M A I N   N E W S

With little Jugnu, IIT-Kanpur takes a giant leap into space
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, October 13
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, has ended India’s import dependence on the West for ejection systems needed to launch nano-satellites into space.

For the first time in its history of nano-satellite launching, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) yesterday used the indigenously built separation mechanism (ejection system) designed by IIT-Kanpur to release “Jugnu” into space. Until now, ISRO had been importing this technology from Canada.

Jugnu yesterday became India’s first indigenously designed nano-satellite to be successfully placed into its orbit. It was launched by ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C18).

“The successful launch of Jugnu has validated the separation mechanism we designed as part of the nano-satellite project. It means we now have indigenous capability in this new area of technology and much more flexibility to design our systems. We will soon file for the patent through ISRO and dedicate the development to the nation,” N Vyas, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering at IIT-Kanpur and Jugnu project leader, told The Tribune in an exclusive interview.

ISRO currently has ejection systems only to launch satellites ranging from 100 to 1,000 kg, but not nano-satellites (under 10 kg). Before ISRO used the new IIT-Kanpur system, it was tested several times and approved and certified by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.

“We designed the system and got it fabricated by Simulations Design, Bangalore.

Before the launch, my biggest worry was whether the nano-satellite will eject at the right time. Now that it has been successfully tested, we can use the indigenous ejection system for future launches,” Vyas said. The institute will get several other protocols in Jugnu patented through ISRO.

Asked if import costs of ejection systems for nano-satellites were significant, Vyas said, “Import cost per nano-satellite launch is around Rs 50 lakh. But in space research, it is not the cost that matters, it is the capability, which we now have,” said Vyas, who earlier headed the Technical Mission on Railway Safety set up during the NDA regime. Of the 12 projects the mission recommended, five are in progress.

As for “Jugnu”, it began in 2008 when IIT-Kanpur started working on micro electro-mechanical systems, a new field of engineering dealing with micro systems. “We had heard of micro satellites and wanted to develop one. ISRO extended support and that’s how “Jugnu” started as a student project,” Vyas recalls.

He said the project aimed at creating space research capability and rekindling interest for research among IITians. “Those were the days of IT boom and students were hankering after body shop jobs. But Jugnu changed all that. Soon students were quitting jobs to join the project. Our student leader Shantanu Agarwal opted for MTech after finishing BTech just to be able to contribute to Jugnu. He is still with us.” Other major IIT-Kanpur student participants of the project are Shashank and Preneet (physics), Kshitij Deo (mechanical) and Anant Goyal.

IITians have also begun setting up their own research companies. “Three companies dealing with embedded systems development used for automations are currently being incubated at IIT-Kanpur itself. Students are driving these,” Vyas says.





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