AN INDIAN TEENAGER has designed and built the worlds smallest satellite, which will be blasted into space by NASA this summer.
18-year-old Rifath Sharook from the Tamil Nadu region built KalamSat using a 3D printer as part of the 'Cubes In Space' initative organised by NASA and education company idoodlelearning.
Weighing in at less than a smartphone at just 64g, the cube is made of a reinforced carbon fibre polymer, with its main role being to demonstrate the potential of the material in space environments.
In the US, a similar experiment is being conducted with rocket engines made of the same material, both in the hope of exploring its potential for space use
"We did a lot of research on different cube satellites all over the world and found ours was the lightest," Sharook told the Times of India. "We obtained some of the components from abroad and some are indigenous."
The satellites flight will be a brief one at just four hours, of which just twelve minutes will be spent in micro-gravity during which the onboard sensors will do their study.
"We designed 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. The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown to space which would fit into a four-centimetre cube weighing 64 grammes".
KalamSat was named after former Indian Presiden Abdul Kalam, and the project was funded by an educational organisation known as Space Kidz India.
The satellite will be launched on 21 June from a NASA facility on the equally diminutive Wallops Island, Virginia, which measures just six square miles, responsible for many low-earth-orbit missions in recent years.
Although the idea of Cube satellites seems a little alien, they are becoming more and more common, with Polish company SatRevolution planning to build a specialist facility for making such machines known as "cubesats".
3D printing of satellites is nothing new either with NASA themselves already having played with the idea of what it describes as "origami-inspired" bots.
Meanwhile on the International Space Station, 3D printing is being used to "email parts" to astronauts.
NASA has also put grant money into a 3D printer for food. µ
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