To Infinity and Beyond

The Research Society, Manipal is a young and budding student organisation born out of MIT. Their founders—Shuba Murthy (Aeronautical), Krithika Ramesh (ITC), Ankita Ghosh (CSE), Vaishanavi Chavan (CSE) and Achintya Dutta (ECE)— wished to create an interactive platform to provide students with the resources needed to promote research. Their goal is to instil a spirit of research and analysis on campus and to inspire people to think outside the confines of their syllabus. Vaishanavi Chavan, Co-Founder of the Research Society said:

“We realized that there is no central student organisation which specifically focuses on research alone. Our vision for this organisation is to be a common platform where students meet, discuss ideas and collaborate on projects. Our long term goal is to make research more popular among the students in our college.”

On the 22nd of August, the Research Society of Manipal organised a webinar on space electric propulsion by speaker Kaartikey Misra as a part of their Alumni Connect initiative. A distinguished alumnus who is a graduate of Electronics and Communication Engineering (ECE), from the 2019 batch of MIT, Manipal. Kaartikey Misra is currently pursuing his PhD at UC Irvine in Aeronautical and Space Engineering. He is a published author and an awardee of the SERB Overseas Doctoral Fellowship. Among his other impressive accomplishments, he has been a research intern at IIT Kanpur, Kyushi University, and a research associate at Yale since 2019.

Hosted by co-founder, Shuba Murthy, the webinar kicked off with a little insight into Misra’s decision to pursue a completely different field after graduating in 2019. According to him, the seeds of his interest in aerospace were sown when he was just in the 6th grade. He had the opportunity to see the work done in the propulsion labs of IIT Kanpur while his parents worked there. Unfortunately, his interest gradually faded. He rekindled his interest in his second year of college and consequently published a paper on Pulse Plasma Thrusters, which he worked on alone.

Misra began his presentation by explaining how propulsion works on the principle of Newton’s third law. The three terms which are most synonymous with propulsion are Specific Impulse, Delta Velocity and Mass Delivered. He went on to speak about the different types of rockets and their respective specific impulses and thrusts. He enlightened the audience on his field of research—electrical propulsion—and how it could be utilised in a variety of ways. The practicality of both manned and unmanned spacecrafts was discussed.

Diving deeper into the subject, he spoke about the concept of Electrostatic Propulsion. Electrospray Thrusters work on this principle, and it so happens to be Mishra’s topic of research for his PhD studies.

Finally, he elaborated on the use of Ionic Ferro-fluid Electrospray Thrusters explaining how the utilise magnetic-electric fields to work, contrary to most electric thrusters which use only electric fields.

After this, there was a Q&A session. Questions ranged from the feasibility of electric propulsion in manned spacecraft to X3 Ion Thrusters and mis-thrusts. Impressed by the quality of questions he received, Misra carefully broke down each one to give the best possible answer. He also used this opportunity to take the audience through the process of applying to international universities.

Though highly informative, the Saturday session was also extremely thought-provoking. Kaartikey Misra imparted invaluable wisdom to those in attendance. He spoke about his experience in applying to foreign universities and implored the students to follow their interests fearlessly and see where it takes them. Misra had a simple message—be real, deliberate, and true to yourself. 

Co-founder, Krithika Ramesh, said of the webinar:

“Kaartikey provided a fantastic overview of space electric rockets and propulsion. One thing we noted was the diversity of our audience, with students from various backgrounds attending. Having begun his journey as an ECE student himself, we hope that Kaartikey’s story and experience will serve as an inspiration to those interested in transitioning to the field, and pursuing research.”

The webinar was a condensed yet all-encompassing overview of electronic propulsion. It showcased the advancements in technology made by the aerospace industry. Mankind’s performance in space has long served as a measurement of human endeavour and progress, and Electrospray Thrusters have the potential to push the boundaries of human innovation and discovery. To go where no man has ever gone before. If anything, the webinar highlighted how much farther we have left to go to truly gain an understanding of the “final frontier”—space.

We wish Kaartikey Misra every success in his PhD studies and whatever he decides to pursue in his future. We hope research in space continues to excel in leaps and bounds.

Written by Daniel Fernandes for MTTN

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