Md. Mojammel Haque Shourobh, Satellite Operation Engineer, BRAC Onnesha

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BRAC Onnesha, the first nano-satellite made by a Bangladeshi university, was launched into the space from Kennedy Space Center in the USA recently. Onnesha denotes search or exploration in Bangla. The nano-satellite will allow high quality photographs of land to analyze vegetation, urbanization, flood, water resources, forestry and other natural resources from its overhead view. Most of the photographs will be used for research purposes.
IBT spoke to Satellite Operation Engineer, Md. Mojammel Haque Shourobh to find about the origins of this groundbreaking project.

Firstly, congratulation on the successful launch of the nano-satellite. Can you tell us a little about the nano-satellite and what it hopes to achieve for Bangladesh?
The nano-satellite was the first of its kind in Bangladesh and is a matter of great pride for our country. Our main objective was to achieve technology transfer. We can now create our own nanosats and control the ground station, to name a few things that we have learned through this project.
The nano-satellite (nanosat) was developed using Japanese technology as part of the effort from the joint collaboration with Kyushu Institute of Technology and BRAC University. The satellite was designed, developed and implemented by the three BRAC students – Abdullah Hil Kafi, Maisun Ibn Monowar and Raihana Shams Islam Antara. Even the project management was in the hands of the students. The nanosats are designed keeping specific missions in our minds. One of them is playing the national anthem using digital signals and will be received by all through a simple HAM radio.
Another function of this nano-sat is to keep track of possible possible floating charges. Even within our ionosphere, there are some floating charges which enter our planet, say during times of solar flare. These can have negative impacts on any electronic device which uses some solid state memory. Even though this is not a major problem in Bangladesh yet, it can have an adverse impact on the server systems. This can be catastrophic for companies like Google or Facebook, for whom a change in their memory can prove to be disastrous. But these floating charges are more common in space, far above the 400 km of ionosphere. The nano-sat has been equipped to check the effect of these floating charges on the circuits.
Moreover, even though we control only one ground station, we are connected with 7 others. We can connect with the other ground stations and download data from them. Our nano-sat can only pick up 10-minutes of data when it is passing over Bangladesh but via our connection to the other stations, we will be getting 70 minutes worth of feedback data.

“OUR NANO-SAT CAN ONLY PICK UP 10-MINUTES OF DATA WHEN IT IS PASSING OVER BANGLADESH BUT VIA OUR CONNECTION TO THE OTHER STATIONS, WE WILL BE GETTING 70 MINUTES WORTH OF FEEDBACK DATA.”

What are the future plans for BRAC Onnesha after this?
I believe, that this question would be more fitted for BRAC University to answer. But if I were to speak on behalf of the satellite makers, they have a more ambitious plan in their mind. This nano-sat was designed by Bangladeshi students and they are hoping that the next would be ‘Made in Bangladesh’. Thus our future plans would be to make a nano-sat here in Bangladesh. For the next projects we are hoping to attract private investors. In most foreign countries these projects are aided by external funds, so we are hoping to start a trend of inviting private funds to invest in our future satellite projects.

It is hoped that the nano-sat will capture high-quality photos to study issues such as vegetation, flooding, urbanization and so on. Is there also an option for the sensors to glance side-ways or upwards, rather then just downwards, to measure factors such as detecting solar and cosmic radiation, interactions between magnetic fields and other forces which together make up what is called space weather?
The photos might not be very detailed because they are ultimately being taken from a distance of more than 400 km. But they are capable of taking photos of all regions without getting detailed information about them. However, our nano-satellite is not equipped to to glance side-ways or upwards. There are specific nano-sats with those features. Our nano-sat is a single cube with a definition of 10 by 10 cm and weighs less than 1kg per unit. We are hoping the future nano-satellites will be of multiple units, thus be capable of handling several commands.

How can the government aid in the process of encouraging more research into space exploration in Bangladesh?
This project would not have been possible without government intervention. The project was started in an effort to further our efforts in launching Bangabandhu Satellite 1. Our project has been licensed by the government and also has received government permission to progress.
One of the difficulties we faced was the transfer of money for the launching of the satellite. Its not an easy task to send money out from Bangladesh. But our government was with us in every step of the way. Even now, if there are any issues with any paperwork, we receive immediate attention from all government agencies.
Even government organizations have reached out to us. BTRC’s (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) Chairman, Dr. Shahjahan Mahmood has greatly appreciated our efforts. During the launching ceremony, we were visited by the Minister of Science and Technology, Yeafesh Osman, who also commended our efforts. In short, we were supported throughout by the government to make this project successful.

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