On September 26, 2016, satellite Pratham built by the students of IIT Bombay and PISAT from PES University, Bengaluru along with co-passenger satellites – ALSAT-1B, ALSAT-2B, ALSAT-1N from Algeria, NLS-19 from Canada and Pathfinder-1 from USA were launched by India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its thirty-seventh flight (PSLV-C35). PSLV-C35 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
The 371 kg SCATSAT-1 was launched for weather related studies and Pratham is reportedly going to be useful for scientific studies, help in tsunami warnings and correcting errors in GPS communication. The satellites were launched into polar sun synchronous orbit (SSO). SCATSAT-1 was placed into a 720 km Polar SSO whereas; the two Universities / Academic Institute Satellites and the five foreign satellites were placed into a 670 km polar orbit. This is the first mission of PSLV in which payloads were launched into two different orbits.
Pratham, a satellite conceptualised and built by young researchers is all set to launch into orbit on Monday, September 26, 2016. An awe inspiring achievement, Pratham is the combined effort of 30 students from IIT-Bombay.
In September 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Aerospace Engineering Department, IIT-Bombay to develop a satellite, which will help in detecting the exact GPS location and predict tsunamis. The satellite named ‘Pratham’ was conceptualised by Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay and Shashank Tamaskar in July 2007 who were students of Aerospace Engineering Department, IIT-Bombay. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with ISRO in September 2009, and later extended in 2014. At present, the team comprises 30 students, of whom nine form the core team.
Dimensions of the satellite are 30.5 cm X 33.5 cm X 46.6 cm and weigh around 10.004 kg. It has three monopoles, GPS, magnetometer, sun sensors, magnetorquers and is powered by Li-ion battery, four solar panels and an on board computer.
Pratham missed its 2012 launch deadline due to administrative delays and technical glitches. But, it is now ready to be launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and is scheduled to be the PSLV’s 37th flight.
Pratham has the capability of measuring the total electron count of the ionosphere and will transmit data when it passes over India and any university which has a small ground station that can detect its signals and measure the total electron counts (TEC). This can aid education process to spread awareness among students.
It will be the first time that a satellite, Pratham, designed and developed by the students of IIT-Bombay will be launched. Also, in a time frame of 18 days, ISRO is about to launch its second satellite. PSLV, in its 23 years of history will for the first time be launching satellites into two different orbits. According to ISRO, while the main satellite, ScatSat-1, will be placed into a 720-km polar sun synchronous orbit, the remaining ones will go into a 670-km polar sun synchronous orbit. The other co-passenger satellites are from the US, Canada, Algeria and one of a Bengalaru-based institution named Pisat.