A group of 40 students from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, are working on developing a 15 kg nano satellite to study the energy spectrum of charged particles in the upper ionosphere and predict solar and lightning storms and seismic activity. “We plan to have the satellite ready by the end of 2014, after which Isro will carry it as a payload on one of its missions. The satellite is being built to have a lifetime of one year, but we are certain it will last longer,” says Akshay Gulati, the team’s system engineer. Isro is expected to place the satellite in the lower earth orbit between 600 to 800 kms above the earth’s atmosphere.
“Our satellite is the first of its kind to be developed entirely by a team of students. We want to set up a centre up for space science at the institute to give students in the following batches the opportunity to continue building more satellites as monitoring high energy particles should be a continuous effort,” says Professor David Koilpillai, dean (planning), IIT-M, revealing that the institute’s alumni from the 1985 batch had contributed Rs 3 crores towards the project’s funding. The IIT-M decided to build the satellite two years ago after a student, Nithin Sivadas, from the department of aerospace engineering came up with the idea, according to Professor S. Santhakumar of the department. Nithin himself is, as expected, excited about the satellite and all the possibilities it holds. “It will study changes in the radiation belt which surrounds the sun and contains highly charged particles like electrons and protons to allow prediction of seismic activity. With our unique particle detector design we plan to measure energies of particles with almost relativistic velocities,” he explains.