satellites Technology

Dhruva Space was the only India space-tech firm presenting at Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference 2020

Chaitanya Dora, CFO; Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO; Abhay Egoor, CTO and Krishna Teja, COO

Chaitanya Dora, CFO; Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO; Abhay Egoor, CTO and Krishna Teja, COO   | Photo Credit: Dhruva Space

The Hyderabad-based company, headed by Sanjay Nekkanti, also talks about the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on the space-tech industry

Dhruva Space is no stranger to the international space-tech industry. Known for creating small satellite systems for commercial and government markets, the Hyderabad-based company, which started in 2012, is headed up by CEO Sanjay Nekkanti, and has Chaitanya Dora, Rahul Ravi Kumar, Vishal Latha Balakumar, Abhay Egoor, and Krishna Teja Penamakuru on board.

When the company applied to present at this year’s Interplanetary Small Satellite Conference (May 11 and 12 at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California), they were not accepted for one abstract but three. This conference is put together by students, alumni, and staff from Caltech, MIT, Cornell University, the University of Michigan, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), and NASA’s Small Spacecraft Systems Virtual Institute; and the idea is to explore mission concepts, discuss emerging technologies, and foster ‘outside the box’ thinking that will be critical to future interplanetary small satellite missions. Owing to the lockdowns and quarantines, the conference stays globally inclusive but goes virtual.

Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO (left) with Vishal L B, Mission Specialist (left) holding a satellite for IoT applications

Sanjay Nekkanti, CEO (left) with Vishal L B, Mission Specialist (left) holding a satellite for IoT applications   | Photo Credit: Dhruva Space

And though this year’s conference is virtual, Sanjay enjoyed the fruits of such an opportunity. “The two days (nights) of the conference were brilliant,” he explains, “We learnt a lot about the current research and interests of the international community in interplanetary exploration. We had some interactions with the participants who were interested in what we were doing. We hope to take these conversations further.”

Ahead of the conference though, Sanjay’s excitement is matched by Vishal, a mission specialist on the team. “It’s exciting that we are working with the scientific community here. Yes we are an engineering space solutions company but at the end of the day, it’s about the core science where these things are supposed to help interplanetary research. We are working with the local Indian space science community towards enabling this and came up with our concepts. It’s a prestigious feeling to present at a platform where you have renowned experts from JPL, NASA.

Launching futurism

One of the papers to be presented by Dhruva Space includes ‘Lunar Far Side Tracking and Communication Relay System’ which tries to enable a communication between researchers, wherever they are, and the far side of the moon. “We intend to put a spacecraft on something called the Halo Orbit at the Lagrangian point. It is quite far away from the moon but it is not shadowed by the moon’s surface.” Vishal adds that this kind of system would help in real time communications for space science researchers.

Demonstration of how the ‘Lunar Far Side Tracking and Communication Relay System’ would work

Demonstration of how the ‘Lunar Far Side Tracking and Communication Relay System’ would work   | Photo Credit: Dhruva Space

Other presentations by Dhruva are ‘Using Small Satellites as an Interplanetary Data Highway’ and ‘Gravitational Perturbation Measurements in Martian Orbit.’ The data highway presentation might be of great interest to those not even studying space science. It is aimed to resolve the seven-minute-delay during heavy-duty comms interactions, and to ensure continuous communication while using smaller and efficient systems because larger satellites are just more expensive.

Vishal says the curiosity need not stop because of the lockdown, adding, “It’s not necessarily about what the information will serve on the ground because humanity is always looking to push the boundaries of science. We often talk about setting up colonies on Mars.” He admits that he might not see this in his lifetime but in future generations; and that is why Vishal loves small satellites: because one can do so much with them.

The space-tech industry, like other industries, is experiencing a slowdown. Sanjay elaborates, “We are already seeing a shift in the way companies operate. Efficient ways of working remotely are being adopted widely by small and large companies. The major hurdle would be for hardware oriented companies in realising and faster development of projects. We have had experience working remotely with some of our ex-employees from across the globe. Apart from an effect on revenues and development, a significant change in work practices is expected. Companies would have to adapt rapidly to stay afloat and keep going as the current situation might become the norm with lesser restrictions.”

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 2:45:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/hyderabad-based-dhruva-space-only-india-space-tech-company-to-present-at-interplanetary-small-satellite-conference-2020/article31600013.ece

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