‘IIT-Bombay’s Pratham microsatellite did not complete its mission goal’
The satellite was ejected into Earth’s orbit in September 2016Updated: Feb 28, 2018 11:42 IST
The maiden microsatellite, Pratham, launched by the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay (IITB) did not complete its mission goal.
“We achieved 90% success,” said Yash Sanghvi, who was part of the Pratham team. “One of our success criteria which amounted to 90% was to receive the beacon signal at our ground station. We received the signal twice. Had we also received the downlink signal, the success of the mission would have been 100 percent.”
Pratham, a 10-kg microsatellite on board Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C35, was ejected into the Earth’s orbit in September 2016 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the Satish Dhawan Space Research Centre, Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The objective of the microsatellite was to measure total electron count (TEC) in the ionosphere that can improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System in India and to predict tsunamis. Ionosphere is the layer above the earth’s upper atmosphere comprising electrons and electrically charged atoms and molecules stretching from 50km to more than 1,000km.
The beacon signal is the signature of the satellite, which on decoding tells it is “Pratham, student satellite of IIT-Bombay’. The downlink signal signifies the satellite’s functionality such as battery voltage.
The microsatellite needed both the beacon and downlink signals to start TEC measurements. In the absence of either signal, TEC measurement was not successful.
Built at a cost of Rs1.5 crore, Pratham finished its lifetime of four months. The student satellite team said the microsatellite could still be orbiting around the earth but it will de-orbit and burn itself in the atmosphere.
IITB is now focussing on Advitiy – the next satellite project. The team has set a deadline of two years for its launch and is finalising a proposal listing out the objectives and goals that will be sent to ISRO.
“On realising that we had achieved only 90% success with Pratham, we looked at its entire journey from conceptualisation to the launch. We found all possible improvements that we could have done, documented them, and incorporating them into Advitiy,” said Sanghvi, project manager.