CubeSat Project Executed at Khalifa University and NYU Abu Dhabi with a Mission Team of 32 Students
The Light-1 CubeSat, a collaboration 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, was successfully launched into orbit from the International Space Station, in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
JAXA coordinated the launch from the Tsukuba Space Center (TKSC) in Japan, and the event was broadcast live on social media channels. It was also live-streamed on Bahrain’s NSSA National TV and JAXA.
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 centers around the world.
The CubeSat was launched onboard SpaceX’s Dragon CRS-24 cargo spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US, on 21 December 2021. 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, Program 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 the 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.”
Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi Mariët Westermann commented: “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.”
His Excellency Salem Butti Al Qubaisi, Director-General of UAE Space Agency, said: “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 on 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 exchange 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.”
On this occasion, His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Ebrahim Al-Aseeri, Chief Executive Officer of the Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency (NSSA), said: “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 at noon on Thursday, February 3, 2022.”
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 specialized 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,” Dr. Alaseeri said.
He added: “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.”
His Excellency Dr. Mohamed E. Al-Aseeri concluded his statement by saying: “In conclusion, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the NSSA’s Board of Directors headed by H. E. Engineer Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, Minister of transportations and telecommunications, for their great confidence and continuous support to NSSA, and special thanks to all the NSSA’s member of staff for their sincere efforts to promote space science in the Kingdom of Bahrain and to follow up and implement the NSSA’s projects and initiatives over the past years, I am confident of their capabilities in implementing more projects in the future to achieve excellence and for the Kingdom of Bahrain to assume a prominent position in the space sector.”
Shiho Ogawa, Director of JEM Utilization Center for Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, JAXA, said: “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 realized the satellite deployment from Kibo. We are honored 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 mission success of the Light-1 project.”
The impact of high-energy gamma-ray emissions on 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.
Light-1’s gamma-ray detection system RAAD, designed and assembled with a unique layout, and making use of state-of-the-art detection devices, is competitive with bigger satellites and can make an impactful contribution to the comprehension of TGFs. Thanks to its innovative technology, the Light-1 nanosatellite might become a pathfinder of future and larger missions targeting gamma rays.
RAAD makes use of ‘scintillating’ crystals, the material that emits light when crossed by a subatomic particle, specifically chosen for their quick response time. The light emitted by the crystals is collected by photomultipliers and processed by a dedicated electronic system. The different types of crystals, together with the custom-designed electronics, make RAAD a unique detection system.
English Editor Specialist
3 February 2022