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Bangabandhu-1 on its way to orbit

  • Published at 03:47 pm May 12th, 2018
  • Last updated at 09:12 pm May 12th, 2018

In one of the most anticipated events in its history, Bangladesh witnessed the successful launch of its first communications satellite into space

Bangabandhu-1 is now on its way to orbit after its successful launching, ushering Bangladesh into the global space society. 

The historic event took place at 2:14am yesterday when the country's first geostationary communication satellite blasted off on a Block 5 Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA.

A Bangladesh delegation, led by prime minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy, witnessed the launch, which was visible for around eight minutes from the surface. But onboard cameras kept providing feed to streaming links worldwide.

Unbridled happiness

The palpable enthusiasm was reflected in social media as the official SpaceX video remains the number one trending video on YouTube as of writing this report, 19 hours after the launch.

As the satellite started its journey into space, people of all ages across Bangladesh were awake, and many of them started singing the national anthem.

The iconic slogan - "Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu" was also chanted at some parts of the country. 

At the Teachers Students Centre at the Dhaka University, students and teachers watched the launch on two large projectors provided by the university authorities on occasion of the historic moment.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also joined the proud nation in witnessing the milestone event for Bangladesh's communication sector. 

"Bangladesh started a glorious chapter in history with the launching of Bangabandhu-1 satellite as it has becomes a proud member of the satellite club from today," the president said in a message.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina greeted citizens for the successful launching of Bangladesh's first communication satellite into space, saying that it added a new milestone on the path of continued advancement of the country.

"Bangladesh entered the space era, with this perfect and successful launching [of the satellite]. Bangabandhu-1 is our first own satellite, which is now on its way to orbit. Joy Bangla! Joy Bangabandhu!" Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy wrote in a Facebook post.

"On this day, I would like to remember Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who initiated the task of entering the Space Age by setting up Bangladesh’s first-ever satellite earth station," State Minister for ICT Division Zunaid Ahmed Palak said, who also witnessed the momentous event from Florida.

He said launching of the satellite is an instance of technology-led transformation of Bangladesh under the leadership of the prime minister and her ICT Affairs Adviser Joy.

The first launch attempt of the satellite, however, was postponed in the early hours of Friday, due to “standard ground system auto abort.”

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood earlier said Falcon-9 will pull the 3.7-ton satellite vertically up to 36,000km from the launch pad before making adjustments for orbit.

The launching has two phases. The first is the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP), and the second phase is Satellite in Orbit. The LEOP phase will take 10 days while the second will take 20 days.

Dr Shahjahan said after going through the phases, it will take a few more days to calibrate the satellite at its Gazipur and Rangamati ground stations.

Bangladesh will operate the satellite from 119.1 degrees longitude east using a payload comprising 26 Ku-Band and 14 C-Band transponders to deliver focused telecommunications coverage to Bangladesh. Each transponder is equivalent to 36 MHz.

The Ku-band covers Bangladesh and its territorial area of the Bay of Bengal, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines. The C- band covers Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and parts of Kazakhstan.

Swiftly implementing plans

SpaceX had previously planned to launch the satellite using Falcon-9 rockets on December 16, 2017, but the launch was postponed due to damage from Hurricane Irma.

The government took the Bangabandhu-1 project in May 2015 and assigned French agency Thales Alenia Space by signing a $248-million deal in November later in the year.

Thales Alenia completed the manufacturing works of the satellite several months ago and stored it in a warehouse in Cannes, France. On March 29, the satellite was moved to Florida. 

The satellite has a 15-year mission lifespan, while another three years for its design.

The satellite will offer video services for Direct-to-Home (DTH), e-learning, telemedicine, family planning, farming, and other services while voice service to cellular backhaul and disaster recovery, and data service for internet, SCADA, SOHO as well as business-to-business (VSAT).

Bangabandhu-1 Satellite is to establish Bangladesh's own stake on space, opening up enormous opportunities providing three types of advantages involving information and communication technology (ICT), and the broadcasting industry, alongside brightening Bangladesh image.

Experts and officials said Bangladesh’s first geostationary communication satellite will help expand internet and telecommunication services in remote and rugged areas. It will also save foreign currency expenses while the local TV channels are expected to be the main commercial user to access the Middle Eastern countries. Bangladesh can also earn foreign currency by renting the Bangabandhu-1 transponders to other countries.

Satellite stations in Gazipur and Rangamati ready for Bangabandhu-1

The Bangabandhu-1 satellite will be controlled by the Bangabandhu Satellite Primary Ground Station situated in Telipara, Gazipur. A backup ground station has been set up in Rangamati where an existing ground station was used to interface with other satellites till now.

The Rangamati Ground Station has been set up on a five-acre plot at Kawkhali upazila’s Betbunia Satellite Earth Station. The project’s infrastructure was constructed by Bangladeshi company Spectra Engineering Limited appointed by France’s Thales Alenia Space. The construction began in 2016.

Betbunia, Bangladesh’s first satellite ground station, was inaugurated by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on June 14, 1975. 

ICT State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak confirmed that the two ground stations have successfully received initial test signals of the Bangabandhu-1 after its launch. 

Shipon Halder, the Betbunia Secondary Ground Station’s project manager, said: “We are ready.”

Spectra Engineering Limited Co-ordinator Mizanur Rahman said: “There’s no difference between the station located in Gazipur and the one here. Both have the same design and operational capabilities.”

Raihanul Kabir, a junior consultant of the Bangabandhu satellite project, said two antennas weighing 10 tons were installed outside the main building last July. The facility also houses 30 people.

A 33KV power sub-station has been set up nearby to ensure uninterrupted power supply. Flawless fibre optical connection is being ensured under the BTCL’s supervision for smooth internet.

A 30-member team has been trained to run the station, Raihanul added.

The station’s work will start about a week after the launch of Bangabandhu-1.

Raihanul Islam Akand from Gazipur contributed to this report. Sections of this article were taken from banglatribune.com

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