Indian students have set their sights high. They are venturing into uncharted territory where no student has gone before – space exploration. The Indian Space Research Organization is collaborating with academic institutions as part of its Small Satellites project for a decade. Today the students design, fabricate, test and deliver small satellites to the premier space agency for the launch.
India has made its mark in exploration of space. Through its launch vehicles, the Moon and the Mars probe, ISRO has proved that it is second to none. It is launching satellites into space at a fraction of cost what NASA spends on its projects. As the space agency is looking for more launches, it is teaming up with students to meet challenges on the space exploration front. In fact, it is providing a career launch pad for the students.
Collaboration with academic institutions
ISRO has influenced educational institutions by its activities like making satellites for communication, remote sensing and astronomy. The launch of Chandrayaan-1 has triggered the interest of universities and institutions to venture into space technology. Underscoring the importance in critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance and control, reusable thermal-protection system, and re-entry mission management, ISRO has given many educational institutions a chance to make experimental satellites. Since 2009, seven such student satellites have been launched by ISRO.
Market is for Lightweight satellites
Today, the demand is for lightweight satellites. They are in demand as they can be lifted easily. ISRO Chairman, A S Kiran Kumar offers students the opportunity to design light-weight experimental satellites. To develop satellites, it is important to know about payloads. Every satellite carries a payload that comprise detectors, electronics and associated algorithms.
The Seven Student Satellites Launched By ISRO
Thenano satellite was developed by Sathyabama University, Chennai to collect data on greenhouse gases, water vapour, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen fluoride. The satellite was launched on June 22, 2016.
Developed by College of Engineering, Pune, under the technical guidance and support from ISRO, the satellite demonstrated passive attitude stabilization in polar low Earth orbit using a permanent magnet along the direction of Earth’s magnetic field and two pairs of hysteresis rods, each pair mounted along two axes mutually perpendicular with respect to axis of the magnet. The other objective is to characterize the 434-438 MHz amateur HAM band for low Earth orbit. This was launched on June 22, 2016.
Designed and developed by Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur under the guidance of ISRO, Nanosatellite Jugnu weighing 3 kg aims to prove the indigenously developed camera system for imaging the Earth in the near infrared region and test image processing algorithms.
Jugnu also has the functional capability to evaluate GPS receiver for its use in satellite navigation. Besides, it also tests the indigenously developed MEMS based Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) in space. Jugnu was launched on Oct. 12, 2011.
Weighing 10.9 kg, this nanosatellite was developed by the students and faculty of SRM University, Chennai in 2011 to address the issue of pollution and global warming by monitoring carbon dioxide and water vapour levels.
This is a mini satellite with a lift-off mass of 92 kg. It was a joint Indo-Russian stellar and atmospheric satellite mission which saw the participation of students from different universities at graduate, post graduate and research scholar level. Two out of three payloads on the satellite are Indian and one is Russian. Its objectives are to investigate the composition of upper surface of the earth, carry out experiments related to energy of the earth’s crust, and to understand the dynamics of the earth surface. PSLV – C16 was used as the launch vehicle for the satellite on April 20, 2011.
STUDSAT was the first pico-satellite of India, and the smallest satellite developed in 2010 by a group of seven engineering colleges from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Weighing 1 kg, its primary objective was to encourage research by establishing a communication link between the satellite and ground station.
This was the first satellite built by an Indian university under ISRO’s guidance, to demonstrate the technologies related to message store and forward operations. Store and forward is a telecommunications technique in which information is sent to an intermediate station, kept there, and sent to the final destination other intermediate station later. Designed, developed and integrated at Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Anna University, the satellite weighs 40 kg and was launched on Apr. 20, 2009.
Can Universities or Institutions Partner With ISRO to Develop Satellites?
Yes, they can join hands with ISRO for satellite development under the following options:
- Development of payloads: Under this option, university or institution can develop payload and is launched with ISRO’s satellite along with other payloads. Educational institutions can propose that the payloads developed by them should be launched with ISRO’s small satellites. After the launch ISRO acquires the payload data and sends it to the universities for further analysis.
- Satellite design and fabrication: Under this option, universities get technical guidance from ISRO to design, fabricate and test the satellite bus and payload. The bus supports payload functions. Universities need to deliver the integrated spacecraft to ISRO for launch. ISRO also provides them with some of the required material. Finally, the design is tested by ISRO.
To become a space exploration powerhouse universities and institutions need to develop indigenous lightweight satellites. Aspiring students partnering with ISRO in space science will be a boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and emerging space exploration partnership with the United States.