CHENNAI: In a clean 10x10 room on the rooftop of block one in Sathyabama University, a few students and faculty sit together tracking the satellite they had launched on June 22 from Sriharikota on an ISRO satellite — one that made history by carrying 20-odd satellites.
The initial two reports gathered by the students suggest that the satellite is healthy and fully functional. Students from over five batches starting from 2006 worked on the satellite named SATHYABAMASAT. The project was overseen at Sathyabama University by Vasanth Kishore, professor, the electrical and electronics department who worked as the system engineer on the satellite.
“The greatest difficulty we faced was dealing with students’ exams. The second was facing real time issues and solving them to get it working in space. The ISRO scientists were helpful. If we did not know something they would take the effort to guide us. But when it gets down to work, they will leave no stone unturned till they get what they want — they will not leave you till then! What they do needs a lot of patriotism” explains Vasanth.
Speaking about the challenges from the students’ side, he says, “First the students must have interest, then they need to get their basics right, and they should be able to work together as a team. Making a satellite is not a one-man job — all departments should come together to get it right.”
The entire project cost about Rs 2 crore and was funded by Sathyabama University. The 1.5 kg satellite, which monitors greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, will help ISRO and the Met department.
“I worked with the communications aspect of the satellite. Working on one of the major world issues, global warming, taught me many new things,” says Raja Preetham, an electronics and communication student.
Nihal Reddy of the electrical and electronics department, who worked on the electronic supply for the satellite, was elated when he first heard about the satellite.
“I got into the project to learn more and improve my technical skills. Initially it was not easy — there were many failures, but with the help of ISRO scientists we came up with the finished product,” he says.
Concurring, Soumya Ranjan Dash of electronics control department says, “Though it took us a while to cope, the joy of watching the satellite launching into the orbit made my day.”
As many as 15 students worked day and night for several months to get the satellite ready.
“The ISRO reviews were tough. The scientists would grill the students and the faculty were not supposed to answer. If they failed to answer, they would ask them to figure out the answer,” says B Sheela Rani, vice chancellor of Sathyabama and the project manager for the satellite. And this was not all — once the students had figured out the answers, the scientists would come up with a new set of questions.
“The people at ISRO have the bent of mind to learn. If they didn’t know something, they would even try to learn from the students,” she adds. “We used to get dejected with the reviews and the initial failures but we made it happen.”
Swayam, another student satellite by students of the College of Engineering, Pune, was among the 20 satellites launched. It provides point-to-point messaging service for HAM operators.