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A leap into space research

After hands-on training in space research and engineering at the Manipal Institute of Technology, Kanika Garg is leading a 40-member team who has built a nanosatellite which is likely to be launched by ISRO in 2014.

education Updated: May 27, 2013 17:02 IST
Gauri Kohli

After hands-on training in space research and engineering at the Manipal Institute of Technology, Kanika Garg is leading a 40-member team who has built a nanosatellite which is likely to be launched by ISRO in 2014. HT catches up with Kanika.

What is your project Parikshit about?
Parikshit Team is a group of 40 students from seven disciplines of engineering and we aim to build a nanosatellite that weighs 2.3 kg. Parikshit will carry two payloads. The primary payload is the thermal imaging of the Indian-subcontinent for applications such as ocean surface temperature monitoring, urban heat monitoring and cloud cover monitoring. The secondary payload is an experimental payload which helps in de-orbiting of the satellite after its mission life is over. The latter will help in testing the ways in which we can reduce the amount of space junk around our planet. The project started in October 2010 and is scheduled to finish by May 2014. I finished my degree in May 2012 and after that I have stayed back for one year as a research assistant in Manipal to complete a major part of the project. The nanosatellite is likely to be launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) next year.

How was your team set up? What made you choose this project?
Before the project officially started in October 2010, I formulated a core team comprising students from my batch. We did initial research on several existing student satellites for a few months. We designed the various subsystems of the satellite and the tasks that we’ll have to perform over the years. After that, we introduced the project to our faculty and got it approved. A written exam was held for all branches of engineering through which the first 40 students of our team were selected. I was interning at IIT Bombay during the summer of 2010 and I got an opportunity to attend a workshop on satellite ground stations. It was conducted by their satellite team students. This inspired me to initiate a student satellite project in my college too.

How did you manage the funding?
It was difficult in the beginning to approach the industry or even our college's administration and convince them to fund our satellite since we were undergraduates and we did not have experience in making them. But we proved the concept feasibility of our project to our university and since then they have funded all our project expenses.

Why is this project important and what major impact it will have on society?
Space research in India is concentrated within ISRO only. Through such projects, we can try bringing innovative ideas to the way satellites are made. The concept of a nanosatellite is not that old, and if there is growth in this field, then it could replace some of the bigger satellites and the cost that is involved in making them. Also, such projects will give hands-on experience to students interested in space science and technology.

Elaborate on your current areas of work in space engineering.
I have worked on satellite attitude determination and control systems, satellite system engineering and project management. Currently, my interest lies in system engineering and launch vehicles.

Highlight some of your and your team’s achievements at the national and international levels.
Our team has presented various papers at the national and international levels including two papers at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in 2011; one paper at IAC 2012; one paper at COSPAR (The Committee on Space Research) 2012; and five papers have been selected for IAC 2013.

Mention any other new projects that you are working on besides Parikshit.
I am working with the current system engineering team for deciding the payload of Parikshit 2. I am also working on control system design of reusable launch vehicles with few experts.

Why did you choose the institute?
I was always passionate about aerospace engineering and, in India, only IITs offer engineering courses in this field. Since I was unable to bag a seat in any of the IITs, and I was passionate about getting into space engineering and research, I opted for Manipal Institute of Technology.

How did you prepare for the entrance?
While I was preparing for my Class 12 Board exams, I had simultaneously started studying for various engineering entrance examinations. All of it was self-study.

How was life in the engineering institute?
Engineering is not rigorous at all... most of the learning is logical and students actually don’t need to do rote learning. Moreover, in engineering, the grades should not matter as much as learning how to apply it in real world.

‘It is nice to see so many students with a common passion’

As a guide to this young and energetic group of students at Manipal Institute of Technology, I found them very focussed and talented. It is heartening to see a large group of students with a common interest and passion for space research and engineering.

The Parikshit nanosatellite project got a boost when eminent scientists and experts from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Satellite Centre (ISAC) decided to guide and monitor the project.

ISAC, Bangalore, is involved in developing satellite technology and implementing satellite systems for scientific, technological and application missions. The project has been evaluated for its utilities by ISRO experts. The project, led by Kanika Garg, has students from different disciplines in engineering coming together.

Students are constantly learning and testing their skills in several aspects related to building a nanosatellite. Kanika, who finished her degree last year, decided to stay with the the institute to work on the project and lead the team. There are a few other students who are also planning to take the same route. With this project, the students can also contribute to the country’s research programme. This project will also help generate interest in space research among the junior students in our university and around the country.

Five facts at your fingertips

1. About MIT Manipal Institute of Technology was started in 1957 as Manipal Engineering College, primarily with an undergraduate course in civil engineering. With a total strength of around 10,000 students and intake of around 2000 students per year, MIT has been accredited by the National Board of Accreditation.

2. Flagship programmes MIT currently offers graduate programmes (BTech) in 15 disciplines and postgraduate courses (MTech/ MCA) in 24 different streams and doctoral (PhD) programmes in all streams of engineering. Some of the undergraduate courses include BTech in aeronautical engineering; BTech in automobile engineering; and BTech in civil engineering

3. Placements The highest salary package offered in the 2012-2013 batch was R16 lakh per annum. Top hiring companies in the institute in last three years include Microsoft, Mahindra & Mahindra, Maruti Suzuki, Deloitte, Ericsson, Hero Honda, Samsung, Cisco, Ashok Leyland, Philips, JSW Steels, Oracle, Tata Motors, Wipro, IBM and Accenture

4. Manipal is a university town in Karnataka. It is a suburb within Udupi city and is administered by Udupi City Municipality

It is located in the rocky hinterland of the Malabar Coast of south west India

It’s known for its stately fort and temple

5. Admissions Students are supposed to take an entrance test for admission to various engineering programmes at MIT. Classes for the new session will begin in July 2013. The prospectus and application form is available online. Prospective students may also contact the university to get the application form. Visit http://www.manipal.edu/ for details

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