Of late, India has seen a lot of child prodigies emerging from its country. Be it Akrit Jaswal, the boy who performed his first surgery at the age of 7 or Kishan Shrikanth, recognized as the youngest director in the world by Guinness Book of World Records or Kautilya Pandit, an 8-year-old wonderkid with extraordinary memory, named as India’s “Google boy”.
This time around it is an 18-year-old boy, Rifath Sharook from Pallapatti town in Tamilnadu, India who has designed ‘KalamSat’, which is claimed to be the lightest and smallest satellite in the world for NASA.
Weighing just 64 grams, ‘KalamSat’, which is named after India’s nuclear scientist and former President, APJ Abdul Kalam, will be launched by on an SR-4 rocket from Wallops Space Flight facility at Virginia, U.S. on June 21. This is the first time ever that NASA would be conducting an Indian student’s experiment for its sub-orbital space flight.
So, how did Sharook’s experiment get through NASA? Sharook’s project, which is a first to be manufactured via 3D printing got selected through a contest, ‘Cubes in Space’, sponsored jointly by NASA and ‘I Doodle Learning’ organization.
Sharook said that the satellite is made of reinforced carbon fibre polymer. The mission phase of the space launch will be 240 minutes, during which the satellite will operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment of space before it begins its downward route back towards the ocean. The aim of the project is to provide motivation to plan economical space missions in future.
“The main role of the satellite will be to demonstrate the performance of 3-D printed carbon fibre,” Sharook was quoted as saying by the Times of India (TOI).
The main challenge of the contest was to create an experiment that would fit into a four-metre cube and weight exactly 64 grams so that it can be flown to space.
He said, “We did a lot of research on different cube satellites all over the world and found ours was the lightest.”
Talking about his experience, Sharook said, “We designed it completely from scratch. It will have a new kind of onboard computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation and the magnetosphere of the earth. We obtained some of the components from abroad and some are indigenous.”
As the satellite weighs less than 0.1 kg, it has fallen in the category of ‘femto’ group.
The Cubes in Space contest, in which Sharook’s lightweight satellite emerged as the winner in the Space Kidz India program, inspires students to design an experiment that could be sent to space.
“Our goal is to help kids from around the world learn to problem-solve, to get them inspired about learning, to learn skills and develop interests that will prepare them to succeed in the future,” its organizers say.
This is not the first time Sharook has invented something unique. In 2015, he had launched a 1,200g helium weather balloon into the atmosphere.