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New Chairman for ISRO

Published : Oct 10, 2003 00:00 IST

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G. MADHAVAN NAIR, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram, who took over as the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on September 1, has been confirmed to the post by the Appointments Committee of the Union Cabinet as per a September 19 order. He will also be Secretary, Department of Space, and Chairman, Space Commission, says the order. He was appointed ISRO Chairman following Dr. K. Kasturirangan's nomination to the Rajya Sabha.

Madhavan Nair told Frontline that it was "a great privilege" to be ISRO Chairman. "Today, we are self-sufficient in building communication satellites, remote-sensing satellites and meteorological spacecraft. Besides, we launch them from our own soil with our own launch vehicles," he said. "In the next five years, we shall have as many launches as we had in the last 25 years," he added.

ISRO, according to him, will concentrate on building Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III, which will be 42.4 metres tall and will have a lift-off weight of 630 tonnes. It will build and put a four-tonne satellite in geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). ISRO is also pressing ahead with its plans for a Space Recovery Experiment - that is, launching a satellite that would be recovered. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will deploy this 450-kg satellite. The satellite will carry payloads for conducting experiments in growing crystals and developing pharmaceutical products in micro-gravity experiment. The PSLV will also be used to launch India's unmanned lunar craft. "We have to go full steam for the lunar mission called Chandrayan-1. It is a dream project of Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee," the Chairman said.

Madhavan Nair is a world-class rocket technologist. He made important contributions to the development of India's first Satellite Launch Vehicle, SLV-3, and the PSLV. He was made Project Director for the PSLV. Six consecutive PSLV flights have been success stories, and the PSLV has become ISRO's workhorse. A versatile vehicle, it can launch satellites in different orbits and deploy multiple satellites; it was also used to put a satellite in GTO.

As Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), Madhavan Nair played an important role in the indigenous development of cryogenic engines, which would power future GSLVs. After graduating in engineering from Kerala University in 1966, he underwent training at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai. He joined the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) a year later. As Director, VSSC, which is the lead centre of ISRO, Madhavan Nair led a team of 6,000 scientists, engineers and supporting staff in building the PSLVs and the GSLVs.

T.S. Subramanian

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Oct 10, 2003.)

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