Space Kids India (SKI) a travel company based in Chennai focused on education tourism has recently set into action a unique venture as a tribute to the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. On August 23, 2015 at around 11.07 Hrs, Space Kidz India, launched a ‘Near Space Vehicle’, to read the air quality, altitude, gases around near space, etc. This dream was being nurtured since two years when it all started as a competition that SKI conducts year on year for high school students- The “Young Scientist India”. One of them, Rifath Sharook, thought of an idea of a sending a student satellite in space. Sharook, who hails from a small town, Pallampatti close to Dindigul, did not receive an encouraging response initially.
However, Sharook, along with Dr Srimathy Kesan, founder of SKI, pursued the idea. They approached many research institutions for support but received discouraging feedback and it was considered as a non workable model. They reworked on the dream and decided to work on a space vehicle that may not reach space but at least close to space, and so the work began. Educators at NASA, and professors at the University of Central Florida also helped tweaking and put all this together. A balloon of 1200g size was finalised, Helium gas as the fuel, attached to a parachute and a payload box with 10 sensors was designed, fixed and ready to launch on August 23 at 11:00Hrs. Anand Jacob Verghese, a visionary, PRO Chancellor, of the Hindustan University, appreciated the concept and decided to support the mission. Nine students from Hindustan University joined the mission as crew members along with professor Kirubakaran, Aero Space Department, Hindustan University. Appropriate permissions from the State Govt, Collector Kanchipuram, SP office Kanchipuram, ATS Tambaram, ATC Chennai Airport Authority of India, DGCA, Civil Aviation Ministry were sorted.
On August 23, 2015, finally the mission took off. The vehicle travelled Near Space with the balloon bursting at a high altitude after which the parachute brought down the payload box with sensors. The payload box landed in a Field at ‘Kuthunur’, near Kanchipuram. The retrieval team of students went to the place and brought back the box. The data has been collected and shall be put up on different medium for students to see and study. This is the first of its kind launch in India. Kesan said, “This was a first time in India venture and a perfect tribute to the great Scientist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Our mission was to reach near Space and study the air quality, altitude, the different rays, gases etc. Our vision is to reach Space through low cost vehicles and explore space, and that its accessible by all. From the tourism view point, I feel why should Virgin Galactic be the only one working on designing a shuttle/vehicle to take passengers to space. Why cant we motivate our student community to invent, design a vehicle that could take people passengers from India to Space. This is our goal and we will achieve it.”