Team Indus PDR

Team Indus PDR

Team Indus PDR


We were visited by a battery of ISRO/ex-ISRO scientists this weekend. The squad included Dr. K Kasturirangan, ex-chairman, ISRO, Dr. N. Vedachalam, ex-Director of Liquid Propulsion System Centre and a dozen or so more. It was the Team Indus PDR!

‘What is the PDR?’ I asked our rocket science monkey.. He exhaled as he began to describe what happens in a PDR. ‘PDR is the scientific ritual where you present your designs omniscient three-headed hydra monsters who breathe fire into whatever schemes and solutions you come up with. You have to be confident about your studies……’

Well, that is not exactly what happens in the PDR! Our rocket science monkey has a tendency to exaggerate.PDR stands for the preliminary design review of the Team Indus mission. It is a forum where the mission concept and design strategies are presented and are critically reviewed.

Date: 29th August 2014, Venue: Raman Research Institute, Bangalore.
Attendees included ex-ISRO experts Dr. Thyagarajan, Dr. VS Adimurthy, Dr. Perumal, Dr. NC Bhat, Dr. VK Agarwal, Dr. PS Nair, Dr. CVR Reddy, Mr. M Jayaraman. Senior professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics Dr. Jayanth Murthy among others.

Stepping out of the PDR, we believe that we have emerged victorious, although not entirely unscathed!

We felicitated our expert attendees and we started with an introductory speech about the concept of Google Lunar X prize and a background on where we, Team Indus stand today.

We began with our mission concept presentation. We cruised through Earth orbits, mass budgets, communication visibility and eclipse periods. Questions on groundstation visibility and availability were raised and settled by our missions team. This was followed by the discussion on lunar descent. We received great feedback for the strategy and are trying to implement their suggestions. Our propulsion system design was retrospectively lauded as a great choice by Dr. Adimurthy for the mission given the delta V requirements that came in the mission.

I don’t think a lot of us have the opportunity to interact with people like Dr Kasturirangan on a personal basis. Exciting to see your heroes slurping hot chai and chatting about life and science with you, isn’t it? We did exactly that. Moreover, Dr. Vedachalam reserved special praise for the spirit with which we have taken on the challenge of building the Team Indus lunar lander and rover. But that was to come later.

The sambar sloshing within us, some of us were half burping as the second session of the day began. We presented our structural design which had taken us many iterations and a lot of effort. The experts had questions about the launch vehicle adapter interface and were fairly satisfied with our design. We also presented our drop and vibration simulation results. Thermal control systems was followed by Guidance, Navigation and Control: we explained our sensor specifications, placements, selection, field of views etc. Mode definitions and control system simulation results including pointing requirements and torque estimates were presented. But did we think through our communication system designs?

Yes we did. We had our link margin, frequency bands, telemetry and low noise amplifiers well thought out. And nobody popped a bubble gum. We had the sense that we were doing okay! Electrical power systems- our battery discharge estimates were mostly met by nods and supportive comments. The Command and Data Handling systems was very well received and its design strategy got a healthy support from the review committee.

All is well that ends well !
Dr. Vedachalam ended the review with a motivating, heartfelt and rousing speech! Teams. Although our individual personalities prevent us to thump our chests loud, but we came out of the PDR-stronger and as a team.

Make-or-break months lie ahead of us. The real work begins now.
PS: You could quickly send up a positive thought for the team. And may the universe work in mysterious ways to propel us forward.

Vishesh Vatsal

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