Mumbai : It was an emotional moment for the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay’s team that developed Pratham, a satellite they developed was docked into its launch vehicle at Sriharikota recently.
“There are so many memories associated with the project,” said Manvi Dhawan, who passed out of IIT-B last year, but is still actively working on the project.
Pratham is set to be launched by ISRO on Monday into its polar sun-synchronised orbit at an altitude of 670 km from the Earth. In its four months soujorn in space, Partham will measure the Total Electron Count (TEC) in the Ionosphere. Its data can be used for more accurate GPS mapping and also meteorological studies.
It has taken eight years to develop the satellite with successive batches working on it. Two former students had conceptualised the idea of a student satellite in 2008. After studying the feasibility of such a project, IIT-B provided students a Student Satellite Lab. A Memorandum of understanding was signed between IIT and ISRO for the project after the faculty at the institute and ISRO scientists discussed about the project.
Prof. Hemendra Arya, faculty at the Department of Aerospace Engineering who has been mentoring students since the inception of the project said, “Initially we did not know what the lab must have. It has all been a learning.”
Speaking about the hours of work that successive batches of students dedicated to the project on a regular basis, he says, “If you are passionate about something, don’t you make time for it? Ask them how much time they spent not only in the lab but even in hostel rooms discussing the project,” he says.
Ratnesh Mishra, final year student and a core team member of Pratham said, “We used to have two meetings a week, each would go on for say, four hours in which we used to discuss the status of the project, how to go further in terms of distributing work and set timelines,”
Vijay Ray, also part of the Pratham team says, “In academics we have to work within a constraint. The project brought students from across departments together. While the technical experience we gained is unquestionable, what we will treasure most is the bonding we had in the team.”
The project has seen the contribution of students from across disciplines. “We had students of civil and mechanical engineering doing the electrical and communications part. Almost every department worked on it,” said Prof. Arya.
The team members, now at 30 in number, were selected through a test which comprises a quiz and informal membership in the team for 2-3 months. The student is given a formal membership if the team is satisfied with his work in these months.
For students, one of the perks of working on the project, they say, was getting to interact with scientists at ISRO. But most of the times, interaction with the scientists was through set protocol. “We would send mails and they would ask us for a report. They were not able to be there for day-to-day help but they would conduct reviews, evaluation and mid-course correction,” said Prof. Arya.
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