Rifath Sharook is an 18 yr old student belonging to Karur district in Tamil Nadu. He, along with his team from Space Kidz India, has built the lightest satellite in the world. The satellite has been named KalamSat in honour of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. KalamSat weighs merely 64 grams and is made from 3D printed carbon fiber polymer and was chosen as the winner of the Cubes in Space contest organized by NASA and IDoodle.
NASA will pack the tiny satellite on a sounding rocket to be launched on June 21 from Wallop Island, off the Eastern Shore of Virginia for a 240 minute sub-orbital space flight mission. Once upon in the atmosphere, the 3D printed satellite will be in the micro-gravity environment of space for 12 minutes, before it begins its downward trajectory back towards the ocean. Rifath Sharook will become the first Indian student to have an experiment flown by NASA.
In conversation with Rifath Sharook:
Q. How did you become a part of Space Kidz India? Tell us about your team.
I was a student journalist in a popular Tamil magazine “Chutti Vikatan” and that’s where I met Dr. Srimathy Kesan, Founder & CEO of Space Kidz India while taking a bite. We are a team of 7 and I am the lead scientist. We all are from Space Kidz India, based in Chennai.
Q. When and how did your team come up with the idea of making the satellite, Kalamsat?
It all started from the Balloon Satellite mission which was our first mission then we wanted to reach real space and built a cubesat but we realized it would cost up to 50k USD to get a slot on a rocket. Then we came up with this IDEA. NASA and Idoodle Learning.Inc these two organisations conducted a contest to design a space technology useful for future missions. We participated in that contest and selected by NASA for free launch. A lot of people are asking why we went to NASA instead of ISRO? Well, because it’s a contest conducted by them. So, we are getting the launch from them.
Q. Please tell us about the satellite, how does it work?
The use of the satellite is to test the performance of 3D printed carbon fibre in space environment.
Q. Who is your role model in the field?
I don’t have any role model. I get inspiration, that’s all. Sounds cliche? But that’s the truth. I want to be the first Rifath not second Edison or anyone else. No one is replacable.
Q. Cliché? Not at all! Well, in that case who is your source of inspiration?
My dad. He was a Scientist who did independent research in Astronomy, He was an EC Engineer. He passed away in 2008 when I was 9 years old. We always used to talk about Space and Universe in my childhood. I used to tell him that one day I will launch a real satellite. Now that’s coming true but he is no more with me.
Q. He must have been really proud of you. Tell us about your educational background. Which school did you go to?
I went to Crescent Matric Hr. Sec School. Just on 12th may, I got my HSC results. I got 750/1200.
Q. Who had been your greatest support system throughout journey so far?
My Mom, Uncle and family took care of us and they are huge supporters. They never pressurized me for studies at any moment and Dr. Srimathy Kesan is like my non biological mother.
Q. What are your future plans? What do you want to accomplish in life?
Creating a private space agency like SpaceX in India is our goal.
Q. Please tell us about the financial aid for your project.
This is the project done and funded by ourselves at Space Kidz India.
Q. What advice would you give to the young students just starting out in the field of technology?
Never get tired. All big achievements stars from a small spark. Feel yourself and know what you are good at. You haven’t achieved big things NOT because you dreamed high and missed but because you dreamed low and achieved that thing. People say even sky is not the limit. But for us, sky is just the beginning.