First woman project director to head a Remote Sensing Satellite Project motivates youngsters
A first-hand account on the conception of a satellite, its transition into a working reality, and finally its launch into space marked the inauguration of Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE) Association of National Institute of Technology-Tiruchi (NIT-T). N.Valarmathi, India’s first woman project director to head a Remote Sensing Satellite Project, encapsulated her 28-years tryst with space technology in an attempt to motivate youngsters to tackle the multilevel engineering challenges involved in building satellites.
Every satellite that is built is a masterpiece that integrates a wide range of engineering systems into a single entity of 100 per cent precision, said Ms.Valarmathi. Drawing from her experience in building Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1), India’s indigenous active microwave remote sensing satellite, the ISRO scientist from Ariyalur, walked the audience through a presentation on space technology. “Space is an area with enormous potential for research, imagination, and dreams,” she said.
In over an hour, Ms.Valarmathi explained to the listeners various types of satellites, their areas of application, components, stages of realisation, the importance of structural analysis, testing methodologies, and the challenges involved at every stage. “Literally, every single person has to give their 100 per cent to the satellite because the penalty for even the smallest of mistakes can be in months and crore,” she said. The scientist also appealed to the students to expand the range of their thoughts so that one day they could develop something that would boost India’s standing in global space research. “Dream of designing your own sensors, of finding newer ways in which the outer space can be utilised,” she exhorted.
Interspersing her presentation with pictures, Ms.Valarmathi displayed graphic representations of RISAT, its deployed configuration and the various sub-systems within a satellite among other things. With particular reference to RISAT-1, she said, “RISAT uses a new payload called Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR); it employs a range of new technologies that allow it to capture images day and night and in all weather conditions, unlike the earlier optical remote sensing satellite.” She also added that the SAR payload came with two types of polarisations, of which the circular polarisation is yet another first worldwide.
Talking about the road ahead, Ms.Valarmathi felt that spacecraft autonomy, which enables the satellite to function on its own for a while before being taken over by the ground station, will arise as a key area of space research, especially in interplanetary missions. Besides that, she felt areas such as onboard autonomy, space application, image processing, interplanetary missions, and the ultimate setting up of our own space station was other important challenges for the future.
Ending her presentation with a video on the pre-launch operations for RISAT-1, Ms.Valarmathi said, “Space work is not just about science and mathematics, but also about human resource management and error reduction.” The day’s event drew to a close with the launch of a dedicated website for the association that hoped to provide a platform where students, alumni, and faculty members could connect.