Space ambitions

May 12, 2024

i-Cube-Qamar will send images of the far side of the moon

Space ambitions


akistan’s first lunar satellite has entered orbit after being launched abroad a Chinese rocket. The i-Cube-Qamar will likely send images and help Pakistani scientists learn more about moon’s little-explored far side.

The i-Cube-Qamar entered the moon orbit on May 8 and will start sending images in the coming week.

Pakistan sent its indigenously-designed and manufactured satellite with China’s largest rocket, a Long March-5, that took off from the Wencheng Space Launch Center on Hainan Island on May 3. Chang’e-6 is the sixth in a series of China’s lunar exploration missions.

The Chinese mission aims to retrieve samples and images from moon’s largely unexplored south side. If the mission achieves all its objectives, China and Pakistan will become two among the first few countries to explore the far side of the moon, which is not seen from the Earth.

With the success of this launch Pakistan became the sixth country to explore moon using its own satellite.

China earlier achieved a remarkable feat when it made the first unmanned moon landing on the far side with the Chang’e-4 probe in 2018. However, the mission did not retrieve any samples. India landed a satellite near the moon’s south pole in August. The operation was called Chandrayaan-3.

The Institute of Space Technology-Pakistan had the lead role in designing and preparing this satellite. “Pakistan has been preparing for this for several years. This opportunity was offered by China to help Pakistan to release the cubesat in lunar orbit from Chang’e-6 mission,” Prof Khurram Khurshid, a senior space scientist at the IST, tells The News on Sunday.

Space ambitions

“Pakistan has been preparing for this for several years. The opportunity was finally offered by China to to release the cube-sat in lunar orbit from Chang’e-6 mission,” says Prof Khurram Khurshid from the Institute of Space Technology.

The China National Space Agency had offered this opportunity to Pakistan through the Asia Pacific Space Cooperation Organisation. “China accepted our proposal after a thorough evaluation. It is a matter of great pride and excitement. This mission will help Pakistani scientists and space technologists learn more about the moon.”

The i-Cube-Qamar is a seven-kilogram cube. Miniature satellites are typically characterised by their small size and the standard cubic design. Most of these are used for academic purposes. The i-Cube-Qamar is carrying two cameras for imaging the lunar surface and earth/ moon images from lunar orbit besides having three-axis altitude control for desired orientation, onboard computer, thermal control, telemetry and tele-command and payload data communication modules for connecting through deep space network.

Operating in extreme temperatures (as low as minus 100 degrees Celsius), the satellite features a one-megapixel camera tailored for missions with power constraints. In November 2013, Pakistan had launched its first cubesat, the iCube-1 in a low earth orbit.

“This is Pakistan’s first deep space mission. This will raise the morale of Pakistani scientists and encourage them to work on more projects to compete with the rest of the world,” project supervisor Khurshid said. Pakistan started preparing this satellite in 2021.

“The satellite, as per expectations, will send the images of that side of the moon for three to six months,” the IST official said. He said the Chinese mission also aimed to explore the resources available on moon’s surface and explore the type of minerals and environment.

“Pakistan will directly get crucial data on crater locations, water and traces of ice on the moon’s surface to contribute to this knowledge gained through firsthand information. The satellite has been designed to revolve around the moon to gather key scientific information including lunar images and relevant data. This scientific information will help Pakistan develop more innovative space projects in future,” Khurshid said.

The writer is a staff member. He can be reached at

Space ambitions