Thursday, September 23, 2010


      Next week promises to be an important one for our starry-eyed Indian students who are involved in the design and development of student sats. The reason:  they will be making presentations at the 61st International Astronautical Congress to be held in Prague between September 27 and October 1.

     The five-day meeting will see the presence of numerous space leaders from different countries providing an opportunity to our students,who undoubtedly will chart India's space trajectory in the coming years, to interact with them.

      I recall attending the astronautical meet at Hyderabad in 2007 and surely it was the most rewarding experience for space buffs like me.

      At Prague, the Indian student teams will  make presentations about Studsat, India's first pico satellite, and Pratham, a satellite which is being designed and developed by students of IIT Mumbai. On Thursday I had the opportunity to speak to reps of both the satellites about the forthcoming trip.

       Let me first talk about Studsat. Chetan Dixit, a key figure associated with Studsat, said that his group's presentation is scheduled for September 29. Over a brief lunch at the famous Swati restaurant in Tardeo, he said that the Studsat team proceeding to Prague consists of four members. Of these, three are from Bangalore and one from Nagpur.

       He said that the conference organisers, because of the popularity of Studsat have provided free exhibition space. They depart Bangalore for Prague via Dubai early on Saturday morning and return on October 3.

       Studsat was launched on July 12 by the highly-proven four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), , and according to Chetan its overall performance has been satisfactory.

        I met Chetan at the Czech consulate in Pedder Road after he had collected the his passport and those of his team members. Then with some difficulty we got a cab and drove to the restaurant. The post monsoon heat was becoming unbearable.

        Pradeep Mohandas, secretary of the India chapter of the Moon Society, could not make it because he had some work in college.

        After what might be called a working Mumbai lunch, we parted--Chetan had to return to his cousin's place at Lower Parel before proceeding to the airport to catch the flight back to Bangalore. And as for me--I had to hunt for a cyber cafe since my computer had conked out which is pretty frequent. After walking in the heat, I finally found one near Chowpatty. On completion of the security formalities, I was provided a terminal and began punching my report about Mission Prague for The Times of India.  I was all the time aware that the report after all  might not make it to print because of acute space constraints in the newspaper--what with hundred things happening all over Mumbai and the country. We are thus used to seeing our reports remaining in the computers of our editors for days!

        But the reward this afternoon was talking to Chetan.

        About the Mumbai-based  Pratham team, it is leaving for Prague on Friday night to make a presentation on September 27 and 28 at the astronautical congress. Their visit has been funded by IIT Mumbai. I had interacted with them earlier on June 19 and for me it was an educative experience.

         Pratham, a 10 kg satellite, with a four-month life span is tenatively slated for launch next year on board the PSLV.

        After Prague the six-member group will fly to Paris in connection with the ground station specially for Pratham. For the team therefore it is from one `P' to another `P' in connection with another `P' which is Pratham. Therefore their mission consists of three `Ps'----Pratham, Prague and Paris! They return on October 10.

          All the very best to both the teams.




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