CHENNAI – An 18-year-old student from southern India will break a global space record when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch his satellite – lightest in the world, weighing a mere 64 grams.
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Rifath Sharook, belonging to a comparatively unknown town of Pallapatti in Tamil Nadu, built the satellite as part of a contest organised by the US space agency.
The satellite, named Kalam SAT – after former India President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam – weighs 0.1 kg, and is lighter than a smart phone.
It will be launched by a NASA sounding rocket on June 21 from Wallops Island, a NASA facility. It will be a sub-orbital flight and post-launch, the mission span will be 240 minutes and the tiny satellite will operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment of space.
This will be the first time an Indian student’s experiment will be flown by NASA.
“The main role of the satellite will be to demonstrate the performance of 3-D printed carbon fibre,” the Times of India quoted Rifath as saying.
The satellite was selected through a competition called ‘Cubes in Space’, jointly organised by NASA and a organisation called ‘I Doodle Learning’, he added.
The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown to space which will fit into a four-metre cube weighing exactly 64 grams. “We did a lot of research on different cube satellites all over the world and found ours was the lightest,” he said.
Rifath said the satellite is made mainly of reinforced carbon fibre polymer. “We obtained some of the components from abroad and some are indigenous,” he said.
Sharook isn’t new to innovation. In 2015, he launched a 1,200g helium weather balloon from a ground in Kelambakkam.