Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pratham takes shape

           Enthusiasm, energy, excitement, hardwork and team spirit. Whom and what do they describe? Any guess?  They apply to a group of dedicated youngsters who are slogging 24X7 to ensure that their prestigious institute, none other than IIT-B at Powai rockets into orbit next year. Beyond Moon and Mars (BMM) is sure that they will succeed, and their efforts will handsomely pay off. All the very best.

          How will they launch IIT-B into orbit? Though the 10 kg microsatellite called Pratham which is now steadily taking shape in the institute's labs and workshops. This exciting project was initiated in July 2007 by two students of the aerospace engineering department, Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay and Shashank Tamaskar.

         BMM had the opportunity to interact with the team on June 19 2010 during a ground station workshop at IIT-B and see the tiny satellite being developed. Needless to say it was an exciting and rewarding experience.

           Pratham project manager, Jhonny Santosh Jha, said that the satellite is slated for launch in 2011 on board the highly-proven Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). With a four-month life span, it will operate at an altitude of 817 kms in the polar sun synchronous orbit. Its primary role? To study the ionosphere.

          The prestigious Pratham project has a four-fold objective. These are:-

          * Enabling students and faculty to gain knowledge and experience in the field of satellite and space technology.
          * Empowering the satellite team with the skills to develop the satellite through various phases of design, analysis, fabrication and testing until the flight model is made.
          * Launching the satellite into orbit and measuring the atmosphere.
          * Involving students from other universities in the satellite mission by building ground stations in other universities.

          One of the objectives of the Pratham project is to make IIT-B a respected centre for the advancement in satellite and space technology in the world. The project aims at launching five satellites withing the next few years.

          Jhonny said that about a fortnight ago the ground station set up on the terrace of the aerospace engineering department at IIT-B decoded the beacon signals of the 17-member International Space Station (ISS), (Sorry folks some media guys have confused the satellite for the ground station!). ``It was clear and precise and was in a way a dress rehearsal for the much-awaited launch of Pratham,'' he said. Coincidentally, this has happened at a time when the European Space Agency has expressed a desire that India should partner with the ISS. But Isro chairman, K.Radhakrishnan, told the astronautical meet at Prague that for the moment India has no intention to joining the ISS.

           The Pratham team has just returned after making a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress 2010 in Prague. From Prague the group proceeded to Paris where a ground station specially for tracking Pratham is being established close to the French capital.  

         On March 18,2009 former Nasa adminstrator, Michael Griffin referring to Pratham said: ``That's an awesome project the kids at IIT-Bombay are doing. I am most impressed. When I was in college, I was building radios, not satellites. I wish them all the best. I do not think they need `luck.' My two visits to India have left me more than a little impressed with Indian aerospace engineers,'' he added.

         Great going Pratham. We are eagely looking forward for the launch and soon you guys will become active players in India's interplanetary missions.





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