In June 2018 during a side event at UNISPACE+50, a research team from the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council made a record for being the winner of the third round of KiboCube programme by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The KiboCUBE programme was launched in 2015 by UNOOSA and JAXA to offer educational and research institutions from developing countries the opportunity to develop cube satellites (CubeSats) for deployment from the International Space Station (ISS).
Space in Africa spoke with Dr Vickram Bissonauth, the Project Coordinator and Mr Ziyaad Soreefan, Co-Investigator on the project on the current status of the project and what the lies in the future for the space program in Mauritius.
The satellite which is being developed with the help of AAC Clyde Space has gone through the assembly and integration testing phase and is scheduled to be delivered to JAXA by February 2020. The satellite project aimed at capacity development for the country has Mauritius engineers working and learning through the process of development, and with the level of awareness (through training and workshops) on the project, the goal is to have Mauritius engineers build future satellites by themselves.
The satellite project which costs 15 million Mauritius Rupees (about USD 412,000) is being funded by the Mauritius government through the Mauritius Research and Innovation Council as the government lean towards developing a comprehensive space program soon. “This is just the country’s entry point into the space industry, we hope to have a well-structured space program in the next couple of years which the government is willing to fund,” said Bissonauth and Soreefan. Our ground station is currently being built with the help of Clyde space as we build capacity locally so we are well equipped to manage the satellite after launch; they continued.
The Mauritius Research and Innovation Council operates under the Ministry of Technology Communication and Innovation and is mandated by the Government of Mauritius to promote Science Research, Technology and Innovation in the Republic of Mauritius. It’s objectives according to the MRIC Act 2019 include:
- to promote and coordinate applied research, innovation and research and development according to the needs of the country and to improve the quality of life;
- to foster a research, innovation and entrepreneurship culture;
- to encourage the development and application of advanced and innovative technology to meet the needs of industries;
- to enhance private sector participation in research and development and innovation; and
- to promote commercial utilisation of the results of research and development and innovation, in the national interest.
Another African country, Kenya was the first winner of the KiboCube initiative which enabled the country to launch it’s first satellite in 2018, while a team from Universidad del Valle de Guatemala was selected for the second round. Mauritius intends to use its first CubeSat platform to acquire knowledge on satellite technology and how to efficiently collect and process land and ocean data coming from space. This big data analysis will lead to better monitoring, decision-making and management of both land-based and maritime activities, and advancements in capacity-building, research and development and innovation, which will ultimately benefit the people of Mauritius.