The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The single step, in this case, is a pico-satellite named SANOSAT-1, made in Nepal, and soon to be released into space. The ability to plan, design, create, and execute a spacecraft from a land of limited accessibility requires an exceptional amount of dedication, belief, and hard work. Therefore it goes without saying that this pioneering attempt of a Nepali company to do something this bold is a source of inspiration for all and fills every Nepali with a feeling of pride.
With dimensions of around 5 centimeters length, breadth, and height, SANOSAT-1 weighs less than 250 gm, based on the PocketQube form factor. The picosatellite is equipped with solar cells and a lithium-ion battery to store the energy harvested from the sun. After being launched, the satellite will travel 500km from the earth’s surface up to the lower earth orbit. It will then revolve around earth at a velocity of 7.8km/s, making one rotation around the earth in 90 minutes. It will reside in space for an estimated period of a year.
It has been engineered by ORION Space, a company established in 2017 that focuses on promoting space education among the youths and creating a distinct field for students to gain knowledge and explore the possibilities of Space Technology. The CEO, Rakesh Chandra Prajapati, holds a Master’s degree in Electronics and Space Technology and is currently in Switzerland. He picked up a few graduates who were passionate about satellites and space and groomed them to work together towards making space exploration viable.
Here is what the Electronic Engineering graduates, Jiten Thapa and Saurav Poudel have to say.
- What is the purpose of the pico-satellite?
The primary goal of SANOSAT-1 is to measure the beta and gamma radiation of the orbit. The secondary purpose would be to collect the data (wind, temperature, water-levels, and humidity) from Earth-based sensors and transmit the data to ground stations in Nepal as a digital repeater.
Due to little scope, the space technology field currently lacks sufficient incentive for eager young minds. We hope our little attempt will broaden the vision of engineers who aspire to work on this field and further inspire fresh minds to get involved. After the space mission, we will design, develop, launch an affordable pico-satellite made in Nepal using available commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components. It will prove that we can successfully design and manufacture satellites in Nepal and help space aspirants achieve their goals. The long-term goal is to build satellites for applications like agriculture and disaster monitoring.
- When will the SANOSAT-1 launch?
SANOSAT-1 has to undergo various functional and environmental tests before launching to space. The functional tests make sure that the satellite works in extreme conditions. For that, each part is tested. Environmental tests are extensive tests which include various rigorous tests like the Thermal-vacuum test, and Electromagnetic Interference test. These tests require extensive labs that are not currently present in Nepal. So they will be conducted in Spain this month. After the satellite passes the tests, it will be ready for launch.
- What are some other projects and missions accomplished by ORION Space?
In 2015, before creating the real satellite, we built a model (CanSat) to assist us in developing the real one. Only after registering the company, we worked on building the authentic satellite. Furthermore, we conducted workshops in our office and different colleges for aspirants who were enthusiastic about space. We also successfully conducted workshops on foreign lands like Pakistan and Srilanka. Though it is a small device, it has the foundations and mechanisms that can be scaled into building bigger and more advanced satellites.
- Building and launching satellites is surely very costly. How did you manage the funding?
The construction of the satellite cost almost Rs 2.5 million, and it will require another 2.5 million rupees to launch it into space. All the fundings up until now have been done by our CEO out of his own pocket. However, the team is looking forward to getting sponsors to support the launch.
- What advice would you like to give to young aspirants trying to build up a startup?
- Everything seems troublesome in the beginning, but we learned a great deal of technology and techniques of advancement in the process. Our confidence has boosted with the passing years. So believe in your learnings and do not be afraid to step into a field that seemingly has less scope, because you might just end up creating your own opportunity. It’s like taking the road less traveled by, and that often makes all the difference.