The VIKSAT program kicked off with an initial exploration of system requirements and design concepts within the ISSL team, as well as with the NASA GRC engineers. Through the spring and early summer of 2004, this combined group looked at the various kinds of missions the ISSL could realistically pursue.
In August of 2004, many members of the ISSL team attended Utah State University’s annual Small Satellite Conference. There, the faculty, staff and students could further investigate, not only what other universities were doing, but also what those in the industries were developing and what customers like DARPA were looking for. The Team returned energized and optimistic as to what could be accomplished. With the start of the Fall 2004 Semester, requirements for VIKSAT1, a lab demonstration unit, were finalized.
It was felt that, before an actual flight program could be pursued, ISSL would need to “walk” though the process, building the infrastructure and knowledge that would be required later. While not an actual flight hardware project, it was stressed that the VIKSAT1 should have all the requisite functions and abilities for life on orbit.
The primary difference between VIKSAT1 and a flight-ready version is the choice of components. Space qualified hardware was not selected, as this could increase costs by as high as 500%.