Mission accomplished: ISRO launches world’s lightest and India’s first student-made satellite

India’s space programme account started off with the launch of Microsat-R, an imaging satellite for DRDO, and Kamalsat, a small communication satellite developed by students and Space Kidz India. The satellites will be carried by a new variant of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket

“We will be launching 700-kg Microsat-R and Kalamsat with a new variant of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). In order to reduce the weight and increase the mass, an aluminum tank is used for the first time in the fourth stage,” K Sivan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told IANS.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated scientists of ISRO for the launch. “Heartiest congratulations to our space scientists for yet another successful launch of PSLV. This launch has put in orbit Kalamsat, built by India’s talented students,” PM Modi tweeted. “With this launch, India also becomes the first country to use the fourth stage of a space rocket as an orbital platform for micro-gravity experiments,” he said in another tweet.

A 64-gram earlier version of the Kalamsat nicknamed “gulab jamun” was launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 2017, but unfortunately it never reached orbit.

The main passenger in Thursday’s launch — a 740-kg satellite called Microsat-R will be used to take high-resolution photos of the Earth for defence research. The 44.4-metre-long PSLV that weighs 260 tonnes took both satellites into orbit on its 46th launch.

The ISRO will also convert the last stage of the rocket, which actually turns into space debris, into a working experimental platform in a new way of creating wealth from waste in space. “In this mission, the fourth stage… will be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments,” ISRO chairman Kailasavadivoo Sivan told NDTV.

More about Kamalsat created by students

  • Named after former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Kalamsat is a communication satellite with a life span of two months
  • The nanosatellite is only a 10cm cube weighing 1.2 kg
  • It cost about Rs 12 lakh
  • Kalamsat will be the first to use the rocket’s fourth stage as an orbital platform, which will be moved to higher circular orbit to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments
  • It was built by an Indian high school student team, led by Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old from the Tamil Nadu’s Pallapatti
  • Kalamsat is the world’s lightest and first ever 3D-printed satellite

In its last mission on November 29 last year, the ISRO successfully placed India’s Earth-observation satellite HysIS onboard the PSLV C43 into orbit.