India to launch 75 payloads developed by schoolgirls into orbit

Space project aims to nurture interest in space science and celebrates 75 years since the country gained independence

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India is preparing to launch into orbit a satellite carrying 75 monitoring systems created by schoolgirls from across the country, along with the national flag, to mark its 75th Independence Day.

The satellite will be sent up aboard the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), the smallest commercial rocket developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

“The launch of the SSLV-D1/EOS-02 Mission is scheduled for Sunday, August 7, 2022, at 9.18am (IST) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota,” the ISRO said on Twitter.

The SSLV is designed to launch satellites weighing less than 500 kilograms into low Earth orbit, such as those used for Earth observation and providing internet connectivity in remote areas.

Sunday's rocket flight is expected to last 13.2 minutes before it reaches the point to release the AzadiSat which weighs just 8kg. Azadi means independence in Hindi.

The satellite is fitted with 75 payloads, each developed and built by a team of 10 schoolgirls between the ages of 13-16 years at 75 rural government schools across the country.

In space jargon, a payload is an electronic subsystem or experiment board comprising different sensors that monitor factors such as temperature, humidity and radiation levels.

Each team of schoolgirls was given a payload kit containing a microcontroller and sensors that they had to assemble and programme to interact with the satellite's main on-board computer for data transfer back to Earth.

The AzadiSat will also carry a selfie camera to study the performance of solar panels in space, a long-range communications (LoRA) transponder that is used to transmit messages over great distances using a low amount of power and small bandwidth, and the national flag.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the plan to unfurl the national flag in space during his independence day address in 2018.

The AazdiSat project was conceptualised by Space Kidz India, a Tamil Nadu-based organisation that is working with the government to encourage young girls to choose space research as a career.

“This is the world’s first ever all-girls mission. This mission will not only give them joy and confidence — this is path-breaking. These are 750 rural girls from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, mainly high school students,” Srimathy Kesan, the founder and chief executive of Space Kidz India, told The National.

Ms Kesan said the girls were given training online for six months.

“We taught them about rockets and satellites, coding and every little detail,” she said.

“This launch will truly be a feat of these girls; not just science — their emotions, the confidence they have gained during the training.”

Updated: August 05, 2022, 2:20 PM