“How to escape the earth?”. This was the question that bugged me while I was in school. Not that I wanted to leave the earth, in a definitive kind of way. I wanted to explore and understand what lay beyond the skies. It has been a long journey for me. It started for me when I heard about the new technologies and heavy powered rockets by ISRO. My curiosity was further increased when I saw those rockets being launched and the news cuts of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s classes and inspirational speeches. It would be fair to say that my childhood was spent in the glory of space. Hence, it was in school itself that I had decided to focus on space technologies. My interest in physics during my school and intermediate school helped me gain ample enthusiasm to apply for Aerospace Engineering. I had an innovative mind and wanted to explore more about rocketry and understand the mysteries of aerospace technologies from the initial days of my college itself. It was in the first few days that I found the answer to my age-old question: There is no scope of leaving earth without the aid of escape velocity.
After attending many lectures and series, I came to understand that without the propellant fuels and aerodynamic structure of the body it’s not possible to fly a rocket. Hence, to solve the puzzle to escape the earth, I chose the interesting topic of rocket propellants as my focus. I worked on propellent technologies and even sought the help of the laboratories available in my college. However, I couldn’t find anything related to combustion there. Rather than give up, I decided to establish a work on combustion analysis and to deliver the work for upcoming batches so that it could help them. At the initial stages, I faced many issues from getting permission for the establishment for the propellant facilities to navigating the many heads of departments. After completion of the 3rd year of my college, I was required to do an internship. I didn’t waste the opportunity and decided to work with a company in the propellant industry or those that purely work in the propulsion field. I did a lot of search in a lot for places but couldn’t find a private firm that works in this field. Moreover, after my field trip to ISRO, I came to know that aerospace graduates also don’t have it easy, working over in Sriharikota. I felt sad to know that even after so many hurdles I had faced, there were a few more in store to get an internship. Finally, luck favored me and through a web app, I found an interesting course on PNM SAT Design Course in PES University, Bangalore where PISAT was being integrated and sent to space using the PSLV. The course was for about 30 days and the trainer was an American named Dr.Sharan Asundi from Tuskegee University. I grabbed the opportunity and applied for the course. I took relevant classes for different subsystems and went on through brainstorming sessions in order to develop a student satellite. We named the satellite as ADHYAY – 1 and its main function was to detect combustible gases and to enhance zone images by using a spectrometer. The secondary and unique idea was of the “self-deorbiting mechanism” which, according to me, is a unique remedy for space debris.
We worked to have the satellite come back to earth atmosphere, which will experience the heavy temperature by aerodynamic heating. I worked on the ATTITUDE DETERMINATION CONTROL SYSTEM where the idea was to control the satellite motion in space without any perturbations by using “retro rocket thrusters”. Here I found a fantastic group of people from different backgrounds while working on satellite integration.
After getting back to college, my relentless work to setting up a propulsion laboratory and to work on rocket propellants resumed. The laboratory had to be built from scratch and I had to face a lot of hurdles in getting permission and making the various heads of department understand the importance of having such a laboratory. Meanwhile,, I had decided to work on solid rocketry with the help of oxidizer named Potassium Nitrate (. For fuel I decided to use different derivatives from Glucose compounds named Fructose, Maltose, Galactose, and other sugars having higher crystalline forms and lower crystalline forms. I tested about 110 propellants by using different combinations and variations in addition of moisture, propellant making type and grain shapes.
Here I came to know various problems during the combustion mechanism. Experiencing physical injuries like sudden blasting and ignition systems within the blast radius gave me perspective. I also worked on setting up a thrust calculating devices that had been installed up in the laboratory and using it for propulsion purposes.
Sometime later, I came across a book on amateur solid rocket design that proved to be of huge help. I characterized the best thrust output propellant from all my tests and used that propellant in the model
rocket. I was passionate to build a rocket that will enter into the apogee altitude of 1 km in the desired trajectory and launch the same but due to some issues, I was unable to launch it. I had gone through rigorous training in the software named ANSYS and in my college luckily had the research version in which we can calculate the problem with an unlimited number of nodes. So to analyze the complete node of rocket vs. altitude we need to give many input variables and that was where I was lacking. What’s more, I decided to make this as my final year main project. As per norms, we need to submit the project report with the help of ANSYS WORK so I designed the same model rocket using CATIA and made the analysis in three different conditions Mach 0.3, 1, 1.5.
Eventually, I completed my graduation and am now in search of work in the rocketry field. Meanwhile, I am happily delivering some speeches from nearby schools and colleges about rocket parts and integration systems.
The propulsion lab in my college has been fully set up and I am happy that my juniors can now use the facilities. My search for answers to my questions still continue and I am on a path to find them.