CHENNAI: Ideas and design presented by a few students of SRM University may find a place in technology NASA is developing to land satellites and rovers safely in other planets.

A planetary atmospheric entry vehicle designed and built by 11 engineering students of the university won a second prize in a competition - CANSAT - organized by The American Astronautical Society (AAS), American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and sponsored by NASA. The satellite with a deployable lander designed by the students met all parameters set by the organizers and made a safe and precise landing without damaging a raw egg kept inside.

This is the fourth annual competitions supported by NASA, which is interested to find technology from world over to build an entry vehicle which will safely land a rover or a satellite on the surface of a planet without damaging senors or antennas and other components.

"The aim was to find a new technology for communication, a new technology for structure design and to perfect a technology for a re-entry vehicle. Our satellite and lander made a precision entry and landing. Descend speed was one of the best and we were able to land the unit with a raw egg without breaking it. The unit was mounted on a small rocket which deployed the satellite at 610 metres from where it was brought down well within the parameters set by the competition organizers. Students controlled the descend from a ground station. We achieved the desired descend speed and landing target," said Sidhant Dhall, who completed final year electronics and instrumentation engineering at the university, and was part of a three-member team which launched the satellite in US.

The competition was held at Burkett Filed, Cross-plains, Texas. NASA is keen to have a good technology to ensure that rovers, especially for Mars, can be landed without damaging components in it. "Such trials and competitions are held here because they feel that if the lander can land a satellite safely in Earth the precision and safety of a mission will be far higher in a low gravity atmosphere of another planet," he added.

"We used two parachutes to control the descend of the satellite. Entry vehicles usually use thrusters. The focus of the competition was to land a smaller satellite safely onto a surface of a planet because Nasa is looking at developing small satellites so that they can be sent to far off planets," Siddhant said.

Of the 35 teams which took part in the competition, 26 were found ready for launch in pre-flight checks. There were four teams from India out of which three were from SRM and another from IIT, Delhi.

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