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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Pakistan’s Lunar Ambition: ICUBE-Q Lifts Off on Historic Mission

Pakistan's space program achieves a historic milestone with the launch of ICUBE-Qamar, a lunar orbiter, marking a significant leap in space exploration through collaboration with China's Chang'e 6 mission, highlighting the nation's technological prowess and fostering international cooperation.

Pakistan’s space program achieved a historic milestone on Friday as the country’s first-ever lunar orbiter lifted off from China’s Henan Space Launch Site. The satellite, ICUBE-Qamar, marks a significant leap forward in Pakistan’s space exploration endeavors. The launch was telecast live from the Institute of Space Technology’s (IST) website, garnering attention worldwide.

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The quest for a lunar orbiter began in 2022 when the China National Space Agency (CNSA), in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organization (APSCO), invited member states to participate in the Chang’e 6 mission. Pakistan seized this opportunity and proposed the ‘ICUBE-Qamar’ (ICUBE-Q) CubeSat, which was selected after a rigorous evaluation process. This collaborative effort between IST, SUPARCO, and China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) culminated in the development of the payload.

Payload Details and Mission Objectives

The ICUBE-Qamar payload consists of three components: the CubeSat, the separation mechanism, and the mounting bracket, weighing approximately 7 kilograms. Equipped with two cameras for lunar surface imaging, along with sensors for deep-space communication and altitude control, ICUBE-Qamar’s primary mission objective is the successful separation into lunar orbit from the Chang’e-6 Orbiter.

Secondary objectives include beacon signal confirmation and capturing images of Earth, the moon, and the orbiter. Additionally, ICUBE-Qamar aims to collect data on the lunar magnetic field, paving the way for future missions and international collaboration.

National Pride and Future Prospects

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended heartfelt congratulations to the nation and the scientific community, emphasizing the significance of Pakistan’s debut lunar mission. He underscored the dedication of Pakistani scientists and engineers in advancing the nation’s space capabilities, highlighting the milestone as a testament to Pakistan’s technological prowess. The inclusion of ICUBE-Qamar in China’s Chang’e 6 mission underscores the deep-rooted Pakistan-China friendship, extending even into the realm of space exploration.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar hailed the launch as a symbol of global cooperation and the promise of Pakistani youth in the field of space exploration. With CubeSats like ICUBE-Qamar leading the charge, Pakistan is poised to carve its niche in scientific research, economic development, and national security. As the nation celebrates this achievement, it reaffirms its commitment to nurturing future generations in science and technology, ensuring Pakistan’s prominence in global innovation.