Pratham tracking team at IIT Bombay awaiting signals from the satellite

The Pratham satellite designed by IIT Bombay is currently orbiting the Earth, while teams in California, Paris, IIT Bombay and Atharva College (Malad) are awaiting signals from the satellite to confirm that it is operational. The satellite has passed through India twice since the launch yesterday morning, but the signal received from it was very weak. Similarly, the IIT Bombay team at California also reported receiving weak signals from the satellite. Hussain Manasawala, an IITB alumnus and part of the Pratham team, says, “The satellite hasn’t stabilised in the orbit as yet. It takes up to 48 hours from the time of launch for the satellite to stabilise in its orbit and start transmitting a stronger signal to earth. We are hoping for that to happen later today.”

Receiving strong signals is important for the team of Pratham, as it will ensure the satellite’s orbital stability, and will ensure up to 95% chance of success for the satellite’s mission. The object of receiving signals from Pratham is to record the number of electrons in the ionosphere. According to the Pratham team, this data will have a major two-fold benefit for scientists. The GPS signals received on earth from GPS satellites get distorted due to presence of free electrons in the ionosphere. Thus, GPS location received on our devises have a small margin of error. This error may be too miniscule to be considered for civilian needs, but it has huge significance in defence or aerospace systems. The electron count will help calculate this margin of error, which can then be adjusted to GPS systems to get more accurate GPS results for missile launching and other defence systems. 

Secondly, the electron count is highly affected by natural activities on Earth and by the sun. For e.g. an eruption of an underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean, will emit high level energy into space which will affect the electron density and count within milliseconds. A satellite like Pratham will detect such variations and transmit signals to earth within seconds, thus enabling us to create an alert about the tsunami. Hence, by the time the tsunami reaches a coastal area, evacuations can be carried out to protect human life. 

Pratham is a prototype satellite weighing 10kg, the success of which, will enable scientists to create a bigger satellite or a replica of Pratham to achieve these goals on a larger scale. PaGaLGuY is in touch with the Pratham team at IIT Bombay and ISRO, who are eagerly waiting to receive a strong signal from the satellite today.

Click here to see the live video of the satellite launch yesterday, September 26, at 9:12am.