As SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Jan 13th 2022, a group of friends took up positions on a rooftop in Kathmandu, laptops open, waiting for a signal. Inside Falcon 9 was the satellite they had spent years building, first as students and then working as engineers—Sanosat-1.
The size and shape of a Rubik’s Cube, Sanosat was one of 106 satellites shuttled into space on the Falcon 9 then released into orbit to begin their various missions. 500 kilometres above Earth, the first made-in-Nepal satellite is measuring radiation levels, relaying signals that can be used by amateur radio operators, and proving that Nepal has the resources to dive into space research.
“We were really really nervous that day,” says Saurav Paudel, one of Sanosat’s creators and today’s guest. “We had been waiting for the launch for 1 ½ years—there had been delays due to Covid, and a couple of scheduled launch dates had already come and gone.” The group sat on the roof, next to warming fires on the cold winter night, watching the launch online. They knew that there would be a delay after all the satellites were released from the rocket and Sanosat started orbiting. “We finally caught the signal at about 3 am. That was a really exciting moment for us,” Saurav says.
Sanosat-1 will revolve in space for as long as two years, relaying data to earth. Its makers are already working on Sanosat-2, which will be designed to carry out more complicated missions that might also include external customers who will pay to use the satellite. Saurav dreams of a day when hundreds of Nepal-made satellites will orbit above Earth gathering important information exclusively for the country.
Thanks again to Saurav Poudel for sharing the story of Sanosat with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you follow, like or favourite Nepal Now on your podcast app so you don’t miss a conversation. Let us know your thoughts about what you hear via our social media accounts. We’re Nepal Now or Nepal Now Pod on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
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Thanks as always to Nikunja Nepal for advice and inspiration.
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