Twitter / @CubesInSpace

This tiny satellite has the sky-high potential for space exploration.

Quick notes:

  • The tiny Kalamsat satellite made history as the lightest satellite launched into space

  • The cube-shaped satellite fits in the palm of your hand

  • The satellite was built by a team of high school students from India

  • The Kalamsat’s lead designer was 18-year-old Rifath Sharook

Launched by NASA on June 22, 2017, the tiny cube-shaped Kalamsat satellite weighed just 64 grams (2.2 ounces) and measured 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches). This technological marvel was created not by a team of space engineers, but by a group of ingenious Indian high school students who entered a “build your own satellite” contest. The group was led by 18-year-old Rifath Sharook, who developed the satellite’s spectacular design. Read on to learn about the Kalamsat and its incredible creators.

The Kalamsat was inspired by a student contest

The inspiration for building the Kalamsat came from “Cubes in Space,” a contest organized by NASA, idoodle Learning and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. According to Sharook, the contest asked students to create a “femtosat,” or satellite weighing under 100 grams.

Sharook’s team from Space Kidz India used 3D printing technology to construct the Kalamsat, then put it together in the home of Space Kidz India’s founder Srimathy Kesan. The Kalamsat was revolutionary, breaking a global space record as the world’s lightest, smallest satellite. The high schoolers took first prize, beating out 86,000 other entries.

The students’ main objective was to see how a satellite, created from 3D-printed carbon fiber, would hold up in space. “We built it completely from scratch. It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation and the magnetosphere of the Earth,” Sharook told the New York Post.

The Kalamsat was named in honor of a former Indian president

The team decided to name their project in honor of former Indian President Abdul Kalam. Kalam was also an aerospace scientist who’d done research back in the 1960s at NASA’s Wallops Island Facility, in Virginia, where the Kalamsat was launched. He is regarded as one of the fathers of India’s space program.

While the satellite had the more formal name of “Kalamsat,” the students gave it the nickname  “Gulab Jamun,” after the tiny Indian dessert. The Kalamsat had a June 22, 2107 launch as part of the NASA rocket Terrier Orion’s payload and its total flight time was 240 minutes.

Photo Courtest: [ISRO/Twitter]

The Kalamsat paved the way for the Kalamsat v2

The 2017 Kalamsat satellite resulted in the creation of the Kalamsat v2, another invention from students working with Space Kidz India. The Kalamsat v2 used a modified electric system built from off-the-shelf components. It was designed as a communications satellite for ham radio transmissions and for non-commercial activities. Sharook and his team were able to whip up this technological marvel in just six days. The Kalamsat was launched on the PSLV-C44 rocket by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on January 24, 2019.

The Kalamsat v2 was the first satellite to use a rocket’s fourth and last stage. The fourth stage, which normally just turns into space debris, helped the Kalamsat collect data as it moved to a higher circular orbit and established an orbital platform. Sharook revealed that both the Kalamsat and Kalamsat v2 satellites are more economical to produce and reduce space debris. Like its predecessor, the Kalamsat v2 received high praise.

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