On 15 June 2016, Professor Syed Saad Andaleeb, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor, BRAC University signed a contract with the Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan, on behalf of BRAC University, at the GDLN Centre, 18th floor, BRAC University, Mohakhali. This will lead to collaboratively building the first experimental university Nano-Satellite of Bangladesh, designed, developed and assembled by three students from the EEE department of BRAC University, namely, Kafi, Antara and Maisun on a mission titled “Joint Global Multi-Nation BIRDS Satellite” with the acronym “BIRDS Project”. The Nano-Satellite was named Onnesha 3B in which the three Bs stand for Bangladesh, BRAC University and BIRDS Project.
Among other Professor A. A. Ziauddin Ahmad, Chairperson, Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Colonel Md. Nasim Parvez, Director General, Spectrum Division of BTRC and Mr. Mitsutake Numahata, Counsellor, Embassy of Japan were present as special guests during the signing ceremony. Dr. Arifur Rahman Khan, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at El Paso, USA, Mr. Mengu Cho, Professor, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan and the three students joined the session through video conferencing.
Dr. Md. Khalilur Rahman, Associate Professor of CSE department and Principal Investigator of BRACU Nano-Satellite Project mentioned that by September 2016, the university will be able to build its own ground station at BRAC University, Bangladesh. And by May 2017, we will get our very own satellite. He also explained that the project will allow the capturing of high quality images and precise satellite location without GPS while also allowing the sharing of Multi-point space related data. Professor Mengu Cho stated that he is very proud of the Nano-satelite that is the result of hard work and effort by the students and said this was the basis for the future satellite projects in Bangladesh.
The “BIRDS project” is a cross-border interdisciplinary satellite project for non-space faring countries supported by Japan. The 7 participatory countries for this project include Bangladesh, Japan, Ghana, Mongolia, Thailand, Malaysia and Nigeria and the mission aims to deliver ready-to-launch CubeSat by 2017. During the 2 years project, selected students from these countries will work together to design, develop and operate 5 units of identical 1U CubeSat (1kg, 10cm cubic) which is a type of miniaturized satellite for space research, each belonging to the five participating countries. These satellites will be operated from 7 identical ground stations.
This project will allow Bangladesh’s engineers and university students to get hands on experience and education on satellite engineering and learn about the greater challenges of satellite mission. As a result, in future, this group of engineers will be able to provide their expert assistance to Bangladesh Government’s mission to launch first geostationary communication satellite of Bangladesh, “Bangabondhu Satellite”.
BRAC University considers this as a milestone for the “Space Technology Transfer” and aims at using the satellite for following missions:
1. Observe space environment.
2. Monitor satellite location.
3. Demonstrate Ground Station Network for Nano-satellite constellation.
4. Attain multi-point simultaneous space environment measurement.
5. Relay audio signal and attain communication through HAM radio during emergency and catastrophe. Also play national anthem on special national days.
6. Take high quality aerial photograph of land to analyze vegetation, urbanization, flood, sea are surveillance, meteorology data etc.
Professor Andaleeb was delighted to mention that the project matches the three missions of BRAC University which are about creating social impact through innovation and collaboration. He added that building a national pool of resources through new ideas coursing and bubbling through the institution will be useful to enhance knowledge and experience to progress through time and space.
Colonel Md. Nasim Parvez mentioned BRAC University is building a future of Bangladeshi Satellite system and hopefully by May, 2017 we will see the first CubeSat from Bangladesh prepared by Bangladeshi students and sponsored by BRAC University. Professor Ziauddin ended the ceremony with a concluding speech where he said “As a scientist, I feel that the technological gap Bangladesh is in can only be bridged if we go for high technology such as space technology and oceanography. It may be costly but the spill of benefits derived will greatly outweigh the cost. We have proved in the past in 1971 that our spirit, manpower, skill and talent can take us to the level we deserve to go to.”
Space technology has the potential to provide information, infrastructure and inspiration according to the needs of the developing countries. Many countries have recognized this and in turn, they are investing in the national satellite programs to harness satellite services to improve their socioeconomic status. The development and operation of this Nano-satellite constellation will pave the way to increase data reliability of future missions for Bangladesh.