According to Dr Annadurai, some of the major lessons that students learned from building UNITYSat are being implemented in the ongoing project of building 75 satellites

Indian academia is gearing up to build 75 satellites, that are expected to be launched by ISRO rockets between August 15, 2022, and 2023.

Efforts in this regard are being carried out to commemorate the 75th year of Indian independence. The project is being carried out under the technical guidance of Dr Mayilsamy Annadurai, a former Director of the Indian Space Research Organisation's lead centre for the design and development of satellites. WION spoke to Dr Annadurai regarding this ambitious goal that lay ahead.

Initiated by the Indian Technology Congress Association (ITCA), the project aims to bring together universities, engineering colleges and schools that will design, build, integrate and test their student-built satellites. Back in 2021, a handful of Indian academia had built 3 satellites known as 'UNITYSat', which was launched as a co-passenger in ISRO's PSLV C51, Amazonia mission.

According to Dr Annadurai, some of the major lessons that students learned from building UNITYSat are being implemented in the ongoing project of building 75 satellites.

To test the new systems that are being incorporated in the upcoming satellites, an engineering model will be flown in the coming months. Once the validation is completed successfully, the students will be trained to build the nano-satellites and carry out the related tasks, with the support of an Indian space start-up.

While the respective academic institutions are bearing the cost of this initiative, some state governments such as that of Karnataka have also pitched in with financial support to help students from their government-run schools.

To cut short the time to fabricate 75 satellites and make the mission frugal, the start-up is expected to provide satellite-building kits, to the students. Once placed in orbit by the PSLV rocket, each satellite is designed to remain in earth orbit for up to a year and provide data to the ground stations.

This will give the students the experience of not just building the satellite, but also the ability to operate the ground station to track the satellite and gather, analyse the data obtained.

While each of the 75 satellites is meant to have an individual objective, such as capturing images, collecting data, monitoring radiation, other parameters, that will not be the only task at hand. The constellation of 75 nano-satellites will also be used to test concepts such as the internet of things, low-earth communication, inter-satellite communication, among others.

This is being done to keep the mission going, even if a few satellites fail. This concept also has the potential to be improvised, even beyond this 75 satellites mission, Dr Annadurai added.

Playing a lead role in this mission of ensuring design, development, fabrication, testing and launching of 75 nano-satellites (each weighing less than 10kg), ITCA is being supported by the Indian Space Research Organisation.

In the next year, ITCA and ISRO will mentor the students, provide their technical support, review the progress of the mission and suggest corrections as necessary. The project monitoring committee comprising of experts from within and outside ISRO is to meet every few weeks to track the progress of the mission and ensure its facilitation.