Weighing just 33.39 grams, the satellite will find its way to space on a high pressure balloon this August.

NASA has selected these TN students to launch one of the lightest satellites into space
news Space Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 15:14

Ever thought of the hundreds of satellites floating around in space? If you’re like most people, you would imagine huge cosmic machines that set off on launchers and are now the fancy of apocalyptic space thrillers.

For four students from the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Sciences in Chennai, however, giant machines are passé. For they have built a satellite that weighs lesser than almonds and have been selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to send their creation to space.

Speaking to TNM, Harikrishnan, the first-year student, who served as project lead, says, “We’ve always wanted to make a rocket. But it is heavy and expensive. The negative parameters were high. That’s when I got to know about the Cubes in Space competition and we started working on building a satellite. They said it needs to have 10 parameters. But we thought we could take that up to 20.”

The satellite, weighing 33.39 grams is possibly the world’s lightest ever built. Explaining its functions, Harikrishnan says, “It mainly works on three main things. Firstly, it studies weather, temperature, pressure, humidity and understands the variations according to altitude. Secondly, since the outer part is made of 3d printed PLA Nylon, it observes if space changes its formation in micro gravity - whether it gets deformed in space. And finally, since it is being sent via a balloon, it observes the trajectory of the balloon.” 

It was in January last year when the students applied with their project design for the competition. As soon as they received approval, the foursome- Harikrishnan, Amarnath, Giri Prasad and Sudhi got to work. They are one of 100 teams selected from across the world by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, NASA and idoodle-learning that encourage young minds to innovate.

The weight has been authenticated by IIT Madras. And come August, it will jet off into space.

Speaking to TNM, Professor Dinesh Kumar, who guided the students says, “The competition is open to those who are 18 or less. So, in their first year, they came to me and spoke about their project. While the description said we could make a satellite that is less than 64 grams, we had an idea of making a smaller satellite. The students had a very good team spirit. They had their chemistry examinations when they were working on this project and they were able to balance both.” 

The space enthusiasts divided the work amongst themselves. Harikrishnan, who has always wanted to be a pilot took on the role of lead. Sudhi took on the design work. Amarnath was overseeing the software component while Giri Prasad was involved with testing the project.

“The flight time is around 15- 20 hours. It will go on a weather balloon along with other experiments. It will be in space for a day. It has an SD card which will capture all the data. In one second, the satellite captures four data points. We have always wanted to collaborate with ISRO. But we couldn’t. So, we named the satellite Jai Hind-1S so that at least we could get NASA to say the name of our country in space,” Harikrishnan signs off.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.