In a first, a student group is attempting to make use of solar sails weighing about 10 kg to manoeuvre a satellite in multiple orbits.
Forty undergraduate students at the College of Engineering Pune (CoEP) are designing the satellite and are in the process of preparing a detailed project proposal. Once the proposal is ready, they will approach the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which had launched their maiden satellite, Swayam, in 2016.
The project, named CSAT-2, aims to understand the distribution of charged particles in these orbits and gain information on harmful radiation.
Speaking to The Indian Express about the second mission, project manager Ajinkya Phanse said, “While solar sails have been used previously, this will be the first student-designed programme that will make use of solar sails, that too for demonstrating the manoeuvring within a range of orbits.”
The engineers are designing a sail, measuring 40-50 sqm and weighing approximately 10 kg that will manoeuvre a satellite — 16 cm by 16 cm by 26 cm — between 700 km and 1,000 km orbital range.
Elaborating on the advantages of using solar sails in the student project, Phanse said, “Since the sail is not electrically charged, it will never get exhausted and can offer much longer operating life. In addition, the weight of the satellite, which mainly comes from the fuel or batteries, can be reduced significantly. In this case, there will be no batteries or power backup devices on board.”
Space radiations are dangerous and can damage space-equipment and other electronic facilities operating there. “Through the mapping of charged particles, we plan to create a database of radiation, which can then be shared with space-equipment designers,” said Phanse, a final-year student of electrical engineering.
The team, as part of their second mission, plans to come up with the final flight model sometime in 2022 with testing works currently ongoing at CoEP labs. The 40-member group of engineers from electronics, IT and other streams is working on the proposal.