Eighteen-year-old Rifath Sharook, belonging to a comparatively unknown town of Pallapatti in Tamil Nadu, is all set to break a global space record by launching the lightest satellite in the world, weighing a mere 64 grams. Rifath is extremely passionate about space. He grew up in a science-crazy household, with his small room in Pallapatti, Karur, Tamil Nadu serving as his first research station.It was this competition, Cubes in Space, that Rifath and his team participated in and emerged among the handful of winners. 80 models were selected from the thousands of submissions from 57 countries. Rifath’s team were the only winners from India. It took them over eight months’ hard work to achieve success.Rifath said it will be a sub-orbital flight and post-launch, the mission span will be 240 minutes and the tiny satellite will operate for 12 minutes in a micro-gravity environment of space. “The main role of the satellite will be to demonstrate the performance of 3-D printed carbon fibre,” he explained. He said the satellite was selected through a competition called ‘Cubes in Space’, jointly organised by NASA and a organisation called ‘I Doodle Learning’.The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown to space which will fit into a four-metre cube weighing exactly 64 grams. “We did a lot of research on different cube satellites all over the world and found ours was the lightest,” he said. Rifath said the satellite is made mainly of reinforced carbon fibre polymer. “We obtained some of the components from abroad and some are indigenous,” he saidThe satellite, called KalamSat, will be launched by a NASA sounding rocket on June 21 from Wallops Island, a NASA facility. This will be the first time an Indian student’s experiment will be flown by NASA.
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