The UAE-Bahraini Light-1 CubeSat successfully launched into orbit from the International Space Station, in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Light-1 CubeSat is a collaborative initiative of the UAE Space Agency, Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, and New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi.
JAXA coordinated the launch from Tsukuba Space Centre (TKSC) in Japan.
The Light-1 CubeSat represents the region’s first scientific mission to monitor and study Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs) from thunderstorms and lightning. Data gathered from the Light-1 CubeSat, which aims to leverage space science to support sustainable economic growth, will be shared globally to support scientific analysis and encourage cooperation with research centres around the world.
The team that worked on the design and development of Light-1 bus consists of 22 university students from Khalifa University including nine Bahrainis, 10 Emiratis, and three international students, advised by Dr Firas Jarrar, Manager, Yahsat Space Lab, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering.
The NYU Abu Dhabi team of five Emirati students and five international students, who worked on the development of the payload called Rapid Acquisition Atmospheric Detector (RAAD – Arabic for ‘thunder’), was advised by Dr Francesco Arneodo, Programme Head of Physics, and Dr Mallory Roberts, Professor of Physics.
Dr Arif Sultan Al Hammadi, Executive Vice-President, Khalifa University, said: “The launch of Light-1 CubeSat into its orbit from the International Space Station reflects the intense collaboration engaged by all stakeholders involved, as well as the extent of technical brilliance displayed by students in the UAE with suitable guidance from experts. As this UAE-Bahraini nanosatellite reached its orbital position, we believe this collaboration initiative will stand out as the best example of what can be achieved by scientists in the Arab world. We are happy to work with our brothers in Bahrain in scientific development that will not only benefit our countries but also the whole world and humanity. Also, this is a great effort between local universities in the UAE. We believe Light-1 will carry out its mission towards studying Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes and their impact on aircraft and other flying devices, while supporting scientific analysis in space.”
Mariët Westermann, Vice-Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi, added: “I would like to congratulate our incredible team of students and faculty at NYU Abu Dhabi on their contributions to this historic mission, particularly their work pertaining to the scientific payload. NYU Abu Dhabi takes pride in its diversity and academic excellence, and today’s launch of the Light-1 CubeSat into its orbit from the International Space Station is the perfect manifestation of these values: key entities and experts in the field have come together from different countries and backgrounds to achieve one common, inspiring goal. We hope that the satellite will provide new data on terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, and that scientists and people around the world will benefit from them.”
Salem Butti Al Qubaisi, Director-General of UAE Space Agency, stated: “The UAE has made massive strides in its space journey over the past few years, and the successful deployment of our Light-1 nanosatellite into orbit is a major milestone. Coming close to our recent success with the Emirates Mars Mission, and our first space astronaut Hazza AlMansouri’s journey to the International Space Station, this is an endorsement of our achievements in the cosmos. At the UAE Space Agency, we are committed to exchanging knowledge and expertise with the international community to stimulate cutting-edge research, scientific discoveries and human progress. We thank all our partners across the UAE, Bahrain, US and Japan for their support in making this mission possible.”
Dr Mohamed Ebrahim Al-Aseeri, Chief Executive Officer of Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA), remarked: “At the beginning, I am pleased to raise the highest congratulations and sincere blessings to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, The King of Bahrain, and to His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, and to the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, on the occasion of the successful launch of the Bahrain-UAE Joint Satellite (Light 1) to its space orbit.”
He added: “The guidance and support of wise leadership have been and continues to be the main motivation of the NSSA throughout its journey to achieve successive achievements and to enter steadily into the space field, paving the way for the implementation of more projects to achieve our national ambition. I also commend the active follow-up of the work of the NSSA by His Highness Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, National Security Advisor, Commander of the Royal Guard, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Defense, which contributed to motivating the members of the NSSA to give their utmost to acquire modern sciences and skills to form the first nucleus of national competencies specialised in the space sector, and contribute to the implementation of the future projects of the NSSA to serve the Kingdom of Bahrain plans to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).”
“We are very grateful to our brothers at Emirates Space Agency for the generous support, and good cooperation we have found throughout the implementation of this joint project. This project is a model for scientific and technical cooperation to serve humanity through the peaceful exploitation of space, and the NSSA is moving forward with more projects to achieve the goals for which it was established,” he explained.
Shiho Ogawa, Director of JEM Utilisation Centre for Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, JAXA, concluded: “UAE Space Agency and JAXA had made the Cooperation Agreement in 2016. Since then, JAXA has cooperated on many projects. The Light-1 project is one of them. The Light-1 team and JAXA have overcome all the problems they faced during development and realised the satellite deployment from Kibo. We are honoured to support the Light-1 project. This success has great meaning for both countries as well and I hope that UAE and Japan expand further cooperation in the space field. Now, it is time to fly in space to start the mission. I pray for the full success of the Light-1 project.”
The impact of high-energy gamma-ray emissions on the atmosphere, air traffic and human health, especially flight crews, will be studied by Light-1. These rays can penetrate aircraft structures, and therefore the data of Light-1 will improve understanding related to radiation exposure.