-24 at 1.07pm Bahrain time, from the Nasa Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US and will dock at the International Space Station (ISS) today around 12.30pm Bahrain time. It was put together by a 40-person team, of whom nine were Bahraini.
The Light-1 satellite – a joint project between Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA), UAE Space Agency, Khalifa University and New York University Abu Dhabi – will be used to conduct research during lightning storms, that will help civil aviation safety experts in future.
“This joint project started with an idea in 2018 and became a reality that carried Light-1 into space,” NSSA chairman and Transportation and Telecommunications Minister Kamal Ahmed said.
“Our joint nanosatellite will support global efforts to measure terrestrial gamma ray flashes (TGRs) and advance our understanding of how they affect human health and aviation.
“The project is a model for scientific and technological co-operation, one that serves humanity by peacefully leveraging space for the good of humankind.”
Alongside the nanosatellite aboard the Dragon-9 capsule are Christmas gifts and dinners for ISS astronauts as well as 500 research experiments, including a fully biodegradable detergent aimed at reducing water usage and a handheld bandage bioprinter.
The Light-1 satellite was named after His Majesty King Hamad’s book, First Light.
The Dragon-9 SpaceX rocket took off yesterday at 5.07am Eastern Standard Time (EST) at exactly eight seconds past the minute. The precise second will prove to be crucial today as it autonomously docks at the ISS within a one-second window.
This was the final SpaceX Falcon-9 mission of the year, and Bahrain’s 5.25kg 3U CubeSat is part of a 3,000-kg cargo resupply mission aboard the capsule.
The Dragon capsule will head towards the International Space Station’s Japanese Experiment Module, nicknamed Kibo, from where the Light-1 satellite will be deployed into orbit. The capsule will be docked at the ISS for a month before returning.
In a Press briefing prior to the launch, UAE Space Agency space projects chief Abdullah Al Marar said projects like the Light-1 satellite usually cost “between three million and 6m UAE dirhams” (BD300,000-BD600,000).
Bahraini space scientists that built 75 per cent of ‘Light-1’ were Aysha Al Haram, Ali Al Qaraan, Ashraf Khater, Amina Al Balooshi, Yaqoob Al Qassab, Ahmed Bushlaibi, Ali Al Mahmood, Ahmed Al Buainain and Ebrahim Al Mansoori.
Light-1’s chief mission is to observe TGRs produced through thunderstorms, and study their effects on the atmosphere and on humans. TGRs are emitted for mere milliseconds during lightning.
The spacecraft will be equipped with two sensors to detect and measure TGRs. Because the gamma rays can penetrate aeroplane fuselages, the data could be used to design safety measures to protect those on board.
The nanosatellite – approximately 10cm x 10cm x 34.5cm in size – will be in orbit at an altitude of 400km, at an orbital incline of 51.6 degrees.
Its transceiver uses an ultra-high frequency (UHF) band, with a secondary S-Band for downloading large amounts of data transmitted to three ground stations in Abu Dhabi, Denmark and Lithuania.
The data will be co-owned by participating space agencies, with plans to make it public through the Open Universe programme, New York University Abu Dhabi Centre for Astro, Particle and Planetary Physics professor Francesco Arneodo told the GDN.
“The main goal of this project is to encourage collaboration between space agencies and we are hoping that the first-of-their-kind studies emerging from this mission encourage more countries to work together in harmony.”