MoIC and ISRO signs contract to jointly develop a small satellite

By Chimi Wangmo

Bhutan and India on Friday signed the implementing arrangement on the joint development of a small satellite for Bhutan.

The agreement was inked by Indian Space Research Organisation’s Scientific Secretary R Umamaheswaran, and Director, Department of Department of Information Technology and Telecom, Bhutan, Jigme Tenzing, in a virtual signing ceremony, ISRO said.

It was attended by Ambassador of India to Bhutan Ruchira Kamboj, and Ambassador of Bhutan to India Major General Vetsop Namgyel, and other senior officials from the Government of India and Royal Government of Bhutan, ISRO said in an update.

Ruchira Kamboj, the Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, said the joint development was envisioned during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Thimphu in 2019.

Kamboj said the joint development was envisioned during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Thimphu in 2019.

“Space sector cooperation is an exciting new area of bilateral partnership between India and Bhutan,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Ambassador of Belgium to India, François Delhaye, called on Secretary in the Department of Space and ISRO Chairman K Sivan at ISRO headquarters here on Wednesday.

The ongoing interactions between ISRO centres and Belgium companies, mainly in the area of supplying systems and components and the avenues for expanding space relations between India and Belgium in view of space reforms announced by the Government of India, were discussed during this meeting.

While the agreement was formally signed last week, R Umamaheshwaram said that the planned activities under IA were being implemented without hindrance despite the pandemic. “I am fortunate to be part of this project since the beginning and I am extremely delighted by the enthusiasm shown by Bhutanese engineers.”

He said that in ISRO Bhutanese engineers would continue to learn assembly, interaction, and testing of satellite.

MoIC Minister Karma Donnen Wangdi said that the Royal vision of His Majesty The King was to harness space technology and its applications for the benefit of the country and to use space-related activities to create a greater sense of interest and passion in students for science, technology and innovation to help elevate Bhutan’s space ambitions to great heights.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier had announced during a virtual meeting with his Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering on November 20 that India would launch the small satellite next year. Bhutan’s first nano-satellite Bhutan-1, built with Japan’s assistance, was launched on a SpaceX rocket in 2018.

The four space engineers from Bhutan’s department of information technology and telecom are currently undergoing the first phase of training at ISRO’s UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru from December 28 to February 25. This training will cover theoretical and technical aspects and include visits to laboratories and test facilities, officials said.

The Bhutanese engineers will also work with ISRO to draw up the second phase of training, which will include activities aimed at developing INS-2B satellite for Bhutan.

The launch of the satellite is part of India’s efforts to back Bhutan’s plans to use advanced technology, including ICT and space technology, for developing his country.

India has been closely working with Bhutan in space technology. In August 2019, Modi and Dr Lotay Tshering jointly inaugurated a ground earth station for the South Asia Satellite (SAS) in Thimphu, which was built with ISRO’s support.

SAS was launched by India in 2017 for countries in South Asia, and currently provides frees services for television broadcasts and VSATs to members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

The decision to collaborate on the development of a satellite for Bhutan was made during Modi’s visit to Thimphu in August 2019.

A joint working group was formed for the project and other activities, including developing a geo-portal system for Bhutan for natural resources and disaster management, using remote sensing and geo-spatial data.

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