Joint UAE-Bahraini nanosatellite Light-1 launched on 21st December

    26 Dec 2021

    The joint UAE-Bahraini nanosatellite Light-1 was launched to the International Space Station on 21st December 2021. It represents a major milestone of cooperation in space science, technology and engineering between the UAE and Bahrain, WAM states.

    Light-1 took off onboard a SpaceX CRS-24 flight on board of a Falcon 9 rocket after undergoing rigorous safety and environmental tests for thermal and vibration, communication systems and more. Light-1 then will get deployed from the Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO) in the ISS into orbit, under supervision from the Japanese Aerospace Space Agency (JAXA).

    The nanosatellite was built and designed in collaboration between the UAE Space Agency and Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA). It is a testament to the bilateral ties between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the UAE, underscoring the social, economic and scientific cooperation between both countries in priority industries, including space.

    Light-1 is a nanosatellite, but it is no different from other larger satellites in terms of the technology or technical expertise required to build or launch it. It is also a cube satellite that consists of three units and is often referred to as a 3U CubeSat.

    Light-1’s name was inspired by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain’s book, The First Light. It recounts key points in Bahrain’s history and the name symbolises the country’s growth and scientific progress.

     

     

    The research spacecraft was developed by leading Bahraini and Emirati engineers and scientists working from labs in the UAE. The team is made up of 23 students, including nine Bahrainis and 14 Emiratis from Khalifa University and New York University Abu Dhabi.

    After reaching its orbit around Earth, Light-1 will monitor and study terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGRs) from thunderstorms and cumulus clouds. TRG analysis is an emerging field of geoscientific research which the mission will contribute to at an international level. It will be the first study of its kind in the region. New York University will be leading the science data analysis aspect for this mission.

    In addition to the joint Light-1 satellite, the Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi supports the capacity building of NSSA staff by including them in key projects. This has helped train and upskill talent in space field.

    The strong and mutually-beneficial partnership between the UAE Space Agency and NSSA will also see the UAE Space Agency participate in the Bahrain International Airshow 2022; in which an agreement was signed by Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, and Eng. Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications and Chairman of the NSSA at the Dubai Airshow 2021.

    Bahrain is also a member of the Arab Space Cooperation Group, an initiative adopted to promote cooperation on space among Arab countries. It has 14 member states and is headquartered in Abu Dhabi.

     

    UAE-Bahrain Nanosatellite Light-1 arrives at International Space Station

    The UAE-Bahrain joint nanosatellite Light-1 has successfully arrived on Tuesday at the International Space Station (ISS).

    It was carried aboard a Falcon 9 rocket which launched the SpaceX CRS-24 commercial resupply mission from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, US, at 14:06 UAE time.

     

     

    Its successful arrival at the ISS is the culmination of a trailblazing partnership between the UAE and Bahrain and an achievement of cooperation between the UAE Space Agency, Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA), Khalifa University of Science and Research and New York University Abu Dhabi, according to a press statement issued on Tuesday. It reflects the depth of bilateral ties between both nations, and the level of strategic partnership in all fields, including space, science and technology.

     

    Gamma-ray flashes

    Light-1 will be subsequently relaunched into orbit around Earth during the first quarter of 2022 in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. It will then start the region’s first scientific mission to monitor and study terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) from lightning storms and cumulus clouds. The data will be made available to the global scientific community.

     

    Light-1 mission

    Light-1 makes use of ‘scintillating’ crystals — a scintillator is a material that emits light when crossed by a subatomic particle and some crystals are very good scintillators. The light emitted by the crystals is collected by sensors called photomultipliers and then processed by a dedicated electronic system. Although the single components can be sourced from specialised companies, the assembled detection system is unique to Light-1.

    The impact of high-energy gamma-ray emissions on atmosphere, air traffic and human health, especially flight crews, will be studied. These rays can penetrate aircraft structures, and therefore the data of Light-1 will improve understanding related to radiation exposure.

     

    Exchange knowledge

    Sarah bint Youssef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “Light-1 is a milestone for Emirati-Bahraini ties and a new chapter for our nation’s history in space. It reflects our efforts to exchange knowledge and expertise to stimulate cutting-edge research, scientific discoveries and human progress. I would also like to thank Khalifa University and the NYU Abu Dhabi for providing their world-class facilities to train team who worked on this landmark scientific endeavour. Capacity-building is a vital part of our efforts to stimulate our knowledge-driven economy and both universities have played a key role in empowering the next generation of talent.”

    Eng. Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications and NSSA Chairman, said: “This joint project started with an idea in 2018. It became a reality that carried Light-1 into space. Our joint nanosatellite will support global efforts to measure TGFs and advance our understanding of how they affect human health and aviation. The project is a model for scientific and technological cooperation, one that serves humanity by peacefully leveraging space for the good of humankind.”

     

    Important chapter

    Mariët Westermann, NYUAD Vice Chancellor, said Gulf News: “It is a great honour for NYU Abu Dhabi to be part of such an important milestone for the UAE — the launch of the UAE-Bahraini CubeSat, Light-1. Our team who designed and built the scientific payload and will spearhead the scientific data analysis for the mission has worked incredibly hard over the past years, and in close collaboration with key institutions to write this important chapter in the UAE’s history in space.”

     

    Another milestone

    Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, said: “The launch of KU’s fourth CubeSat, Light-1 Sat, marks another major milestone for the UAE, Khalifa University and our partners. Light-1 is a nanosatellite, but it is no different from other larger satellites in terms of the technology or technical expertise required to build or launch it. It is also a cube satellite that consists of three units and is often referred to as a 3U CubeSat.”

     

    The team

    The team that worked on the design and construction of Light-1 consists of 23 university students, including nine Bahraini students, and ten Emirati students. Light-1’s name was inspired by HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain’s book, The First Light. It recounts key points in Bahrain’s history and the name symbolizes the country’s growth and scientific progress.

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    Sarah bint Youssef Al Amiri, UAE Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said, “I extend my congratulations to the teams who worked diligently together to design, develop, transport, and launch our nanosatellite alongside key mission partners. Light-1 is a milestone for Emirati-Bahraini ties and a new chapter for our nation’s history in space.”

    The nanosatellite was built and designed in collaboration between the UAE Space Agency and Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA).

    The project was executed at Khalifa University and New York University Abu Dhabi, with its mission team consisting of 23 students.

    She added, “It reflects our efforts to exchange knowledge and expertise to stimulate cutting-edge research, scientific discoveries, and human progress. I would also like to thank Khalifa University and the NYU Abu Dhabi for providing their world-class facilities to train the team who worked on this landmark scientific endeavor. Capacity-building is a vital part of our efforts to stimulate our knowledge-driven economy and both universities have played a key role in empowering the next generation of talent.”

    Light-1 is a nanosatellite, but it is no different from other larger satellites in its technical expertise required to build or launch it.

    It is also a cube satellite that consists of three units and is often referred to as a 3U CubeSat.

    Light-1’s name was inspired by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain’s book, The First Light.

    Eng Abdullah Al Marar, Head of the Space Projects at the UAE Space Agency, UAE said, “The satellite will be deployed from a module called the Japanese Experiment Module (KIBO). So, the launch has been coordinated with the Japanese Space agency (JAXA). This will happen through a deployment module during Q1 of 2022. But this is greatly dependent on the activities that will take place onboard the ISS, the logistics and so on.”

    Mission geared towards assisting other domains, like aviation among others

    The mission is not only geared towards detecting the bursts of gamma rays helping the scientific community to understand the cosmos but is poised to aid other sectors as well, helping in several other domains.

    Francesco Arneodo Professor of Physics New York University Abu Dhabi – Center for Astro, Particle and Planetary Physics explains, “One advantage of its detectors is that they are very fast. They have a very fine time resolution that can resolve the time structures of these bursts of gamma rays with very high definition. Knowing how these TGFs are generated can not only help us know more about our universe and how the atmosphere works when there is thunderstorm but can also help understand how many gamma rays are generated and how harmful they can be.”

    He adds, “for instance when an airplane passes such phenomenon how harmful it can be for the cockpit, for the instrumentation of the plane, for the crew and passengers. Additionally, it can be used as monitors for gamma-ray radiation in environment with harsh situations like the desert. The detectors will be withstanding harsh conditions in space with high temperatures, so it can be deployed in other scenarios where you remotely need to monitor the amount of ambient radiation in gamma rays.”

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    The Earth’s orbit is similar to a highway, where more than 3,000 artificial satellites of the Earth rotate at incredible speeds, up to 28 000 km per hour. At the same time, these devices will make the near-Earth space even more loaded. This will lead to higher risks of collisions between spacecraft and debris.

    The Space Sustainability Rating, SSR will help avoid all this: the rating prescribes the rules of use and disposal of spacecraft after the expiration date. Read the full story here.

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