ISRO scientist awarded for indigenous "fuel-saving" device on Mars Orbiter

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Updated: Aug 13 2014, 17:51pm hrs
A scientist from ISRO who started his invention using a humble plastic mug and a Teflon wire, and went on to design a key device - little bigger than a paper pin - that is saving fuel onboard the Mars Orbiter Mission was awarded for his indigenous creation at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) on Tuesday, along with others.

"It is a wonderful thought to think that something that you made is about to reach Mars," Joji Chaman, Group Head, Mechanical Design and Production, ISRO Inertial Systems Unit (IISU), Thiruvanathapuram said after receiving the Shri Hari Om Ashram Prerit Dr Vikram Sarabhai Research Award 2013.

Recounting the journey, Chaman told The Indian Express that he had started developing the device called the Ceramic Servo Accelerometer in 2003, with a simple plastic mug and a Teflon wire "as the only investments".

The device that presently weighs only 50 grams, not only saves fuel, but also measures acceleration, velocity and position of the spacecraft. This device was part of the Chandrayaan-1, and an improved version is now part of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) which is scheduled to reach Mars on September 24.

This Ceramic Servo Accelerometer will be performing a crucial function in the coming weeks when the MOM spacecraft or the Mangalyaan slows down and tries to enter the orbit of the red-planet, Chaman said.

The device will come in to play when the MOM spacecraft will be slowed down by reducing its velocity by one kilometer per second. The spacecraft currently has 290 kilograms of fuel left and about 240 kilograms will be burnt as the spacecraft enters the Martian orbit on September 24.

"This award is not only for me, but for the entire team (about ten members) who worked on this device," he added. The scientist was bestowed with the award in the Space Application category for his innovative and outstanding contributions in inertial navigation system for spacecrafts deployed for terrestrial and planetary missions.

Apart from Chaman, others who received the award on Tuesday include Dr Tarun Kumar Pant who was recognised for his work in Space sciences. He had obtained his PhD degree from Gujarat University and is currently at the Space Physics Laboratory, Thiruvananthapuram.

Souvik Mahapatra, a professor at department of Electrical and Engineering, IIT-Bombay and Ranjan Bose, a Microsoft chair professor at IIT-Delhi were among the awardees. Others who receive the award in other categories include, NV Chalapathi Rao, a faculty member at the Department of Geology, Centre of Advanced Study, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi and JS Ray, a PRL scientist. Each award carries a medal and a cash prize of Rs 50,000.