IIT-Kanpur gets credits for Jugnu's success
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LUCKNOW: The successful fabrication and launch of nano satellite Jugnu showcases
how a band of enthsiastic IIT-Kanpur students burning the midnight oil pulled
off the rare feat with their sheer hard work and sacrifices.
The team of 50 students worked around classes,
assignments and exams, toiling at their lab, some well past 2 a.m. "You could
probably find someone or the other sleeping in the lab itself and waking up
early for a morning meet," team leader
Shashank Chintalagiri told IANS from
Their complete involvement left them very little
time for social life, but members struck up new friendships that grew into an
extended family, making Jugnu and its sub-systems possible. Occasionally,
celebrating someone's birthday or a new milestone did liven up their rather
IITians inherited a different set of problems
because the nanosat had to be built on a vastly smaller scale, virtually from
scratch but with functions of their larger counterparts. "We were initially torn
between Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) 'right way' of doing things
and a more practical approach. Eventually, we decided to go ahead, taking cues
from other nanosats built around the world," says Chintalagiri, a budding
"We would never have been able to achieve the size
reduction we did by blindly following ISRO specifications. It helped that we
were able to take greater risks, since we were operating at less than one
percent of the cost of a regular satellite. All our individual experiences
before the project gave us the foundation necessary to do this," adds
It wasn't smooth sailing all the way, though.
There were plenty of hiccups, which they overcame by applying their skills and
out-of the-box approach. Since a nanosat is a highly integrated system, even
small changes in one place can cascade into a number of seemingly unrelated
changes all over the satellite.
"For instance, we had to add a mere millimetre
(mm) or so of spacing between two boards. That caused another board higher up in
the stack to move by a couple of mm, causing other problems. But we overcame the
glitch. It always was a very delicate balancing act, to be sure that the fix for
one problem does not cause another. The reason that we were able to solve a
number of the problems, however, was preparation," recalls Chintalagiri.
Students learn a lot of things in a project of
this kind. Most things picked up at college are narrow, restricted views of
technology, which are heavily steeped in theory. It is a completely different
game when the end product is a functional, real system, according to a source in
"Besides, the project required expertise from many
diverse fields. We had to be able to think of the satellite as a system, greater
than the sum of its parts. Team members were involved at every stage of the
design and development, right from the conception to the drawing board to the
fabrication centre and finally the integration and testing process," said
A major difficulty involved people leaving the
project midway before a replacement could be trained, recalls Chintalagiri.
"Unfortunately, social and economic obligations did not generally allow people
to stay on. Those who did were deeply involved in the project and knew that
their being there for a year more would make a significant difference to the
success of the satellite."
"Initially, there were only three members, doing a
feasibility study of sorts. I believe the first group gathered some time in
March or April of 2008, and I joined the team in September. By then, there were
already 10 to 15 people on board and we all knew what the satellite was going to
look like," adds Chintalagiri.
As ISRO does not have ejection system for
satellites below 10 kg, so designing one for Jugnu was a real challenge.
Amrit Sagar, who designed it, did the nation proud. It is a complex piece of
technology that makes space missions possible by separating the satellite from
the launch vehicle and placing it in a precise orbit. The mechanism went through
dozens of rigorous tests before certification by the
Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said IIT-Kanpur sources.
"The credit of the success of the mission goes to
the student team . . . from various disciplines of engineering and science, who
worked tirelessly to bring Jugnu to life," said Jugnu project leader N. Vyas,
professor and head, mechanincal engineering department, IIT-Kanpur.