Space Program of Bhutan

------The Bhutanese Space Agency------

Bhutan's Level = 0 )            HDI: Low



Bhutan has no government funded space agency


History and Infrastructure

There have been no launches from Bhutan


Space-Industrial Complex

Bhutan has extremely limited activity


Launchers and Satellites

Bhutan has no satellites in orbit



There are no plans for any future space activity

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(Level 0 Space Agency)



Bhutan is troubled by the ongoing insurgency throughout the country against the occupation of it by American forces. Its space program is not suprisingly, nonexistent. Not only does it not have an agency, but also not much of an infrastructure in which one would arise. The University of Bhutan offers a degree in traditional medicine but nothing specific to space related educational architecture, such as astrophysics, astronomy, astronautics or aeronautics. It focuses mostly on agriculture in this rural, mountainous country. The government has no ministry devoted to science of this type.

Bhutan: In Brief


Bhutan is a tiny, remote and impoverished kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between its powerful neighbours, India and China.

Almost completely cut off for centuries, it has tried to let in some aspects of the outside world while fiercely guarding its ancient traditions.

The Bhutanese name for Bhutan, Druk Yul, means "Land of the Thunder Dragon" and it only began to open up to outsiders in the 1970s.

The Wangchuk hereditary monarchy has wielded power since 1907. But Bhutan is set to make the switch to a two-party parliamentary democracy. Elections are scheduled for 2008 and a draft constitution envisages a two-chamber parliament.

Bhutan's ancient Buddhist culture and breathtaking scenery make it a natural tourist attraction.

Tourism is restricted; visitors must travel as part of a pre-arranged package or guided tour. Backpackers and independent travellers are discouraged.

King Wangchuk has gone to great lengths to preserve the indigenous Buddhist culture of the majority Drukpa, who have a common culture with the Tibetans and other Himalayan peoples.

National dress is compulsory - the knee-length wrap-around "gho" for men and the ankle-length dress known as the "kira" for women.

But by the 1990s, attempts to stress the majority Buddhist culture and the lack of any political representation had led to deep resentment among the ethnic Nepali community in the south.

Violence erupted and tens of thousands of Nepali speakers fled to refugee camps in Nepal.

Some 100,000 refugees live in the UN-supervised camps. Nepali and Bhutanese officials have held talks about the repatriation of the refugees.

Full name: Kingdom of Bhutan

Head of state: King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck


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 Bhutan: In Depth








Stone tools, weapons, and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BC. Historians have theorised that the state of Lhomon (literally, "southern darkness"), or Monyul ("Dark Land", a reference to the Monpa, the aboriginal peoples of Bhutan) may have existed between 500 BC and AD 600. The names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Sandalwood Country), and Lhomon Khashi, or Southern Mon (country of four approaches) have been found in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan chronicles.

The earliest transcribed event in Bhutan was the passage of the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava (also called Guru Rinpoche) in the 8th century. Bhutan's early history is unclear, because most of the records were destroyed after fire ravaged Punakha, the ancient capital in 1827. By the 10th century, Bhutan's political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. Various sub-sects of Buddhism emerged which were patronised by the various Mongol and Tibetan overlords. After the decline of the Mongols in the 14th century, these sub-sects vied with each other for supremacy in the political and religious landscape, eventually leading to the ascendancy of the Drukpa sub-sect by the 16th century.

Until the early 17th century, Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms until unified by the Tibetan lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. To defend the country against intermittent Tibetan forays, Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong (fortresses), and promulgated a code of law that helped to bring local lords under centralised control. Many such dzong still exist. After Namgyal's death in 1651, Bhutan fell into anarchy. Taking advantage of the chaos, the Tibetans attacked Bhutan in 1710, and again in 1730 with the help of the Mongols. Both assaults were successfully thwarted, and an armistice was signed in 1759.

In the 18th century, the Bhutanese invaded and occupied the kingdom of Cooch Behar to the south. In 1772, Cooch Behar appealed to the British East India Company who assisted them in ousting the Bhutanese, and later in attacking Bhutan itself in 1774. A peace treaty was signed in which Bhutan agreed to retreat to its pre-1730 borders. However, the peace was tenuous, and border skirmishes with the British were to continue for the next hundred years. The skirmishes eventually led to the Duar War (1864–1865), a confrontation over who would control the Bengal Duars. After Bhutan lost the war, the Treaty of Sinchula was signed between British India and Bhutan. As part of the war reparations, the Duars were ceded to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in exchange for a rent of Rs. 50,000. The treaty ended all hostilities between British India and Bhutan.

During the 1870s, power struggles between the rival valleys of Paro and Trongsa led to civil war in Bhutan, eventually leading to the ascendancy of Ugyen Wangchuck, the ponlop (governor) of Tongsa. From his power base in central Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck defeated his political enemies and united the country following several civil wars and rebellions in the period 1882–1885.

In 1907, an epochal year for the country, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously chosen as the hereditary king of the country by an assembly of leading Buddhist monks, government officials, and heads of important families. The British government promptly recognised the new monarchy, and in 1910 Bhutan signed a treaty which let Great Britain to ‘guide’ Bhutan's foreign affairs.

After India gained independence from the United Kingdom on August 15, 1947, Bhutan became one of the first countries to recognize India's independence.

After the British left the region, a treaty similar to the one of 1910 was signed August 8, 1949 with the newly independent India.

After the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered Tibet in 1951, Bhutan sealed its northern frontier and improved bilateral ties with India. To reduce the risk of Chinese encroachment, Bhutan began a modernisation program that was largely sponsored by India. In 1953, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the country's legislature – a 130-member National Assembly – to promote a more democratic form of governance. In 1965, he set up a Royal Advisory Council, and in 1968 he formed a Cabinet. In 1971, Bhutan was admitted to the United Nations, having held observer status for three years. In July 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended to the throne at the age of 16 after the death of his father, Dorji Wangchuck.

Since 1988, Nepalese immigrants as well as illegal immigrants have accused Bhutan of violating human rights. They allege that the Bhutanese government is responsible for atrocities and crime against her Nepali speaking minority population. These allegations remain unproven and are vehemently denied by Bhutan. Most of these refugees settled in UN run refugee camps in south-eastern Nepal where they have remained for 15 years.

In 1998, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced significant political reforms, transferring most of his powers to the Prime Minister and allowing for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. In late 2003, the Bhutanese army successfully launched a large-scale operation to flush out anti-India insurgents who were operating training camps in southern Bhutan.

In 1999, the King also lifted a ban on television and the Internet, making Bhutan one of the last countries to have introduced television. In his speech, he said that television was a critical step to the modernization of Bhutan as well as a major contributor to the country's Gross National Happiness (Bhutan is the only country to measure happiness) but warned against the misuse of the television that may erode traditional Bhutanese values.

A new constitution has been presented in early 2005[4] which will be put up for ratification by a referendum before coming into force. In December 2006, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced that he would step down as King of Bhutan in 2008. The King will be succeeded by his son, the crown prince Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.


The northern region consists of an arc of glaciated mountain peaks with an extremely cold climate at the highest elevations. Most peaks in the north are over 23,000 feet (7,000 m) above sea level; the highest point is claimed to be the Kula Kangri, at 24,780 feet (7,553 m), but detailed topographic studies claim Kula Kangri is wholly in Tibet and modern Chinese measurements claim that Gangkhar Puensum, which has the distinction of being the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, is higher at 24,835 feet (7,570 m). Watered by snow-fed rivers, alpine valleys in this region provide pasture for livestock, tended by a sparse population of migratory shepherds. The Black Mountains in central Bhutan form a watershed between two major river systems: the Mo Chhu and the Drangme Chhu. Peaks in the Black Mountains range between 4,900 feet and 8,900 feet (1,500 m and 2,700 m) above sea level, and fast-flowing rivers have carved out deep gorges in the lower mountain areas. Woodlands of the central region provide most of Bhutan's forest production. The Torsa, Raidak, Sankosh, and Manas are the main rivers of Bhutan, flowing through this region. Most of the population lives in the central highlands.

In the south, the Shiwalik Hills are covered with dense, deciduous forests, alluvial lowland river valleys, and mountains up to around 4,900 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. The foothills descend into the subtropical Duars plain. Most of the Duars is located in India, although a 6–9 mile (10–15 km) wide strip extends into Bhutan. The Bhutan Duars is divided into two parts: the northern and the southern Duars. The northern Duars, which abuts the Himalayan foothills, has rugged, sloping terrain and dry, porous soil with dense vegetation and abundant wildlife. The southern Duars has moderately fertile soil, heavy savannah grass, dense, mixed jungle, and freshwater springs. Mountain rivers, fed by either the melting snow or the monsoon rains, empty into the Brahmaputra river in India. Data released by the Ministry of agriculture showed that the country had a forest cover of 64% as of October 2005. The climate in Bhutan varies with altitude, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate, with year-round snow, in the north. Bhutan experiences five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Western Bhutan has the heavier monsoon rains; southern Bhutan has hot humid summers and cool winters; central and eastern Bhutan is temperate and drier than the west with warm summers and cool winters.


Though Bhutan's economy is one of the world's smallest, it has grown very rapidly with about 8% in 2005 and 14% in 2006. As of March 2006, Bhutan's per capita income was US$ 1,321 making it the highest in South Asia. Bhutan's standard of living grew and is one of the best performing in South Asia. Bhutan's economy is one of the world's smallest and least developed, and is based on agriculture, forestry, and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80% of the population. Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Handicrafts, particularly weaving and the manufacture of religious art for home altars are a small cottage industry and a source of income for some. A landscape that varies from hilly to ruggedly mountainous has made the building of roads, and other infrastructure, difficult and expensive. This, and a lack of access to the sea, has meant that Bhutan has never been able to benefit from significant trading of its produce. Bhutan currently does not have a railway system, though Indian Railways plans to link up southern Bhutan with its vast network under an agreement signed in January 2005.[5] The historic trade routes over the high Himalayas, which connected India to Tibet, have been closed since the 1959 military takeover of Tibet (although smuggling activity still brings Chinese goods into Bhutan).

The industrial sector is minimal, production being of the cottage-industry type. Most development projects, such as road construction, rely on Indian contract labour. Agricultural produce includes rice, chilies, dairy (yak) products, buckwheat, barley, root crops, apples, and citrus and maize at lower elevations. Industries include cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages and calcium carbide.

Bhutan's currency, the ngultrum, is pegged to the Indian Rupee. The rupee is also accepted as legal tender in the country. Incomes of over Nu 100,000 per annum are taxed, but very few wage and salary earners qualify. Bhutan's inflation rate was estimated at about 3% in 2003. Bhutan has a Gross Domestic Product of around USD 2.913 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 162nd largest economy in the world. Per capita income is around $1,400 (€1,170), ranked 124th. Government revenues total €122 million ($146 million), though expenditures amount to €127 million ($152 million). 60% of the budget expenditure, however, is financed by India's Ministry of External Affairs.[6] Bhutan's exports, principally electricity, cardamom, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, fruit, precious stones and spices, total €128 million ($154 million) (2000 est.). Imports, however, amount to €164 million ($196 million), leading to a trade deficit. Main items imported include fuel and lubricants, grain, machinery, vehicles, fabrics and rice. Bhutan's main export partner is India, accounting for 87.9% of its export goods. Bangladesh (4.6%) and the Philippines (2%) are the other two top export partners. As its border with Tibet is closed, trade between Bhutan and China is now almost non-existent. Bhutan's import partners include India (71.3%), Japan (7.8%) and Austria (3%).

In a response to accusations in 1987 by a journalist from UK's Financial Times that the pace of development in Bhutan was slow, the King said that "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product." [7] This statement appears to have presaged recent findings by western economic psychologists, including 2002 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, that questions the link between levels of income and happiness. It signalled his commitment to building an economy that is appropriate for Bhutan's unique culture, based on Buddhist spiritual values, and has served as a unifying vision for the economy. In addition, the policy seems to be reaping the desired results as in a recent survey organized by the University of Leicester [3] in the UK, Bhutan was ranked as the planet's 8th happiest place [4]

Government and politics

Politics of Bhutan takes place in a framework of a traditional absolute monarchy, developing into a constitutional monarchy. The King of Bhutan is head of state. Executive power is exercised by the Lhengye Shungtsog, the council of ministers. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. Political parties are prohibited for the time being.


The population of Bhutan, once estimated at several million, has now been officially downgraded by the Bhutanese government to 750,000, after a census in the early nineties. An extensive census done in June of 2005 resulted in a further reduction of the population figure to 672,425 [5]. The government has yet to release demographic breakdown on the new population figures. Most believe that the population was artificially inflated in the seventies because of an earlier perception that nations with populations of less than a million would not be admitted to the United Nations. Hence the United Nation population figures are much higher than the figures provided by the government. The CIA World Factbook gives a population figure of 2,279,723 (as of July 2006) while also noting that some estimates are as low as 810,000.

The population density, 45 per square kilometre (117/sq. mi), makes Bhutan one of the least densely populated countries in Asia. Roughly 20% of the population lives in urban areas composed of small towns mainly along the central valley and the southern border. This percentage is increasing rapidly as the pace of rural to urban migration has been picking up. The largest town is the capital, Thimphu, which has a population of 50,000. Other urban areas with significant population are Paro, and Phuentsholing.

Among the Bhutanese people, several principal ethnic groups may be distinguished. The dominant group are the Ngalops, a Buddhist group based in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of Tibet. Much the same could be said of the Sharchops ("Easterners"), who are associated with the eastern part of Bhutan (but who traditionally follow the Nyingmapa rather than the official Drukpa Kagyu form of Tibetan Buddhism). These two groups together are called Bhutanese. The remaining 15% of the population is ethnic Nepali, most of whom are Hindu.

The national language is Dzongkha, one of 53 languages in the Tibetan language family. The script, here called Chhokey ("Dharma Language"), is identical with the Tibetan script. The government classifies 19 related Tibetan languages as dialects of Dzongkha. Lepcha is spoken in parts of western Bhutan; Tshangla, a close relative of Dzongkha, is widely spoken in the eastern parts. Khengkha is spoken in central Bhutan. The Nepali language is widely spoken in the south. In the schools English is the medium of instruction and Dzongkha is taught as the national language. Ethnologue lists 24 languages currently spoken in Bhutan, all of them in the Tibeto-Burman family, except Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language. The languages of Bhutan are still not well-characterised, and several have yet to be recorded in an in-depth academic grammar. English now has official status as well.

The literacy rate is only 42.2% (56.2% of males and 28.1% of females). People 14 years old and younger comprise 39.1%, while people between 15 and 59 comprise 56.9%, and those over 60 are only 4%. The country has a median age of 20.4 years. Bhutan has a life expectancy of 62.2 years (61 for males and 64.5 for females) according to the latest data from the World Bank. There are 1,070 males to every 1,000 females in the country.


While the Bhutanese are free to travel abroad, Bhutan is seen to be inaccessible to foreigners. The widespread misperception that Bhutan has set limits on tourist visas, the high tourist tariff and the requirement to go on packaged tours seem to create this impression.

The traditional dress for Ngalong and Sharchop men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse, the toego, which is worn underneath the outer layer. Social status and class determine the texture, colours, and decorations that embellish the garments. Scarves and shawls are also indicators of social standings, as Bhutan has traditionally been a feudal society. Earrings are worn by females. Controversially, Bhutanese law now requires these garments for all Bhutanese citizens.

Rice, and increasingly maize, are the staple foods of the country. The diet in the hills is rich in protein because of the consumption of meat, chiefly poultry, yak and beef. Soups of meat, rice, and dried vegetables spiced with chillies and cheese are a favourite meal during the cold seasons. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned to butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, tea, locally brewed rice wine and beer. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned tobacco smoking and the sale of tobacco.

Bhutan's national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards not only in technical details such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. There are two targets placed over 100 metres apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round. Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event and competitions are organised between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There are usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing cheerleaders comprising wives and supporters of the participating teams. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Darts (khuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target ten to twenty metres away.

Another traditional sport is the digor, which can be best described as shot put combined with horseshoe throwing. Football is an increasingly popular sport. In 2002, Bhutan's national football team played Montserrat - billed as 'The Other Final', the match took place on the same day Brazil played Germany in the World Cup Final, but at the time Bhutan and Montserrat were the world's two lowest ranked teams. The match was held in Thimphu's Changlimithang National Stadium, and Bhutan won 4-0. A documentary of the match was made by the Dutch filmmaker Johan Kramer. Rigsar is the new emergent style of popular music, played on a a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences. Traditional genres include the zhungdra and boedra.

Characteristic of the region is a type of fortress known as dzong architecture.

Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice (around January 1, depending on the lunar calendar), the lunar New Year (February or March), the King's birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official start of monsoon season (September 22), National Day (December 17), and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations. Even the secular holidays have religious overtones, including religious dances and prayers for blessing the day.

Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful wooden or composition facemasks and stylised costumes, depict heroes, demons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient art of mask making.

Bhutan has just one government newspaper (Kuensel) and two recently launched private newspapers, one government-owned television station and several FM radio stations.


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 Bhutan: Timeline




1907 - Ugyen Wangchuck is chosen as hereditary ruler.

1910 - Treaty signed with British giving them control over Bhutan's foreign relations.

1949 - Treaty signed with newly-independent India guaranteeing non-interference in Bhutan's internal affairs, but allowing Delhi influence over foreign relations.

1952 - Reformist monarch Jigme Dorji Wangchuck succeeds to throne.

1952 - National assembly established.


1958 - Slavery abolished. Other social reforms follow in subsequent years.

1959 - Several thousand refugees given asylum after Chinese annex Tibet.

1964, 1965 - Prime minister killed in dispute among competing political factions. Unsuccessful attempt to assassinate monarch.

1968 - First cabinet established.

1971 - Bhutan joins United Nations.

1972 - King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck dies and is succeeded by his son, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who continues policy of cautious modernisation.

1974 - First foreign tourists allowed in.

Ethnic tension

1986 - New law granting citizenship on basis of length of residence in Bhutan.

1988 - Census leads to branding of many ethnic Nepalis as illegal immigrants. New measures adopted to enforce citizenship law. Government also introduces other measures to stress Tibetan-based Bhutanese culture, antagonising minority ethnic Nepali community.

1989 - Nepali ceases to be a language of instruction in schools.

1990 - Violent ethnic unrest and anti-government protests in southern Bhutan pressing for greater democracy and respect for Nepali rights. Bhutan People's Party begins campaign of violence. Thousands of ethnic Nepalis flee to Nepal.

Democracy and human rights

1992 - Leader of illegal Bhutan People's Party sentenced to life imprisonment.

1993 - Bhutan and Nepal try to resolve refugee problem.

1996 - Nepal demands all 80,000 or so refugees should be accepted back by Bhutan.

1997 - Amnesty International raises serious concerns over human rights situation in southern Bhutan.

1998 - King cedes some powers to national assembly, giving up role as head of government; cabinet now elected by assembly; famous "Tiger's Lair" Buddhist monastery damaged by fire.

1999 - Limited television and internet services allowed; several dozen political prisoners released.

2000 - First internet cafe opens in Thimphu; Bhutan hit by landslides following severe flooding in region, causing at least 200 deaths.

Refugee issue

2001 August - Bhutanese, Nepalese ministers meet to discuss the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal. Some 100,000 ethnic Nepalese say they were forced out of Bhutan in the 1980s and 1990s, alleging ethnic and political repression.

2002 January - Indian state of Assam says two rebel groups still have camps in Bhutan, despite Bhutan's deadline for them to leave the country by the end of 2001.

2003 December - Bhutanese soldiers fight Indian separatist rebels in an attempt to drive them from their bases in the south of the country.

2005 March - Proposed constitution is unveiled. It envisages a parliamentary democracy and will be adopted or rejected in a referendum.

2005 December - King Jigme Singye Wangchuck says he will abdicate in 2008, when democratic parliamentary elections are held. The crown prince will take over as monarch.

2006 June-August - Bhutanese refugees in Nepal demonstrate over several weeks to press for third-country resettlement.

2006 September - Preparations start in earnest for first ever elections in 2008. Officials begin training for the polls which will appoint a government to take over from the absolute monarchy.

2006 December - King Jigme Singye Wangchuk abdicates; Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the crown prince, assumes the throne. The former monarch had been expected to stay in power until 2008.  


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 Bhutan is a small country high in the Hemalaya Mountains and has no history of being part of any organization dealing with space, nor has launch capability.
























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Bhutan lacks the industrial base, the educational base and the political foundation for a process like this to occur within it. It has no functioning university with an astrophysics or astronautics program, and marginal industry.


























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 Bhutan operates no satellites and, not having an orbital presence, has no space power.


























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The government of Bhutan in in Thimphu has no plans for attempting to further any ambition in space development or research, but may once things stabilize, if they ever do.


























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