Published: 01st December 2020
How these two IIT-B alums are developing a low-cost and more efficient satellite propulsion system
Manastu Space, a spacetech start-up, is working in collaboration with IIT Bombay for an alternative to the current toxic satellite propulsion fuel
During his time studying Aerospace Engineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, Tushar Jadhav got the opportunity to work on the Pratham satellite, which was later carried into space on Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) PSLV. While working on this students' satellite initiative at his alma mater, Tushar met his then junior and Mechanical Engineering student Ashtesh Kumar. Through their shared experience on working on the satellite and sending it to space, the two boys bonded - a bond that would later lead them to start their own spacetech company, Manastu Space, which is now developing a satellite propulsion system containing a new catalyst, engine and what they claim is a new type of fuel.
Before getting into why they're building a propulsion system, let's understand what it is exactly. Tushar explains, "When the satellite is in space, the only way to move it is by thrusting it with an engine. This lets the satellite correct its course and can be taken to the desired position The system we are building is essentially like a rocket engine. It has a sparkplug like catalyst, an engine and fuel that is used to combust and run everything."
Engine and fuel developed by Manastu Space | Pic: Tushar Jadhav
And why are they doing it? "The fuel that has been used over the last 50 to 60 years, hydrazine, is very toxic. People have died while transporting and handling the fuel. Most governments have either banned or heavily taxed the fuel and prior permission has to be taken for the fuel to be used. Efforts are on all over the world to find an alternative," says Tushar. "Since the handling and transportation is difficult, it increases the operational costs of the fuel. This inadvertently increases the cost of launching any satellite into space. The fuel is also quite inefficient," adds Tushar, who hails from Nashik, Maharashtra.
The duo have also gone back to their alma mater for assistance and tech support. "We have collaborated with IIT Bombay in some aspects of this propulsion system. They are providing us technological support," says Tushar. In fact, some of the professors from the prestigious institute are contributing members of the team at Manastu Space.
The thruster for the satellite propulsion system | Pic: Tushar Jadhav
Prior to kickstarting Manastu Space in 2017, Tushar worked as a Scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) while Ashtesh, who hails from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, jumped into it immediately after graduation. "Ashtesh was working on onboarding computers for the Pratham satellite when I first met him. He is responsible for putting the satellite on the PSLV and doing the final tests before launch. While working on the satellite, we both realised that this is what we want to do for the rest of our lives and decided to start Manastu Space after graduating," says Tushar. Manastu Space is also working with the DRDO to help them develop tech for their use in the future.
While their system is not ready for the market yet, Tushar says they are only doing final checks and tweaking the technology a bit more. "We will be ready to get commercial certification soon. We have already got patents for the technology we have developed," he states.