First Indian Indigenous Multipurpose Reusable Student Rocket by VSSUTians create World Record
”EVEN SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT”, says the team of budding technocrats of the Veer Surendra Sai University of Technology (VSSUT) Burla, Odisha who have never faced a dark day since the start of the VSLV Project (VSSUT Satellite Launching Vehicle). The Idea Innovation Cell has even registered VSLV in the Limca Book of Records creating history and making it officially the first and only student body in India to indigenously build and successfully launch sounding rockets (VSLV).
The project aims to become the one stop monitoring system for Odisha’s Hirakud Dam, the World’s longest Dam. Situated on the banks of the Mahanadi River, VSSUT is located at the outskirts of Sambalpur, Odisha. It was formed by converting University College of Engineering (UCE), Odisha's oldest engineering college. Built-in 1956 along the Hirakud Dam, the college aimed to provide skilled engineers for the massive project. Students from the institution, especially from its Mechanical and Civil departments, take great pride in the college’s legacy in fulfilling that promise. Being the need of the hour these students took the responsibility of managing the dam and the river basin through a PicoSat carried by their own launch vehicle.
VSLV was conceptualised by one of their student Bodhisattwa Sanghpriya which is now developed by a team of 45 engineers from all the disciples grading from 2nd, 3rd and 4th years who created wonders by venturing into Rocket Science and building a project that is one-of-its-kind. Being so, it is India’s First Indigenous Multipurpose Reusable Student Rocketry Project, developed from the most reputed institutions around the globe known in Student Space Missions.
Bringing space research down to a remote and small town of Burla the team aims to build, launch, test and recover indigenously developed Vehicles and Prototype Satellites in order to provide an educational experience to students in design, flight and data analysis of a space experiment and intending the students for an exciting, technical challenge that may lead to launching space experiments into low earth orbits and beyond. Within a time span of 2 years, the team has successfully accomplished three missions by launching VSLV 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1 up to the height of 800m, 1.7km, 3.89 and 3.91 km respectively.
The idea of developing the college’s own satellite came up in June 2016. For the first six-seven months, it was Bodhisattwa, who worked on it alone. His aim, from the very beginning, has been to build and launch a satellite that will monitor the Hirakud Dam and provide highly accurate data to its monitoring authorities.
Driven by its cause and the technological challenge involved, more students from varied departments joined the initiative. Support also poured in from the college’s Idea and Innovation Cell, which provides financial support and technical mentoring for developing projects in the campus. Soon, a much larger team was working on the project.
The Team was divided into various groups such as CAD designing, Structural, Aerodynamics, Electronics, Management, and Marketing. The newly formed Idea and Innovation club incubated this project officially in December of 2016. The team was further segregated into various tasks depending upon their knowledge, subjects, skills, and interests. For example, Chemical students develop the fuel and propulsion. Technology and Mechanical students took care of the design of structures. Likewise, Electrical Students developed Avionics and Electronic Payloads, Coding was done by CS & IT students. Civil Students look overall structures and Remote Sensing Application. Other than that there was a management team that looked after Corporate Communication, Sponsorships, Marketing, Accounting, etc.
“The toughest part of any journey is always the beginning. Back then, it seemed probably one of the most preposterous ideas, to develop a project of such a large scale. Skeptics claimed it unthinkable. But no matter how steep the slope was, the members were not petrified to get deeper into “Rocket Science”, and started to engross into a thorough research about designing of rockets”, said Apurwa Masook, public relation officer of the team.
The basic aim of this team is to provide the most accurate siltation and sedimentation data to the concerned authority so they can take the necessary steps to the development and betterment of the Hirakud Dam. The research and survey for the same would be carried out using a Sounding Rocket launched to an apogee of 40km carrying a PicoSAT payload for monitoring the real-time scenario of the Mahanadi Reservoir.
The complete project is divided into 10 missions, with first mission being successful launch of VSLV into 1km apogee. And subsequently launching of VSLV to 2km, 4km, 8km and 10km. After implementation of successful remodelling in the future editions for 15km, 25km and so on. The team aims to launch the final mission of 40km for the monitoring of Hirakud Dam and Reservoir. Making it the first of its kind in Asia’s student rocket platforms, the utility of the rocket is diverse and multifaceted. It can be put to use for different purposes in different missions. Advanced communication system with the in-house ground station in place, Analysis of cell phone reception, aerial mapping, Cloud seeding, Analysis of vegetation are few specifications to name.
Since 2016, the team has successfully accomplished three missions-On 22 August 2017, at 8.15 am VSLV 1.0 was successfully tested and launched, scaling at an altitude of 800m; On 1 January 2018. VSLV 2.0 sored high up at an altitude of 1.7 km. This rocket consisted of a 200-gram payload with cellular signal GSM to check cellular signal strength on the upper atmosphere and study the effect of cellular network signal on different altitudes and VSLV 3.0 launched on 30 March 2018 was an upgraded version that weighed 6 kg and 1.5m in height. It attained an apogee of 3.89 km. Through this satellite, the team performed a collaborative study to relate with weather changes by observing and recording the parameters i.e the vibrations, temperature, pressure, humidity, measured using on-board sensors and the data was transferred Live by telemetry to the ground station. In the future, the team is gearing up for next VSLV 4.0, which aims to raise upto 10kms in the air. The plans and Designs estimate this model to be more than 3 metre long with a weight of 10kgs.
“Two years ago we started with zero. We had no funding, no mentors, no dedicated workspace. It is very challenging considering the constraints of working out from such a remote place like Burla, amidst the clumsy government administration, with meagre funds an Advent into Rocket Science itself was a herculean task. From training ourselves, to gearing up our juniors and passing the knowledge has been an intriguing journey. Our focus takes us through laborious technical days, solving tedious glitches, pitching our ideas in front of plausible sponsors. Converting vacations into working days, turning beds into workbenches, hostel backyard into test sites, working tirelessly in and out round the clock.”, remembers Mr. Masook.
Taking constant guidance and inspiration from their well-connected huge alumni Network spread across in ISRO, DRDO, Air Force, Armed Forces, Several Aerospace Institutions, IISc, IIT etc., the team has won n’ number of recognition and awards. A few to name are :-
1] VSSUT Student satellite – Hirakud Dam Monitoring Project, won the Create the Future Popular Design Award 2017by NASA Techbrief.
2] Among 25000 participants from 185 countries that had participated in XIX World Festival of Youth and Students, Sochi, Russia 2017, VSSUT team was the only team representing India. The Award was given in recognition of the VSLV Rocket and Satellite Project.
3] The VSLV Rocket and Satellite Team of Idea Club received the Pratishta Samman Award for best Social and Scientific innovation – VSLV.
4] The VSLV Rocket and Satellite Team of Idea Club were awarded the first Prize at Aerospace Expo in World Space Week organized by ISRO, Sriharikota, on 10 October 2017.
5] The team won the Best Presenter Award at IISF which was held at CSIR-National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi in December 2016.