ISRO regularly launches student satellites

PISAT undergoing final tests at ISRO satellite centre, Bangalore
  • The Indian Space agency, regularly accommodates student-built pico satellites in the payload of its major launch vehicles

In addition to its main payload, ScatSat-1, an Indian satellite designed to provide data for weather forecasting, cyclone detection, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C35 which took off from the Satish Dhawsan Space Centre in Sriharikota on September 26 carried two small loads—pico satellites built by students of Indian technical institutions:

For students of IIT Bombay, this was the culmination of a project that started nine years ago. Mentored by their own faculty and ISRO scientists they built a 10 kg satellite aptly christened 'Pratham'—they plan it as the first of many others. Pratham will orbit 720 kms above the earth, making measurements of electron count which will help correct errors in Global Positioning System ( GPS) communication.

IIT Bombay's Pratham satellite

Also on the payload of the PSLV, is PISAT, a 5 kg satellite built by a consortium of5 colleges, and anchored at the PES University, Bangalore. The other institutions are VEL Tech Technical University, Chennai, SKR Engineering College, Chennai, SONA College of Technology, Salem and Nehru College of Engineering, Thrissur, Kerala with help from the Institution of Engineers, India. PISAT is a three axis stabilized imaging nanosatellite. The major subsystems are: an imaging camera to provide earth imageries with 80 meter resolution, On Board Computer (OBC), Attitude Determination and Control System (ADCS), RF communication system with S Band frequency, telemetry, telecommand, thermal system and Electrical Power System (EPS). It will capture imagery of a swathe, 185 km x 135 km with about a per pixel resolution of about 80 metres.

Since 2009, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has encouraged and mentored students to acquire experience in satellite development and hasallowed such satellites to ride piggy back for free,  along with commercial payloads. Earlier, in July, two other student pico-satellites—SathyabamaSat from Sathyabama University in Chennai and Swayam from College of Engineering, Pune (COEP) were put into orbit by PSLV-C34. While the former, a 1.5 kg package, was geared to collect data on green house gases, the 1 kg Swayam'srole was to enhance communication on Ham radio frequencies in remote areas -- an important service in disaster situations.

PISAT team with Dr M Annadurai, Director ISRO satellite centre Bangalore

Before that ISRO has helped place five student satellites in orbit between 2009 and 2011. Universities design, fabricate, test the satellite and deliver the integrated spacecraft for launch. Technical guidance in designing, fabrication and testing is provided by ISRO. The designs and test results are reviewed by an ISRO team. More than one University or institution can jointly participate. One among them will be the focal point for the ISRO. After launch, the collected data is archived and disseminated by university/Institution(s).

In another option educational institutions can propose the payloads developed by them to be flown on ISRO’s own small satellites. Under this option, payload is y is developed by the educational institutions and launched with ISROs satellite missions which has other ISRO’s payloads. Data Handing and data transmission is done by ISRO.After launch ISRO acquires payload data and disseminate it to  the institutions for further processing and analysis.

The launch of the Indian moon mission Chandrayaan-1, sharply increased the interest of universities and institutions in making experimental student satellites. ISRO has encouraged the trend and stimulated heightened interest among students in subjects like communication, remote sensing and astronomy.... a fine example of industry -academia synergy.

(Note: students satellites are generally much smaller than commercial satellites and are characterised as nano or pico satellites.)

Today's team behind the IIT Bombay satellite, Pratham


Sl.No Date Name    Mass(kg) Student group
1 April 20 2009  ANUSAT   40 MIT Chennai
2 July 12 2010  STUDSAT  1 7 engineering college consortium
3 April 20 2011   YOUTHSAT 92 Indian and Russian universities
4 October 12 2011 SRMSAT  10.9 SRM University, Chennai
5 October 12 2011 JUGNU  3 IIT Kanpur
6 June 22 2016  SATHYABAMASAT  1.5 Sathyabama University, Chennai
7 June 22 2016  SWAYAM     1 College of Engineering, Pune
8 Sep. 26 2016  PISAT     5 PESIT and consortium of colleges
9 Sep 26 2016  PRATHAM 10.15 IIT Bombay
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Topics : #space

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