A Student Satellite To Get Real Time Data Of The Hirakud Dam In Odisha

Posted by Apurwa Masook in Sci-Tech
December 27, 2016

At a time when India’s multi-purpose Hirakud Dam was nearing completion, a small engineering college was born at its foothill. The objective of the institute was to produce engineers who could manage the mighty Hirakud Dam. It is now a University run by the state government today. It offers 11 UG courses, seven 2 years M.Tech. programmes, three 2-year M.Sc. programmes, three 1-year M.Phil. courses. It also provides MCA and PhD degrees in a sprawling campus of around 300 acres on the banks of a large water body.

The establishment of the Idea Innovation Cell to nourish the sprouting young minds coupled with the foundation of the E-learning centre to nurture them has proven to be a stepping stone towards enhanced engineering advancements.

VSSUT Student Satellite Programme is a revolutionised step undertaken under the Idea & Innovation Cell, designed to provide an educational experience to students of design, flight and data analysis in a space experiment. It is a collaborative effort between 40 students and faculties from different engineering disciplines at VSSUT Space Development Program, to build, launch, test and recover indigenously developed reusable satellites and rockets. This program intends to prepare students for an exciting and technical journey, even if it means embarking on a path fraught with challenges.

Till date, very little has been reported on the issues of the Hirakud Dam. Large scale water-logging, seepage and an unscientific water distribution system are only a few to name. Also, the flood control objective of the dam conflicts with the other objectives of irrigation and hydel power generation. Cracks developing in spillways and increasing deterioration of soil in the catchments are causing erosion of the subsoil, resulting in sedimentation and siltation.

According to a report in 1989, it was believed that less than 10% of the canal systems were lined. The inequitable supply of canal waters to agricultural lands due to poor distribution system is allegedly contributing to water loss because of an absence of control devices at the canal outlets resulting in disparity in water discharges. According to a 1953 report, 57% of the reservoir’s silt load was expected to escape downstream through the 64 deep-set sluices in the dead storage. But 43%, i.e., 2.5-hectare metre per 100 square kilometres of silt was believed to be trapped in the reservoir on a daily basis. This has led to loss of the live storage capacity at an annual rate of 0.4% from the beginning of impoundment in 1956. It also showed that increasing deterioration of soils in the catchments causes subsoil erosion which in turn affects agriculture. The growing conflict between Chhattisgarh-Odisha over Mahanadi, have had its adverse effects.

As an obligation of the technical university towards the Mahanadi river valley, and due to the unavailability of relevant data, the aim of this project is to provide a highly accurate data to the concerned authorities who can take necessary steps for the better upkeep of the dam as well as the nearby agricultural areas and the common people.

The survey will be carried out using a sounding rocket designed and indigenously developed in the R&D Lab of VSSUT, Burla. The satellite will be carrying a CanSat payload of around 350 gms, well equipped with ultra-modern technologies. The rocket upon launching will reach a height of over 13000 ft in the sky, thereby deploying the Can-satellite. Once the CanSat is released in the atmosphere, it will be monitoring the real time scenario of the world famous Hirakud dam. The objectives of our project include:

  • To monitor the agricultural lands
  • To observe Water Distribution & Irrigation Management
  • Depth Analysis
  • Flood-Water Drainage System
  • Rate of Siltation and Amount of Sedimentation
  • To determine the Area Capacity of Reservoir
  • Structural Stability and Seismic Analysis
  • Seepage Analysis
  • Realtime 3D Mesh Mapping

The dynamic scanning system would provide the base station with the real-time raw data of the entire study area.

We have made several visits to the dam, interacted with the authorities and discussed the matter. They have offered us their consent and various opportunities to work in collaboration. We were also invited by Indian Inventors Association (IIA) at the International Innovation Festival, Bangalore – 2016, where inventors and scientists from 20 countries participated. We have also been selected to showcase our project in the upcoming Maker Fest in Ahmedabad and the Maker Mela, Mumbai in January 2017.

We wish to lay the foundation of our space-faring journey with this small step and we ultimately plan to work in collaboration with ISRO to launch our very own satellite v2.0 into a geosynchronous orbit to study the eastern coastline of India. We’ve come a long way, from grouping wherever space was available, to having a research lab dedicated to us for use. Through it all, we have, and will continue to take everything in our stride. After all, it is the rough road that leads to the heights of success. Family, as well as the alumni support, has been instrumental to us in our journey as we could not have achieved anything without their endless belief in our capabilities and stimulating support.


Images source: indiawaterportal.org/ Flickr