The Technology Demonstration Satellite, designed by three college students, will be up in the sub-orbital space if all goes according to plans.

From Karur to NASA: Tiny satellite by TN youngsters to be launched in June 2021
news Space Saturday, October 24, 2020 - 19:17

If things go as planned, a tiny, 64-gram satellite made in Tamil Nadu’s Karur will be flown to sub-orbital space by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in June 2021. The youngsters behind this scientific achievement -- M Adnaan (18), M Kesavan (18) and V Arun (19) -- are already back at their drawing tables, working on their next big project. 

The three students, pursuing their undergraduate degrees, were in the news recently after their Technology Demonstrator Satellite (TDS) was chosen as one of the equipment that will be launched by NASA in its Sounding Rocket (SR7) in June 2021. The competition (titled ‘Cubes in Space’), in which their product was chosen, was conducted for students between 11-18 years across the globe by a US-based education non-profit called Idoodledu Inc, in collaboration with NASA. The contestants were asked to come up with designs and experiments to be launched into space or in a near-space environment through a NASA Sounding Rocket. The Sounding Rocket program by NASA is used for upper atmosphere research majorly by educational institutions. 

The story of this project started in 2018, when a similar project got rejected at its last stage, which pushed the youngsters to revise and tweak their submission and give it another shot in 2019. 

“Kesavan and I were classmates in higher secondary school. Arun is my senior in college. I was introduced to him by one of our professors,” Adnaan told TNM. Adnaan and Kesavan studied in PA Vidya Niketan in Karur while Arun and Adnaan are now studying in the Government Arts and Science college there. Kesavan is pursuing his engineering from SNS College of Engineering in Coimbatore. 

It took the team around a year to conceptualise and build the satellite from scratch. “We had guidance from Space Kidz India because they had seen another one of our earlier projects about a tsunami warning satellite at an event, and hence, when we approached them seeking help, they were glad to offer it,” Adnaan said.

The trio worked to their strengths. For example, Adnaan took care of designing while Arun was in charge of the hardware and software that made up the device. Kesavan was in charge of testing of the satellite, which meant he supervised and ensured that the gravity and weight aspects of the device worked to perfection. 

Named ‘Indian SAT’ and made of reinforced graphene polymer, it has 13 sensors fitted in it to collect various data. Built for purely experimental purposes, Indian SAT’s goal is to collect and transmit around 20 parameters from the sub-orbital space back to Earth. 

Indian SAT/Credit: M Adnaan

“The data parameters include ultraviolet radiation, temperature, humidity, magnetic radiation etc. The idea is also to see if a satellite built out of this lightweight material is workable,” Adnaan said. The satellite also has a photographic film fitted inside, which is expected to measure the cosmic radiation inside the rocket, which will later be examined by NASA. The team hopes to write a research paper based on the findings they get from this satellite. 

It was also the kindness and support of their families and the Department of Physics at the Government College of Arts and Science in Karur that allowed the team to work on the project. “When our professors came to know about this, they all pitched in and helped us with the funds. Our families also did their part,” Adnaan said. When asked what they dream of the future, pat came the answer -- A nano-satellite that will be launched in orbital space through Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

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