Orbital Space confirms June 24 launch date for Kuwait’s first CubeSat

Orbital Space, the pan-Arab space company, is counting down the days to the launch to space of QMR-KWT – Kuwait’s first ever privately designed, built, financed, launched and operated CubeSat (nanosatellite).

QMR-KWT is due to be launched to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) by a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (SLC 40) in Florida on June 24, 2021.

SpaceX may extend the scheduled June 24 launch window, due to unfavourable weather conditions and other parameters.

In addition to the Kuwaiti payload, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will also launch several other CubeSats for commercial and government customers as part of SpaceX’s Transporter 2 mission.

As an IU CubeSat QMR-KWT measures 10cm x 10cm x 11.35cm.

‘Moon of Kuwait’

Translated from Arabic, the name ‘QMR-KWT’ means ‘Moon of Kuwait’.

The upcoming launch to space of QMR-KWT by privately-owned and operated Orbital Space is significant for Kuwait especially as the Gulf state does not currently have a national space agency, neither is the country considering setting one in the foreseeable future.

Fellow GCC members, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, have robust national space agencies, with the UAE’s national space programme being leaps and bounds ahead of the other GCC states, having successfully launched the Hope probe to Mars’ orbit as part of the Emirates Mars Mission, as well as being on track to launch the Rashid lunar minirover in association with Japan’s ispace by 2022.

Bassam Alfeeli, Founder and CEO of Orbital Space, with the QMR-KWT in front of him. Credit: Orbital Space

Orbital Space, which operates from Kuwait City, Kuwait, and Dubai, UAE, has custom-built QMR-KWT specifically to empower students from around the world to appreciate and further their learning about satellite communication technology.

In particular, QMR-KWT will serve as a platform for Code in Space – Orbital Space’s in-house educational programme that allows students from around the world to write software code that will be uploaded to and executed on one of QMR-KWT’s onboard data processors when the CubeSat is in LEO.

According to Bassam Alfeeli, Founder and CEO of Orbital Space: QMR-KWT will also help prepare young and aspiring space professionals to operate next-generation communication satellites as part of the company’s mission – facilitating space missions and engagement activities in support of space research and education.

Arab World first

Orbital Space was founded as a Kuwaiti company in 2018 and reestablished itself as an Emirati entity in 2020, with the aim of offering its specialised services to the government and private sectors in all six GCC countries.

To date, the company has signed MoUs with Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and Bahrain’s National Space Science Agency.

Alfeeli said Orbital Space is also “currently working to establish relations with the rest of the GCC countries”.

Orbital Space is the first GCC-based private company to make LEO access accessible in a cost-effective manner to all by facilitating CubeSat missions from concept to commissioning in orbit.

It is expected that Orbital Space will maintain telemetry contact with the QMR-KWT CubeSat once it is in LEO via the company’s own Um Alaish 4 satellite ground station located near Kuwait City.

Um Alaish 4 is the first private CubeSat ground station in the Arabian Gulf region to provide free telemetry access to orbiting CubeSats.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at the SLC-40 site in Florida. QMR-KWT will launch to space from this site on June 24, 2021. Credit: NASA

As reported by www.arabspacenews.com on February 7, 2021, QMR-KWT underwent functional tests at the EnduroSat facility in Sofia, Bulgaria, having earlier successfully passed its space qualification tests in September 2020.

EnduroSat designs, builds and operates CubeSats for commercial, exploration and science missions.

Functional testing

The functional testing of QMR-KWT in a controlled lab setting at the EnduroSat facility sought to verify the CubeSat’s engineered functionalities and abilities, including power management, altitude determination and control, communications, and error recovery.

The functional testing phase also included a hardware-in-the-loop simulation, to emulate virtual and physical in-orbit conditions.

QMR-KWT also successfully completed its space qualification tests in September 2020 at CIRA – Italian Aerospace Research Centre.

CIRA operates the biggest aerospace research facilities in Italy.

Decoding the QMR-KWT mission patch

QMR-KWT mission patch designed by Nada Al Shammari. Credit: Orbital Space
  • The QMR-KWT mission patch was designed by Nada Al Shammari.
  • The outline shape of the patch is similar to that of the 3D proportions of the physical QMR-KWT CubeSat itself.
  • The two orbital streaking trajectories represent the LEO characteristics of the mission.
  • The patch depicts a rotating cube with the number ‘1’ in the middle referencing the first Kuwaiti satellite to enter space.
  • The ‘train of code symbol’ linking the CubeSat with a ground station on the surface of the Earth illustrates that QMR-KWT’s core mission is to receive code from Earth and to test it.
  • The two stars represent the leaders of the QMR-KWT project, while the number ‘2021’ represents the year of the CubeSat’s launch into space.
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