Nagpur: When Isro’s PSLV C-51 rocket takes off from its launch pad in Sriharikota on February 28, one of its payload will be a nano-satellite designed right here in Nagpur. A team of 30 students and faculty from GH Raisoni College of Engineering have built one of the three satellites which will be part of the UNITYsat project destined for Lower Earth Orbit (LEO).
The other two satellites have been built by Jeppiaar Institute of Technology, (Sriperumpudur) and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, (Coimbatore). These three will piggyback a ride, 440 kms high, on the PSLV C-51 rocket, whose primary load is Brazil’s Amazonia-1 satellite.
Sachin Untawale, project mentor of GHRCE Satellite Program said the project’s completion is fruition of a year-long effort. “It was in January 2020 when we first got in touch with the authorities who were spearheading this project. Our director Shreyas Raisoni and I flew down to Bengaluru for meetings with officials and soon we were on board. There is no grant or anything involved here and Raisoni College has borne the entire Rs35 lakh expenses for it,” said Untawale.
While the word satellite conjures up images of big bulky metal contraptions, the nano-satellite category is in a different league altogether. It resembles a regular flat tiffin box which school students carry. This square metal version of the ‘tiffin box’, however, weighs around half a KG and is 10 CMS wide and 3 CMS high. It’s immediate purpose is to check the strength of signals being beamed back to the Earth monitoring station. “The signal strength testing can then help us ascertain its commercial usage in the future,” said Untawale.
To build it, Untawale got together an interesting mix of students with five each coming from electronics, electrical, computer, mechanical and artificial intelligence streams. “I also added faculty members from those streams to guide the students,” said Untawale. While the project started in mid-January, soon Covid-19 struck and lockdown prevented mobility of students and faculty members. “We ensured that they all had online access to continue planning the design. The manufacturing was being done in Bengaluru while the design and technology was all from our Nagpur team,” said Untawale.
Pace picked up as months went by and relaxation in lockdown eased many obstacles. “Now our part is completely done and the only thing remaining is for Isro to launch it,” said Untawale.
Once the rocket reaches LEO, the UNITYsat satellites will be released in space. Untawale said, “The three satellites will then remain settled just a metre apart from each other and maintain that formation. Its signals will be monitored from the Earth station located at our college campus.”