Sci-Tech

Nano satellite with a cargo of hopes

M Subuhana and T Kiruthika of Sheikh Fathima Girls Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Kovilvayal, Perungadu Panchayat working on their nano satellite. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT/The Hindu

M Subuhana and T Kiruthika of Sheikh Fathima Girls Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Kovilvayal, Perungadu Panchayat working on their nano satellite. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT/The Hindu  

Two senior school pupils from Aranthangi Taluk hope to help farmers with their nano satellite

Like most Class 12 students, M Subuhana and T Kiruthika have been busy preparing for their public exams that are due to start this week. But the 16-year-olds have already made their mark as developers of a nano satellite that could help farmers to streamline their operations in the near future.

Both Subuhana and Kiruthika are Science stream pupils of Sheikh Fathima Girls Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Kovilvayal, Perungadu Panchayat in Aranthangi taluk (90km from Tiruchi), and were motivated by another student, Tiruchi resident Villet Oviya, who developed a nano satellite to monitor pollution in 2017. “We were inspired by one girl, and now we hope other girls take us as role models to become innovators and creators,” says Kiruthika. “Children in small towns have great ideas and potential, but often hesitate to express themselves.”

The 400-gram satellite has sensors to test for climate change, atmospheric moisture, humidity and greenhouse gas. It will be launched from a Mexico airbase through helium capsule next month, following which the project’s real-time usage will be confirmed, says Kiruthika. “As the daughter of a farmer, I have seen how agriculture has been hit by the global change in weather patterns. Our satellite will guide farmers on the right crops to suit the climate and water resources of the area,” she says.

Dream realised

The students credit their school for helping them to take up their nascent idea on a weather monitoring satellite with the Chennai-based Agni Foundation and Garuda Aerospace that provided the financial and technological support for the project. “We were very excited to see how our satellite was conceptualised by the Garuda Aerospace lab, and it was a great learning experience for us,” says Subuhana.

The project took around five months to complete, with the girls shunting between Aranthangi and Chennai. “Our teachers helped us to prepare separately for the public exams to make up for all the classes that we missed, so I am confident of doing well,” says Kiruthika. “Of course like all other kids, we are both nervous about our results.”

The sudden media buzz around their achievement has delighted the girls, but they have their feet planted firmly on the ground. “In college, I’m aiming to study Agriculture and become a farmer like my father,” says Kiruthika. Subuhana on the other hand, hopes to become a scientist. “I’d like to use my scientific knowledge to create things for the public good,” she says.

Pocket-friendly satellite

While they are much smaller in size (often no bigger than a shoe box), and weigh from 1 to 10 kg, nano satellites compare well with conventional versions, and can be manufactured at a fraction of the cost. The miniaturisation and increase in the capability of electronic components in recent years have made nano satellites popular projects for exploratory science, particularly in remote weather sensing.

Close-up of the nano satellite developed by M Subuhana and T Kiruthika. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT/The Hindu

Close-up of the nano satellite developed by M Subuhana and T Kiruthika. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT/The Hindu  

Though in prevalence since 2000, the nano trend really took off in 2013 when American company Orbital ATK launched a rocket carrying 29 satellites that were released into low-Earth orbit. This was considered a record for a single mission. A Russian joint venture Kosmotras followed it up 30 hours later with 32 satellites in a similar orbit.

Last year, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully injected into orbit its earth imaging and mapping satellite CARTOSAT-3 along with 13 commercial nano satellites from the United States. CASRTOSAT-3 is the ninth in the Cartosat series and was the fifth launch for ISRO in 2019. India crossed the milestone of launching 300 foreign satellites when its rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-XL (PSLV-XL) put into orbit 13 nano satellites from the US.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 4:16:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/sheikh-fathima-girls-matriculation-higher-secondary-school-students-m-subuhana-and-t-kiruthika-aim-high-with-their-nano-satellite/article30943010.ece

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