KalamSat: World’s Lightest & Smallest Satellite

NASA scientists have been unable to create the smallest satellite ever until now.. Indians once again made history by designing and building world’s smallest and lightest satellite on behalf of ‘Space Kidz India’, a Research Organization based on Chennai for children. Kalamsat is the brainchild of Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old boy, from Tamil Nadu’s Pallapatti town, India.  Others on the team include Tanishq Dwivedi (flight engineer), Vinay S Bhardwaj (design engineer), Yagna Sai (lead technician), Mohammed Abdul Kashif (lead engineer) and Gobi Nath (biologist). For the past four years, these young minds have been working on rocket and space technology under the mentorship of Chennai-based Srimathy Kesan, the founder and chief executive officer of Space Kidz India.

When the US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) launches the world’s smallest and lightest satellite KalamSat on June 21, 2017, it will be the first time ever that it would be piloting an experiment by an Indian student. Kalamsat is the only Indian payload in the mission. The weight of the probe is only 64 grams and it is fitted in a 3.8 centimeters cube. It is the first satellite to be manufactured via 3D printing. The device is made from 3D printed carbon fibre, and was the winning entry in Cubes in Space, a design contest for young inventors organised by education company idoodle, with backing from Nasa and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.

Rifath has named his creation KalamSat, after former Indian president and nuclear scientist Abdul Kalam. It will be launched from Nasa’s Wallops Island facility in the US next month, entering into a four-hour sub-orbital flight i.e. it will not be placed into orbit. For 12 minutes of the flight it will be operating in a micro-gravity environment. The mission will last for 240 minutes. It took more than two-years for Rifath and his team to design the experimental satellite using the 3-D printing technology at a cost of just ₹1 lakh.

Sharook says the purpose of his experiment is to see how 3D printed carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP) performs in the microgravity of outer space. It owes its lightness to its reinforced carbon fibre polymer frame,  a material that has a super-high strength-to-weight ratio, and is used in everything from aerospace engineering to fishing line. Kalamsat contains a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors such as temperature and humidity sensor, a barometric pressure sensor and a Nano Geiger Muller counter to capture and record temperature, radiation level, rotation buckling, magnetosphere of earth and others before landing in the ocean. It has strain gauges which will be used to study the structural performance of the 3D printed parts by measuring the deformations. Information received through the satellite will help us in building better spacecraft. It can be used for back-up communications in disasters.

Though there are no specific advantages for this satellite. It can be used as a test bed to evaluate the 3D printed materials and can be used as a kit to teach the satellite construction and operation in future… Its surely another moment of pride and joy for all Indians…

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