Neighbourhood First: Indo-Bhutan satellite launched

A new chapter was added to the history of Bhutan’s space journey when the country launched its second nanosatellite, India -Bhutan SAT ( INS -2B) on November 26. The Indian Space Research Organisation ( ISRO ) launched the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle ( PSLV) C54 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Shriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, India.  It was jointly developed by India and Bhutan by four engineers from the department of Information Technology and Telecom ( DITT) under the information and communication ministry, Bhutan and India.

Eight other nanosatellites were launched along with this to help Bhutan take high-resolution pictures in order to manage its natural resources.  These images will be used for applications like forest canopy mapping, human settlement growth, landslide studies and rooftop solar power potential estimation by the remote sensing group.

The launch ceremony of India -Bhutan was attended by a high-level delegation from Bhutan which was led by information and communications minister Karma Donnen Wangdi.

At a separate event at Thimphu, Prime Minister Dr Lotay  Tshering presented His Majesty The King’s heart-warming message thanking the Indian Government, the ISRO, and the entire team. His Majesty The King had always planned to use advanced technology including ICT and space technology for the development of Bhutan

 The Indian Prime Minister expressed his delight through a tweet that said ‘ India-Bhutan satellite is a testament to our special relationship with the people of Bhutan’.

External Affairs Minister of India, Dr S Jaishankar said ‘ the historic milestone could be achieved because of the collaboration of the dedicated team of space engineers and scientists from ISRO and Bhutan’. Adding further he stated ‘Recognising the positive impact, the South Asia satellite would have on the socio-economic development of Bhutan in areas such as communication and disaster management, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has offered increased bandwidth on an additional transponder for Bhutan’s requirement as a gift to the people of Bhutan’.

The joint effort of launching this satellite is an initiative that can easily fit into India’s ‘Neighbourhood First policy’. Since 2014, the Modi government has laid emphasis on ‘Neighbourhood first policy’ as an important part of Indian foreign policy. The policy focuses on building cordial and synergetic relationships with its South Asian neighbours in sectors such as economy, science and technology, research and education among others.

India and Bhutan jointly inaugurated a ground earth station for the South Asia Satellite ( SAS) in Thimphu with support from ISRO when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited India in August 2019.

In May 2017, SAS was launched by India for its neighbours Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka to help them access India’s satellite for their needs. The satellite was used in various areas such as disaster management, TV broadcast services, metrological data dissemination, tele-education, telemedicine etc.

The current satellite weighs 17.8 kilogram and has a mission life of six months. Bhutanese engineers have been trained in satellite building and testing, processing and analysing data at the UR Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.  ISRO has already started working with Bhutan to build a ground station in Thimphu from receiving the data from the satellite. 

The country’s first ever satellite, Bhutan -1, an education Cubesat was launched into space in August 2019 with the Department of Information technology and Telecom (DITT) as part of their master’s programme in Japan.

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