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India beats its own record to build the World’s Lightest Satellite, NASA to launch it soon

Four Indian engineering students have built the world’s lightest satellite that NASA is planning to launch this August. The satellite weighs about 33.39 grams which is lighter than a medium-sized egg. It has a 3D printed outer casing made of Polylactic Acid Nylon material. This might also be the cheapest satellite as the students spent just ₹15,000 to make it. The 4 centimetre cube satellite is named Jaihind-1S.

The developers of the satellite, KJ Harikrishna, T Giri Prasad, G Sudhi and P Amarnath are in their first year of pursuing Aerospace engineering from the Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, near Chennai. They were helped by a faculty advisor, Professor G Dinesh Kumar.

They built the satellite for a competition that was organised in January by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, NASA and iDoodle, called ‘Cubes in Space’. Along with this satellite, 99 other space experiments, that were submitted for the competition, have been selected by NASA to be launched. The previous most lightweight satellite that Jaihind-1S beat was also developed by a student from Tamil Nadu, Rifath Sharook, and was launched under the same competition in 2017. It weighed about 64 grams.

The four students used locally sourced materials and though the inception of the satellite began one year ago, they took just two weeks to assemble the satellite and feed in the program. The students conducted a lot of ‘local‘ tests on the satellite by putting it in the fridge, lighting it up with fire and using a balloon to raise it to an altitude of 40 kilometres. After the tests, the students were sure that the nylon they used will be able to sustain itself in space.

The satellite will be dispatched to NASA next month for the final showdown.

NASA will be taking the satellite to a 70-kilometres high altitude using a balloon. The sensor modules in the satellite have the exceptional quality of measuring four parameters per second - temperature, humidity, pressure and UV rays. It will also track the movement and trajectory of the balloon. The data will be stored simultaneously in an SD card attached with the satellite, with the help of a microcontroller. Once the 70 km high journey of about 15- 20 hours is completed, the satellite will disengage and fall. It will then be collected to retrieve data and to assess the nylon’s durability in space.

The satellite is expected to measure 20 weather parameters, test the nylon material in microgravity and track the trajectory while it is up there. If successful, it may help in better understanding and research about the environment of outer space.

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