SRM Students Shine in US Competition

Three teams from SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) participated in the competition held at Burkett Filed, Cross-plains, Texas. Ideas and design presented by students of SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) may find a place in technology NASA is developing to land satellites and rovers safely on other planets.

A planetary atmospheric entry vehicle designed by 11 engineering students of SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) won second prize in a competition - CANSAT - organized by The American Astronautical Society (AAS), American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and sponsored by NASA. Satellite with a deployable lander designed by the students made a safe and precise landing without damaging its payload, raw egg.

This is the fourth annual competitions supported by NASA, which is interested to find technology from world over to build an entry vehicle which will safely land a rover or a satellite on the surface of a planet without damaging sensors or antennas and other components.

"The aim was to find a new technology for communication, a new technology for structure design and to perfect a technology for re-entry vehicle. Our satellite and lander made a precision entry and landing. Descend speed was one of the best and we were able to land the unit with a raw egg without breaking it. The unit was mounted on a small rocket which deployed the satellite at 610 metres from where it was brought down well within the parameters set by the competition organizers. Students controlled the descend from a ground station. We achieved the desired descend speed and landing target," said Sidhant Dhall, who completed final year electronics and instrumentation engineering at SRM, and was part of a three-member team which launched the satellite in US.

NASA is looking forward to find a good technology to ensure that rovers, especially for Mars, can be landed without damaging components in it. "Such trials and competitions are held here because they feel that if the lander can land a satellite safely in Earth the precision and safety of a mission will be far higher in a low gravity atmosphere of another planet," he added. The team met all the parameters set by the organisers and the satellite underwent more than 20 trials on SRM campus.

"We used two parachutes to control the descend of the satellite. Entry vehicles usually use thrusters. The focus of the competition was to land a smaller satellite safely onto a surface of a planet because Nasa is looking at developing small satellites so that they can be sent to far off planets," Siddhant said. There were four teams from India out of which three were from SRM and another from IIT, Delhi. 35 teams participated in the competition and 26 were found ready for launch in pre-flight checks.