By Khaled Al-Abdulhadi

KUWAIT: Kuwait's first satellite was successfully launched into space on Tuesday in what was hailed as a milestone effort in setting up the country's space industry. "Kuwait Sat-1" was launched onboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, in an endeavor undertaken by Kuwait University and funded by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences. The launch was the culmination of diligent work over the course of the past three years, aiming to bring Kuwait's space ambitions to fruition.

The launch was monitored through a ground reception station, which will receive information from imagery collected by the satellite. The station is located in Sabah Al-Salem Science City in the university's campus. A large number of officials and attendees watched the launch of the rocket that carried the satellite into space. "This is a national project within the framework of Kuwait's 2035 vision to establish national staff, as we aim to develop the scientific field in Kuwait," Acting Director of Kuwait University Dr Suad Al-Fadhli said.

"Our ambitions have reached the sky with the efforts of our youth, and I am honored to witness this achievement and all efforts spent in avoiding obstacles. Today is a historic day for Kuwait, fully accomplished by Kuwaiti efforts that will record a milestone for Kuwait's presence in the space field," Dean of Kuwait University's College of Science Mohammed bin Sabt said.

"We are the national team for the first satellite of Kuwait. It is a completely Kuwaiti project with the sponsorship of local institutions, with 45 of our young students. Our goal is to build national abilities in building and operating space projects, with the slogan 'build, succeed, explore'," Dr Hala Al-Jassar, manager of the project and head of the physics department, said. "The rocket has two stages - one that can carry up to 114 satellites, which will carry Kuwait Sat-1 into space, and the second stage will be 30 minutes after the launch for the final setup of the satellite in space," she explained.

"This is an exceptional project which we started four years ago with the efforts and skills of youth whom we trained. We have benefited from the work of a technical team, which will benefit in photo analysis. The ground station will receive all information from space, the first of its kind in Kuwait. The project saw a participation of 71 percent from female staff made up of graduates and undergraduates, and 29 percent from our male graduates and undergraduates," Dr Ahmad Al-Kandari, deputy project manager and operations manager, said during the event.

"The camera includes vision of over 30 kilometers, which will cover Kuwait. Images will be sent to the ground station on our campus, which we will analyze. The application of the project includes everything ranging from marine to urban infrastructure to traffic and environmental issues," academic manager of the project Dr Yasser Abdulraheem said.

"This is just the beginning, as we have entered space and we hope for further progress in order to raise the global standings of our beloved country. Kuwait has great capabilities, as well as great infrastructure that will further progress our development. It will also expand the coverage of communications in Kuwait and lower costs of many things related to the space economy," Dr Kandari told Kuwait Times. "The space sector will provide many future opportunities for young Kuwaitis, as it is rich in giving and providing for the development of their capabilities," he added.

US Chargé d'Affaires James Holtsnider told Kuwait Times: "It's a fantastic way to start 2023. To have Kuwait have its first satellite launched in partnership with one of the best in American space industry. I look forward to seeing what is coming in the future. Inshallah, we'll have many Kuwaiti satellites in the future. It is a great opportunity for young people on both sides and this scientific collaboration is great to see."

Engineer Dina Al-Naqeeb, program manager at KFAS, told Kuwait Times: "We are very proud to witness the launch, which is fully operated by Kuwaiti staff. The project was funded by KFAS, and what we do is advance work on catalyzing science and technology in Kuwait. The satellite has cameras that will project images of Kuwait and the environment, which will lead to more research ideas. In the next phase, we are awaiting the launch of Kuwait Sat-2, which will study contents of solar cells and their performance. We are also working with KU to establish the first research center in Kuwait. So hopefully, this project will be the nucleus of future research projects."