The BIRDS Satellite Project
The Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite (BIRDS) Project was initiated in 2015 by the Kyushu Institute of Technology, Japan with the help of over ten partner institutions. It was envisioned by Dr. Mengu Cho, Professor at Kyutech, who became Principal Investigator for the Project. The BIRDS Project trains graduate students from many developing countries in using innovative and cost-effective systems engineering during the course of a two-year satellite project. The BIRDS project was selected by the Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) as the winner of the 2017 GEDC Airbus Diversity Award for diversity in engineering. The Project has provided training for students from many countries including: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Egypt, Ghana, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Paraguay, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, and Turkey.
One BIRDS project is begun each year, with 2019 marking the fourth generation (BIRDS-4) since the Project’s inception. The yearly projects are carried out by graduate students enrolled at Kyutech for a masters or doctoral degree, and such projects are supervised by four Kyutech faculty members. During these two-year satellite projects, the students design, develop, and operate CubeSats belonging to participating countries. Since 2015, the BIRDS Project has trained fifty-two graduate students, thirty-two of whom hail from under-represented countries, and launch eleven 1U CubeSats.
The long-term goal of the BIRDS Project is to train students in developing countries to help launch and steer their nations’ space programs. As part of the project, Kyutech has built a global human and ground station network of more than fifteen countries that are continually operating satellites and sharing research ideas. The Project hosts an annual BIRDS workshop to foster communication and cooperation, allowing its participants and graduates to meet in person and discuss their progress and new programs. It has supported Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ghana, Mongolia, Nepal and Sri Lanka in launching their first national satellites with the help of project graduates. The BIRDS Project has also supported ten institutions in developing countries through the difficult process of creating their own sustainable space research and education programs.