Successful firing of cryogenic engine a challenge for new ISRO chief

By Fakir Balaji, IANS,

Bangalore : Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman-designate K. Radhakrishnan, who takes over Oct 31, has said his first priority would be to see that the indigenously built cryogenic engine is made ready for the GSLV launch by the year-end.

Support TwoCircles

He made the statement soon after he learnt about his appointment to the top post.

The successful firing of a cryogenic engine will take India into the exclusive space club, which has the US, Russia, China, France and Japan with such a capability.

“The next test flight of the geo-synchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-D3) will be an acid test for the new chairman, as the indigenously built cryogenic engine will be used for the first time in the rocket’s upper stage,” an official said, declining to be named.

The GSLV-D3 is slated to be launched in December from ISRO’s spaceport Sriharikota, about 80 km north-east of Chennai, to carry the GSAT-4 communication satellite into a geo-stationary orbit, about 36,000 km above the earth.

Radhakrishnan, director of the space agency’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, had played a key role in the country’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1.

“Radhakrishnan played a key role in the realisation of India’s maiden lunar mission Chandrayaan-1. The rocket (PSLV-C11) that was used to launch Chandrayaan on Oct 22 last year, was designed and developed by him,” the official told IANS.

Radhakrishnan will take over as chairman of ISRO and secretary, Department of Space, Oct 31 following his appointment to the top post Saturday by the government.

The present incumbent G. Madhavan Nair retires Oct 30 after six years at the helm.

ISRO had taken up the development of cryogenic stage in 1996 to achieve self-reliance in cryogenic propulsion technology.

“Till now, we have used Russian-made cryogenic engines for the launch of GSLVs in the experimental flights,” the official pointed out.

The indigenous cryogenic engine develops a thrust of 73 kilo Newtons (kN) in vacuum with a specific impulse of 454 seconds and provides a payload capability of 2,200 kg to geo-synchronous transfer orbit for the launch vehicle.

Radhakrishnan, while speaking to reporters in Thiruvananthapuram late Saturday, said: “A huge responsibility has been placed on me. At this moment I would like to thank all my gurus (teachers) and among them are (Madhavan) Nair and former ISRO chairmen K. Kasturirangan and U.R. Rao.”

Radhakrishnan is not new to Bangalore, as he was director of budget and economic analysis at ISRO headquarters for over a decade in the nineties.

Starting his career with ISRO as an avionics engineer in 1971, Radhakrishnan held key positions, including director of regional remote sensing service centres under the umbrella of the national resources management system (1989-97).

After graduating in engineering from Kerala University in 1970, Radhakrishnan did MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM-B) in Bangalore and doctorate from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kharagpur, West Bengal.

For five years (2000-2005), Radhakrishnan was on deputation to the department of ocean development (now ministry of earth sciences) as founder-director of the Indian national centre for ocean information services and project director of the early warning system for tsunami and storm surges.

“Radhakrishnan returned to ISRO and had a stint at the national remote sensing centre in Hyderabad before joining VSSC as director,” the official recalled.

The rocket scientist was also vice-chairman of the inter-governmental oceanographic commission (IOC) of Unesco 2001-05.

Radhakrishnan was a member of the Indian delegation to the UN committee on peaceful use of outer space since June 2006.