History made as NASA launches 64 gram world’s lightest satellite designed by 18-year old Indian student


On Thursday, in a historical move that will give GenerationNext  a significant boost, India once again broke a global space record by launching the world’s lightest satellite weighing a mere 64 grams, called Kalamsat  designed and developed not by professional space scientists and engineers, but by 18-year-old Tamil Nadu student Rifath Sharook and his team.

History has been made on thursday as the world’s smallest and lightest satellite, named KalamSat was carried by a NASA sounding rocket from Wallops Island, a NASA facility at around 3pm (IST). An experiment of an 18-year-old Indian student is carried out by NASA for the first time.

The little satellite weighs in at just about 64 grams. This tiny satellite was flown into space in a NASA rocket from a facility in Wallops Island, according to sources.With this launch, India has created a record.

Kalamsat is a microsatelliter named after former Indian President and one of India’s greatest nuclear scientists Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam built by an Indian High school student team for participation in the Cubes in Space, a STEM-based education program by NASA, with an objective to teach school students (ages 11-18) how to design and compete to launch an experiment into space with a free opportunity to design experiments to be launched into space on a NASA rocket or balloon if there project is selected.

The project was carried out under the supervision of Dr. Srimathy Kesan, founder and CEO of Space Kids India. Speaking to reporters, Kesan said the satellite separated from the rocket 125 minutes after it took off. She further added the NASA will recover the satellite and will send it back to  them for recovering of the data.

“Kalamsat fell into the sea. It will be recovered and NASA will be sending it back to us for decoding the data,” said Kesan.

Dr Srimathy Kesan, the mission director and founder & CEO of Space Kids, said, “ The whole mission was to make space machines cost effective. We used reinforced carbon-fibre polymer material that was economical. The whole idea was to see how this satellite reacts in space, and if this reacts efficiently, even bigger cubes can be developed using this material and the cost will phenomenally come down.”

Taking the humble journey, Kesan said that we worked three and half months for this project. Out of 57 proposals, ours was the only one that got selected with respect to a cube converted into a satellite.  “In 2015, We launched balloon satellite, which created ripples due to its high cost and that we worked towards the building of a cost effective satellite,” she added.

Describing the launch as “divine intervention”, Kesan further added that the 3.8 cm cube structured-satellite can fit in one’s palm and is fully 3-D printed. Equipped with nano Geiger Muller counter for measuring the radiation in space, the satellite is built with reinforced carbon fiber polymer.

Worlds lightest Satellite invented by Indian teen Rifath Sharook
Worlds lightest Satellite invented by Indian teen Rifath Sharook. Image Courtesy:The Daily Star.

According to Sharook, this project would be a sub-orbital flight and after it is launched, the mission span would be 240 minutes. The tiny satellite is supposed to operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment of space.

“The main role of the satellite would be to demonstrate the performance of 3D-printed carbon fiber”, sources quoted Sharook as saying. “We did a lot of research on different cube satellites all over the world and found ours was the lightest.”

Earlier talking to sources, Sharook said that when in November last year, NASA announced its contest Cubes in Space in partnership with the global education company, I Doodle Learning, his team had decided to participate. Before participating, the team designed a 1 kg cubesat. However, after realising that it was too costly to build, the group decided to make a smaller version for the contest and made changes in the satellite as per the norms and came up with ‘KalamSat’.

Addressing the press, Rifath Shaarook, the young scientist said, “I am really happy that we launched the lightest satellite and I am proud to be part of this team”. Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu assembly today congratulated the young scientists on their successful mission.

Kalamsat also coveted in the pages of Asia Book of Records and India Book of Records holding the record title of “World’s lightest and smallest satellite”.

Rifath Shaarook (lead scientist), Vinay S Bharadwaj (structural engineer), Yagna Sai (lead technician), Tanishq Dwivedi (Flight Engineer), Mohammad Abdul Kashif (lead engineering) and Gopinath (Biologist) are the team members behind the building of the lightest satellite.

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