You have had excellent exposure and, thereby, opportunities to work on ‘INDIGENOUSNESS’ as an objective to make ISRO on its own. What made you think along these lines, i.e., Cost-effectiveness or affordability OR knowing the Strengths & Country’s R & D Capabilities?
If we look at today, we are all aware of how disruptive technologies impact people’s lives, the global environment, etc. Yet, back in 1957, when the first object entered space, we will see that space technology was already a hugely disruptive innovation since it allowed humans to travel beyond Earth for the first time and carry out operations. As a result, when this technology became accessible, the great scientist of our nation, Dr. Vikram Sarabai, examined how a young democracy, which is only 10 years after independence, may use this new technology to address many of the problems in the nation. So, the entire space technology effort at that time was also highly aggressive. Also, because this was a major news event and much of the technology was military, they would not be readily available. But even so, he saw that we needed to get started and that the entire method that he embraced was that whatever was available at the time should be introduced into the nation, made familiar to the populace, and used to solve specific issues we were having and find solutions.
Hence, in this context, it is clear that long-term indigenous competence in traveling to space and using space for various solutions was the primary impetus. Both can happen quickly, and some things start from here. So in that framework, we progressively developed a system where we originally traveled to India, exhibited broadcasting and communication trials, and then continued. We initially borrowed the most cutting-edge technology satellite from Americans.
Your High Profile shows your inclination [since your Academic days] always to be a PHYSICIST showing your direction towards Physics and, thereby, Philosophy, always by CHOICE and not by CHANCE. Can you share a few insights, Sir?
One of the things we discover when we begin working, especially in space or pushing beyond her. Our most important realization is the insignificance of ourselves as individuals in the larger scheme of the cosmos. It is where understanding physics also plays a role. It refers to dimensionality because when we learn more about the immensity of the cosmos, another window is opened, making it clear how little we know. And it is in this philosophical frame of mind that one begins to understand what has to be done on a personal level to increase the accessibility of technology tools for humanity to survive on this planet and lead better lives.
Furthermore, physics and philosophy are the only things that can help you. Many insights are coming to me. Indian satellite Arya was our nation’s first launched in April 1975 as part of an inside Soviet cooperative program. And I was enrolled in the Indian Institute of Science for my MTech degree then.
Your career Began at SPACE APPLICATION CENTER, Ahmadabad, making way to become the Director. Can you elaborate on the journey, working with Senior Scientists as you joined? Later, working with Experienced Scientists of various Streams & becoming Head of the Electro–Optical Systems Group.
I was thus beginning work on a project that was the follow-up to the Aryabhatta satellite for Earth Observation when I joined the Space Application Center. As part of the friendship agreement between India and the USSR, Moscow planned to launch this new satellite, a combination of two spacecraft. I had the chance to work on this new satellite for the earth observation project. And that’s how my career in creating one of the cutting-edge sensors for the satellite began. Hence, when I began my business, it was similar to now. I had some advantages since I had completed a course at Stewart called physical engineering Mtech in Physical Engineering, an interdepartmental program designed by the Institute to close the knowledge gap between scientists and engineers. My experience in several technical and scientific fields and my exposure at the Institute offered me a clear advantage over purchasing.
Was there any chance of Forums beyond the Country inviting and offering to be part of their Commercial Activity?
As we began working on IRS1A, 1B, and 1C, we had already developed the capacity to provide photographs from space with a resolution that was similar to or useful on a global scale. Hence, rather than other people trying to provide us with an opportunity in their business, we could leverage what we had created and make it available to the worldwide community in remote sensing. Our satellites sent data to almost 18 ground stations worldwide in the early 1990s. Many other nations utilized this data, including Russia, Germany, Europe, and the United States. As a result, we were able to advance sounding rocket technology and remote sensing in other fields. There are certain operations even in the launch vehicle technology field. Hence, despite always limitations or constraints on the available Technology, ISRO and the Department of Space attempted to market what they had built and bring whatever we could obtain through this process. In that sense, certain commercial operations were taking place, but we could also collaborate with other space organizations and contribute data in various ways. And we continually sought to maximize the value of existing capabilities and potential for financial gain through commercial endeavors.
Can you share the feelings of the day you were asked to head ISRO?
Given the assistance the Department of Space and Israel previously provided to the nation, it is a unique opportunity. In addition, the ISRO was encouraged to utilize space technology to solve the nation’s issues since it was ingrained in the ISRO’s ethos. One of the most important things that existed was the chance to lead a group that had already made a name for itself and demonstrated to the nation and the world that we could make a difference despite obstacles and resource restrictions and contribute to the development of the nation. The true sentiment at the time was that there was a chance to advance the present situation, advance things, and enable the nation to profit from whatever space technology operations were underway. The thought process at that period was what can be done, which can genuinely assure, so whatever capability is there, how to take it to the next level? At that time, the main focus had to be on streamlining all of the initiatives we were working on and letting people know that we had, in a sense, demonstrated our capacity. We can have a cryogenic engine, Crayolaunch, etc., all on our own. The navigation was just the beginning; we were already working on a subsequent version. So, we had to increase our capabilities in several areas, including observation, communication, and navigation. It’s a really important responsibility, was the prevailing opinion then. In addition, it provides ISRO with a chance to advance in introducing space technology for the nation’s advancement.
What were your priorities at ISRO to sail through the vision and mission?
We had just surpassed one of the technical breakthroughs at the time. Hence, streamlining every project already underway and accelerating the completion rate became the top goal. Even the sector of the economy that accounted for over 80% of launch vehicle fabrication activity was feeling the pressure. If they have made efforts in terms of money and investment resources, they also need to see a return on those efforts. So, the nation needed to go from exhibiting capability to demonstrating or using capacity and increasing the number of space-based systems running. So, it was evident that streamlining operations, increasing the number of launches, and then developing expanded capability more significant than the capability capacity in space were the top priorities for addressing the many issues of a strong or one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Additionally, the fastest-growing economies need a lot of inputs for planning, monitoring, and geopolitical situations. It also calls for different kinds of observation of your surroundings, your nation’s visibility abroad, signs from space and beyond, and a desire to stay current in the Committee of Nations. These were the actual problems that needed to be solved. Therefore, during those few years, the focus was on stepping up both in terms of launch vehicle production and increasing the number of launches each year in all types of vehicles, as well as on building navigation satellite series, putting it into operation, and attempting to utilize its services for a variety of applications.
Sir, looking at the trends in advancements of technology to elevate the living standards of human beings, there are also threats, and thereby, technology’s focus to overcome this is a challenge. Please comment on this from the SPACE Science and Tech Applications perse.
It is a constant struggle for humanity since whenever a new technological capacity is made accessible, individuals always want to use it to further their power to rule others, whether in small groups, nations, or larger entities. Some want to profit from the new technical capacity, others want to exploit it economically, and some want to utilize it to improve living circumstances and deal with particular issues related to life on Earth. And then, throughout time, we’ve also observed that any technology capacity frequently results in several other issues due to the rapidity or speed at which you want to implement a solution. Hence, this is always a challenge. We must ensure that each of these new technical skills, whatever they may be, has a greater emphasis placed on its solutions for the benefit of all humankind and the sustainability of life on Earth. In the private sector, there is money available.
The private sector outside the borders of national nations is making these actions. Therefore there are a lot of difficulties. The ideals of sustainability are brought to this by nations like India, one of the oldest civilizations still in existence.
Could you foresee any Bottlenecks in design and deployment from not only Technology but from Regulatory issues also?
The fact that someone physically controls every territory on Earth is undoubtedly one of the major problems. Hence, the entity exercising physical control may choose to impede mobility. And after that, they have power over whatever physical events occur in that region. Yet as we can already see, communication has made it feasible for people to connect wherever in the world. Moreover, the world is changing quickly due to the few portable devices. It is one situation where the ever-evolving issues of spectrum management, airwave regulation, etc., come into play. Though it has its forms of our limits that no entity can stay in one spot without moving, etc., everyone from Earth can travel to space and be anywhere they choose to be. There are, therefore, several difficulties. But, in all of these circumstances, only those entities that can develop the capacity to perform conducting activities in space would be able to prevail.
So, in this situation, it is vital to deal with regulatory bottlenecks and other people collaboratively. Yet the actual difficulty lies in this. Any organisations that emerge in the future beyond the United Nations or collaborative systems, as well as those with the potential to travel into space, return, or do so again, or visit other planets, etc. The United Nations has agreed that space is the shared inheritance of humanity. Hence they must all work together to change this. The main problems will arise during implementation, though. Both technological and regulatory problems face it. Technological difficulties because people with a particular degree of expertise might want to avoid being recognised by others. After that, everyone will have to look for those items independently. Once more, the issue here is the accessibility of materials. The difficulties are numerous, but they are all difficult.
The facilities of ISRO are also open to Private SPACEPREUNERs. Can you describe the New Draft Space Policy 2022’s amendments opening the Public and Private segments to pitch into R&D, Manufacturing, and System Processes potential to take our country to the top slot in SPACETECH?
In each given situation, the country aspires to increase its economic power from the sixth-largest economy to the third and eventually higher. It needs more and more regions where economic development occurs. That’s what the government is currently attempting to do, for instance, by making sure that all activities, regardless of where they take place, can be carried out by private enterprise, whether or not they can contribute the funding, and how to assist them in carrying out their activities by providing the facilities that are established within ISRO rather than duplicating those facilities, how they can take advantage of that by using them as a service. Because we are already reaping the rewards of these activities, the true challenge will be getting more people to participate, especially because a further series of satellite launches will occur very soon after we launch the 36 satellites of one web early this past year. A lot of work is being done, and we can already see the results of a lot of it. This year, as well as last year and the year before it, there will be a lot more private businesses that will take off and relocate, and there are also a lot of businesses that are engaged in recent activities. The nation is among the first in the world to develop a 3D-printed Semicroengine. As many things are currently occurring in this manner, they will continue to progress.