My Days at SEDS

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradx.org/blog. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on April 9, 2009 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

In about a month or two, I will graduate from college and will head out to follow a career path that I hope will some day lead me to the door steps of ISRO. As one of the co-starters of SEDS in India, I thought you may be interested in sharing the journey of SEDS till date. My passion for outer space started way back when I was 13 years old and I have been smitten ever since. Despite the best efforts from several people, I have not been able to go off the path of space sciences. At age 17, sitting in an internet cafe, looking for a space organisation, the first one that came up was Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS).

I was able to find several amateur astronomy clubs in India but none that were dedicated to space engineering. I learnt however that some did exist but I seemed to have been not patient enough to find them. I shared my concern on the forums of SEDS and there was able to meet several people who convinced me that I can be the right person to start the Indian extension of SEDS. While I remained non-commital, I was introduced to Abhishek Ray who seems to have found out about SEDS in the same way and had expressed the same interest.

So, way back in late 2004 and early 2005, with a simple forums announcment, we got started with SEDS in India. We started off with perhaps 10 members or so. Even with such humble beginnings the dreams of two late teens clashed with what SEDS could be or do in India. We both felt that the ultimate thrill would be for ISRO to some day come to us looking for great leaders who could lead their projects and missions. What a thrill that would be!

Things did get difficult from there on and we had a lean patch where SEDS was not doing much and we were mostly co-ordinating and working towards an international SEDS organisation than building anything here in India. Throughout this phase of SEDS in India, I would like to specially point to the help provided by Kirk Kittell, then a Vice Chair at SEDS USA.

Enter Pranav Aggrawal and the chapter at Vellore Institute of Technology University. After failing with a two chapter model, we thought of putting all efforts into building one chapter properly that could then serve as an example for several other chapters across the country. By working on one chapter with effective results we thought that this could help people understand our work better and also aid forming chapters.

With this intention most of 2007 and 2008 was spent building up the chapter of SEDS at VIT University. This was an era of several wonderful conversations and idea storms that I shared with Pranav Aggrawal and we are still a bit sad that we were not able to implement many of the ideas that we did have. Perhaps, the SEDS International Conference 2007 hosted by VIT University was the time that SEDS in India stepped up and did what several people still reminiscense as a wonderful conference.

There, for perhaps the first time, we brought to India, the Moon Rover Design Competition and water rocket competitions. It was a great joy for us to the wonderful turnout that we had and the grand success that the event was.

The event also got us attention to what SEDS was and as to the projects and events that we had done. At this point, we discovered that having a big successful chapter can also work in another way, to make new chapters worry about their success or failiure. In 2007, we began efforts to streamline the organisation, get it registered and to begin expanding to younger chapters.

Several innovative solutions were brought to the table by the founding Executive Committee members (Anmol Sharma, Snehal Deshpande, Krishna Mohanty, Ashish Aggrawal being the chief among them) and several others who worked with and under us during the period. We developed solutions that would I think help us in the future as the organisation grows and spreads across India.

An organisation that started with a dream has now got some very practical implementations for the way we work – the activities that we choose to do and the implementation of our projects. We hope we can continuously improve and be more effective than we have been.

In 2009, Snehal Deshpande and Krishna Mohanty and others at the chapter in VITU, worked hard to bring to fruition the SEDS India National Conference (SINC 2009). Here too we brought the cansat competition for the first time in India, got all the small satellite developers from across India at a venue (thanks to ISRO  and specially, Dr. Raghava Murthy for this), math modelling etc. We hope to do much better in 2010. There are many projects already planned and several that we are still brainstorming. For the new chapters, I hope this is a great opportunity and for VIT, perhaps a caution that we have only covered a small distance in the vast ocean.

To conclude, I would like to thank several people who have helped me in starting and getting SEDS up on its feet – Kirk Kittell, Pranav Aggrawal and Abhishek Ray. There have also been people that each of these individuals including me reached out to – brothers, friends, professors etc who have advised us and kept us going. I also hope that the future members of SEDS remember all these people who helped set up the organisation and worked hard to contribute to what it has become today.

Thanks for being a part of this journey and I hope that while I hand over this mantle to the next generation they will take SEDS to great heights and perhaps one day even to another planet or even another star :).

Space and Ham Radio

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://blogs.seds.org/pradeep. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 15, 2007 as per the timestamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I fell in love with ham radios in 2004 when I was an electronics student (as an elective) in my junior college. In the same year, I read Maryam’s blog and saw that ham radios can be used in space arena too. It was only the exams that I had to give to obtain a ham license that made me think twice. At that point, I had written a string of engineering admission tests that was driving me nuts and I couldn’t handle another test.

At the SEDS International Conference 2007, some of the earlier interest was re-kindled and also an amazing ‘discovery’. ISRO had a ham radio club.

2 + 2 = 4 !!!

It would be really great if we could establish a ham radio club in every SEDS chapter in India. Besides performing scientific experiments and performing basic satellite communication operations if needed, it also opened another door – a way of talking to ISRO and literally!

ISRO has a ham radio club at most of its centres – Thumba Amateur Radio Club (VU2TRC) at VSSC, ISTRAC Amateur Radio Club (VU2FBS) at Bangalore, at the Master Control Facility (VU2MCF) at Hassan and the more famous Upagraha Amateur Radio Club (VU2URC) at Bangalore. This provides a great opportunity to talk to ISRO scientists who are not always phone and email friendly.

Besides that, we could also talk to SEDS chapters all over the world for free (Internet and telephone still include costs) besides networking in India. Who wants to take the challenge first? This is also an opportunity for all hams who have a space interest!

For more info, visit www.amsatindia.org.

Giving directions to writings here

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://blogs.seds.org/pradeep. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 5, 2007 as per the timestamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Before beginning to actually write about my work with SEDS India and SEDS Earth, I felt the need to clarify myself on many points.

One of the reasons that I love to write on blogs is because it is a dynamic record of a person’s thoughts. I might feel really great that I thought of all these things today but might actually laugh at them later. There are many factors that causes this change in perception. It maybe because you now have access to people and information you never had earlier. Or it maybe because you are less dumb now than you were earlier.

Writing here, I hope to achieve two things – make people who look at this years later (including me) to understand my intentions in making the decisions that I made and to give ideas for those activities that may one day be possible but which may now be impossible.

Communicating my ideas

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://blogs.seds.org/pradeep. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on June 25, 2007 as per the timestamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

One of the things that I learnt at the meeting at ISRO Bangalore is how I lack the idea of communicating what I am doing to a group of people who may or may not know about space. In the end, it all comes down to communication.

The bad part is I get only one chance.

A guy to whom I tried to explain what being in SEDS entailed and who was not interested in it is not likely to listen to me a second time when I know a bit more and have a clearer picture of what I am saying than when I said it before. He’s already created a block against space thinking of it as very murky water. All thanks to me =(

That has not happened yet and I hope it never will. It is one of the worries that a person who is trying to start a SEDS chapter might face. Startup fear?

I am thinking about this and I am also simultaneously trying to solve this problem. But, my solving this problem won’t help others besides people in India since every country has a different outlook on space. India uses space as a means of self-reliance and telecommunications. We don’t want to rely on NASA pictures all the time :).

Space Projects

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as https://pradx.wordpress.com. I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 6, 2006 as per the permalink. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I am involved in a satellite project. It’s actually not such an alien thing to do. There are more than 50+ satellites currently under construction and ready to be sent all around the globe. All this is under the CubeSat project that was started by Califoria Polytechnic. My appreciation for such projects. There are also numerous others bigger satellites under development. So, how’s ours different?

We’re students. We’re all in one organisation. But we all live in different countries. So, what do we hope to do? Research – Construct – Assemble and Launch. Straight forward to listen to. Here’s the fun part. We build parts of the satellite in different parts of the world. So, one country builds the outer structure. The other builds internal structure, another solders the communications circuits and so on. Well, the satellite is no good in parts, is it? So, we bring it all to one place and we put it together. Take it to a launch pad and launch it.

We’ve been discussing it since 2005 as a technical project in which we can all be physically and not Internet-ly involved. Sending emails and IMs are now passe. Collaborate with others across the globe and build stuff.

I hope some car enthusiasts group from different countries can build a global car. They can release the manufacturing notes and let anyone with resources build a car for themselves. The experience of driving in a car you build is totally different and very very few people have experienced it. And don’t stick to cars either. Try to do this across other stuff as well.

All this is a great way to network. You know these people are serious and not just bluffing with you. Also, you get to meet new people. Learn to trust each other. Who knows, maybe one day we can have peaceful co-existence that we have been trying to achieve for the past 2000 years.