On 28 April 2020 the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), winner of the KiboCUBE programme 2017, run by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), saw their satellite deployed by JAXA from the International Space Station (ISS).
The satellite – Quetzal-1 – is Guatemala’s first and will unlock new possibilities for the country and help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The primary objective of the mission is to test a multispectral sensor to acquire remote sensing data for natural resource management. The sensor could be used to monitor water quality in inland water bodies, helping to achieve SDG Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation.
The project supports SDG Goal 9 – industry, innovation and infrastructure – helping Guatemala develop its capacities in aerospace engineering and sparking innovations, such as the sensor created for the satellite. Women were an integral part of the winning team that engineered the satellite, contributing to SDG Goal 5 – gender equality.
The project has been made possible thanks to the strong collaboration of several entities: UNOOSA, JAXA, UVG, the UK Space Agency, the University of Colorado, the University of Chile, TEC Costa Rica, and the University of Würzburg among others. This is in line with SDG 17, partnership for the goals: international collaboration can unlock new frontiers in leveraging space for development.
The KiboCUBE programme offers the opportunity for institutions from developing countries to develop a cube satellite to be deployed from the ISS Japanese Experiment Module (Kibo). The programme, which recently completed its fifth round, enabled Kenya to deploy their first satellite in 2018, 1KUNS-PF, developed by a team from the University of Nairobi.
UNOOSA Director Simonetta Di Pippo said: “Together with JAXA, our partners in the KiboCUBE project that made this deployment possible, we are delighted to welcome Guatemala to the growing community of space-faring nations. We stand ready to continue to support the utilization of this cubesat and the overall development of the space sector in Guatemala. Today you made us immensely proud of having been part of this historic achievement.”
JAXA Director General of Human Spaceflight, Hiroshi Sasaki, said: “We are relieved that the CubeSat (Quetzal-1) of the University del Valle de Guatemala, which was selected as the 2nd KiboCUBE program, was steadily released, and we would like to extend our respect to UNOOSA and the UVG for their efforts. We hope that the experience and knowledge obtained through the development and technical demonstration of Quetzal-1 will lead to the further development of remote sensing technology in Guatemala in the future. We are also proud to contribute to the development of space technology in Guatemala through the utilization of the Japanese Experiment Module “Kibo”. Lastly, congratulations on the successful deployment of the first satellite of Guatemala from “Kibo.”
UVG Rector Roberto Moreno said: “Today is a very special day for the members of Universidad del Valle, as well as for all Guatemalans. Finally, the first Guatemalan satellite was deployed from the ISS, after having been sent into space in March. This is a very important project for our community, with a deep sense of ownership by all units of the University, including not only the academic area, but all administrative and support areas. We are proud of the talented group of students, alumni, and professors that form part of a group of over one hundred members of our students and staff that made it possible. The deployment of this satellite into space is a tangible evidence of the fulfilment of the mission of UVG, which aims to put science, technology, and education at the service of society and to prepare the highly needed change agents that will contribute to the development of the region. The message that we are sending today with the deployment of Quetzal-1 is a one of hope and optimism, demonstrating that we can accomplish challenging goals, join efforts, serve our communities and live meaningful lives.”