Girls in Central Asia Take to the Sky

Young female students from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan create and launch seven nanosatellites into the stratosphere to study air pollution

UNICEF Kazakhstan & UNICEF Innovation
Girls seven ultra-modern nanosatellites into the stratosphere to analyze air pollution
UNICEFKazakhstan/2022/RuslanKostrykin
28 April 2022

As part of a joint project between UNICEF and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU), over 230 girls from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, all participants of the UniSat program, launched in March seven ultra-modern nanosatellites into the stratosphere to analyze air pollution in these countries.

Nanosatellites are a class of small spacecraft whose weight does not exceed 10 kg. They are equipped with several cameras, one with the potential to take an elliptical image of the Earth within 4K resolution. During the launch, UniSat nanosatellites take stunning high-resolution images of the Earth and space, while sensors collect data on radiation, pressure, gravity, light and gas composition. Afterwards, large amounts of data, video and images are sent back to the Earth for analysis.

“Today's launch is symbolic. It demonstrates the boundless potential of the girls and women of Central Asia. Their capabilities expand the boundaries of science and technology. This year we were able to include 2,000 participants from three countries and inspire them to continue their education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We believe that the results of the UniSat program will achieve high cosmic changes in society.”

Arthur van Diesen, UNICEF Representative, Kazakhstan
Young female students from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan create and launch seven nanosatellites into the stratosphere to study air pollution
UNICEFKazakhstan/2022/RuslanKostrykin

Nanosatellites were created by girls as part of a 10-day marathon at KazNU. UniSat participants mastered the construction, design, programming, and assembling of the spacecraft. After visiting the Center for Space Technologies and Remote Sensing of the Earth, the theoretical knowledge gained was immediately put into practice. Under the guidance of trainers, they designed the bodies of the nanosatellites using 3D modelling and then 3D printed them. The girls also programmed the subsystems of the UniSat nanosatellites and tested them in the laboratory before the launch.

“In Kyrgyzstan, only 1 out of 3 girls aged 15-19 have computer literacy, and more than 80 per cent of girls choose social and human sciences. The question is, is that a true reflection of our girls’ professional interests and aspirations? in 2020, UNICEF launched the “Girls in Science” program to help young girls expand their professional horizons, overcome gender stereotypes, and make their career choices. Since then, more than 10,000 girls have joined the initiative every year and more girls are gaining confidence in developing a scientific career. Building on this, the launch of the nanosatellites is not only the culmination of two years of hard work, but will become a great inspiration for girls and young women across the region.”

Yulia Oleinik, UNICEF Deputy Representative, Kyrgyzstan
Girls launch nanosatellite
UNICEFKazakhstan/2022/RuslanKostrykin
Nanosatellite launched
UNICEFKazakhstan/2022/RuslanKostrykin

“In Uzbekistan, as it still happens in other countries in the world, there is a significant gap between boys and girls in the areas of computer literacy, technical education and technical careers. UniSat's educational program aims to bridge this gap by engaging and educating girls in relevant science and technology skills. UniSat will help draw the attention of the general public to the gender issue in technology areas among the youth of Uzbekistan. We are sure that by their example the participants of this project will inspire their peers to believe in themselves. They show by personal example that girls can be successful in any field.”

Munir Mammadzade, UNICEF Representative, Uzbekistan

The UniSat programme is implemented with the support of the UAE-based civil society organization “Dubai Cares”, Clé de Peau Beauté brand and philanthropist Ms. Nazanin Alakija, and is part of the Gender Equality Global Innovation Portfolio at UNICEF. The Global Innovation Portfolios align technical and financial resources to promising innovative solutions that can accelerate results for children in key focus areas, including Learning, Water and Sanitation, Maternal and Child Health, Climate Change, Youth, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, and Immunization. By bringing these proven solutions to more countries, UNICEF’s Office of Innovation strives to strategically and efficiently address some of the greatest and most pressing challenges facing children.