Bangladesh enters space age
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The Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying Bangabandhu-1 satellite lifts off from a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, USA early yesterday. SPACEX Photos

After the first attempt to launch was officially scrubbed early Friday following an auto abort, the Bangabandhu-1 geostationary satellite was blasted into the space early yesterday, taking Bangladesh into the history. With the launch, Bangladesh made history to become the 57th country in the world to have launched a satellite into the space. US satellite launching company SpaceX launched its Falcon-9 rocket carrying the payload of Bangabandhu-1 satellite around 2:14am Bangladesh time.

Following a successful launch, SpaceX confirmed the first stage entry burn to be completed and a successful second stage engine cutoff. Falcon 9 Block 5 first stage also landed successfully on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship following the launch.

Hours before the launching, SpaceX wrote on its official Twitter page, “All systems looking good for Falcon 9’s launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1. Weather is 70% favorable for today's launch window, which opens at 4:14 p.m. EDT, 20:14 UTC.”

Built on the new-generation Spacebus 4000B2 platform from Thales Alenia Space, the satellite is fitted with 26 Ku-band and 14 C-band transponders.

Its coverage area includes Bangladesh and surrounding regions. Positioned at 119.1° East, the system will provide Ku-band coverage for Bangladesh and its territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia. It will also provide C-band capacity for the entire region.

Earlier yesterday, SpaceX postponed the launching of the rocket due to a "standard ground system auto abort at T-1 minute" on Friday Bangladesh time.

SpaceX had earlier assured Bangladeshi officials that the satellite launching will resume around 4:14 pm (Florida local time) yesterday.

“Standing down today ( Friday) was due to a standard ground system auto abort at T-1 min. Rocket and payload are in good health—teams are working towards tomorrow’s backup launch opportunity at 4:14 p.m. EDT, or 20:14 UTC,” SpaceX said in a tweet yesterday.

About the postponement of the launching process, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood told a press conference: “The satellite and rocket are in good condition. But after the failure to launch the satellite, the Spacex in-charge informed us that there are some problems at the ground system. Such problems can happen any time. He said it can be launched on Friday afternoon local time.”

Reply to a question, Mahmood said: “It’s nothing new. There's a precedent of a satellite launch succeeding at the sixth attempt.”

When asked whether a faulty satellite was being launched, the chairman rejected

its possibility outright. Mahmood also dismissed the notion of financial losses caused by the incident, saying “SpaceX will carry the loss until its launch.”

He also said: “We know people in Bangladesh spent a sleepless night and they were emotional. I tell them, please pray for us as we are trying our best.”

State minister for information and communication technology, Junaid Ahmed Palak, who was also at the press conference, said: “There was a technical glitch just 42 seconds before lift-off. It’s now under the authority of SpaceX.”

He asked people to pray for a successful launch.

Besides, Prime Minister’s ICT affairs adviser, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, in a Facebook status wrote: “The final minutes of the launch are fully controlled by computers. If the computer finds any measurement to be out of normal, it aborts the launch. Today it aborted the launch just 42 seconds before launch. SpaceX will check everything and attempt the launch again tomorrow at the same time. This is quite normal for rocket launches as you cannot take any risk.”

Bangladeshis living in the US were frustrated at the postponement of the satellite launching. Many of them have come down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, from various states.

The Bangladesh delegation and SpaceX authorities held a review meeting in New York over the launching preparations on Wednesday morning (local time).

State minister for information Tarana Halim, state minister for information and communication technology Junaid Ahmed Palak and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood attended the meeting.

The launch process has two phases — the first is the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) and the second is Satellite in Orbit. LEOP will last 10 days, while the second 20 days.

Bangabandhu-1 will provide services in three categories — broadcasting, telecommunications and data communication. It will also help boost the development of the country’s telecommunication sector.

Earlier, project director (PD) of Bangabandhu-1, Mejbahuzzaman, told the media that it would take 20 days for the satellite to stabilise. Once it was ready for operation, he said, the control would be transferred to the ground stations in Joydevpur of Gazipur and Betbunia in Rangamati.

"The 3.7-tonne satellite will travel vertically up to 36,000km from the launch pad before making adjustments for orbit; it will take 10 days for that,” he said. Bangabandhu-1, with a capacity of 1,600 megahertz, will have 40 transponders and the physical equipment of the space capsule that measures the capacity. In January 2015, the BTRC bought a slot from the Russian satellite company "Intersputnik" for USD 28 million to launch the country's first satellite.

Bangladesh spends around USD 14 million annually on satellite rents for running television channels, telephones and radio connectivity.

Once launched, the satellite would save around Tk. 110-Tk. 120 crore annually in foreign exchange as broadcasting expenditure.

12 May, 2018 10:44:32