Teen Builds The Lightest Satellite Ever And NASA Is Launching It Into Space

Rifath Shaarook

What were you doing at the age of 18? Trying to pass the 8th grade? Working at Mikey D’s to pay for your busted 2001 Pontiac Aztek that your shady uncle sold to you and it had a bad transmission? Well, you were doing almost as great as Rifath Shaarook. Because all this 18-year-old did was create the lightest satellite in the world and then have it used by NASA.

The 12th grader from India designed and built a satellite that weighs only 2.2 ounces (For comparison, an iPhone 7 is 4.87 ounces) and won the “Cubes in Space” design contest which is backed by NASA. His creation is named KalamSat, after former Indian president Abdul Kalam. KalamSat is one of 80 experiments to be selected from among 86,000 designs from 57 countries.

The satellite is made from 3D printed carbon fiber and he said it was “designed completely from scratch.”

“It will have a new kind of on-board computer and eight indigenous built-in sensors to measure acceleration, rotation and the magnetosphere of the earth,” Rifath said. “The main challenge was to design an experiment to be flown to space which would fit into a four-meter cube weighing 64 grams.”

The device will be launched from NASA’s Wallops Island facility in Virginia next month. The satellite will be brought into a four-hour sub-orbital flight and for 12 minutes of the flight, it will be operating in a micro-gravity environment.

Rifath, who is the lead scientist at Chennai-based science education organization Space Kidz India, previously built a helium weather balloon as a part of a competition for young scientists when just 15-years-old.

Sure this kid can build satellites for NASA, but can he name the starting lineup for the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals? That’s what I thought.


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