Pakistan's Premier Multilingual News Agency

Pakistan’s first moon satellite successfully enters the lunar orbit

Islamabad, 9 May 2024, (GNP): Qamar, Pakistan’s first lunar mission, has been effectively launched into orbit, as stated on Wednesday by Dr. Khurram Khurshid from the Institute of Space Technology (IST).

Dr. Khurshid, a key member of the core team, described the achievement as “a significant success,” revealing that the orbiter was deployed on May 8 at 1:14pm PST.

After its launch, the satellite will enable imaging of specific lunar surfaces in a meticulously chosen 12-hour elliptical orbit. iCube Qamar was carried into space aboard China’s Chang’e-6 from Hainan, China, on May 3.

Dr. Khurram stated last week that the Pakistani satellite, transported by China’s Long March-5 rocket, would enter lunar orbit within five days and conduct orbits around the moon for a period of three to six months.

Dr. Khurram also mentioned that the satellite will capture various images of the moon’s surface, providing Pakistan with its own satellite imagery for research purposes.

The satellite was crafted by the Islamabad-based Institute of Space Technology (IST), working in conjunction with China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and Pakistan’s national space agency Suparco.

The iCube Qamar orbiter is equipped with two optical cameras designed to capture images of the lunar surface.

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After undergoing rigorous qualification and testing, the orbiter was incorporated into China’s Chang’e 6 mission, which marks the sixth installment in a series of lunar exploration missions.

CubeSats, a category of small satellites commonly utilized by academic institutions for experimental and research endeavors, typically operate in low Earth orbits, often below 1,000 km in altitude.

However, they are increasingly being employed in higher orbits and even deep space missions.

Communicating with and controlling CubeSats becomes more challenging when operating at greater distances, such as the moon, which orbits Earth in an elliptical path at an average distance of approximately 384,400 km.

Out of all member states within the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), Pakistan’s proposal to release a CubeSat into lunar orbit from the Chang’e-6 mission was selected by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) following a comprehensive evaluation process.

The design, development, and qualification of iCube-Q were spearheaded by faculty members and students of the Institute of Space Technology (IST), working in collaboration with Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and with support from Suparco.

iCube Qamar is equipped with two cameras as payload, enabling imaging of both the lunar surface and Earth/moon from lunar orbit.

Additionally, it features 3-axis altitude control for precise orientation, an onboard computer, thermal control mechanisms, telemetry and telecommand systems, and payload data communication modules for connectivity through the deep space network.