Dr. T. P. Sasikumar
Chairman, Shiksha-IIAASSLL, FIDCO
Vice-Chairman, Global Nair Service Society
Many reports analyse the two GSLV failures in 2010 with their economic implications. There are reports and views, which claim that the recent failure of GSLV is the cryogenic stage and this could hamper the subsequent PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) launches too, as they are common for both engines. This is more alarming. A proper auditing on the Cryogenic Technology Transfer Deal with Russia, and the interventional role, if at all by America, also need to be studied.
Initially ISRO scientists attempted to develop a cryogenic engine on their own. However, having made no progress, in 1991 ISRO entered into a USD120 million contract with Glavkosmos for the supply of two KVD-1 cryogenic engines and the complete transfer of technology for those engines.
In 2005, ISRO Chairman G. Madhavan Nair, while delivering the thirty-second foundation day lecture on ‘Space Technology Development – Management Perspective’ at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. said, “We have completed the qualification of indigenous cryogenic engines…It (cryogenic engine developed by India) is as good as the Russian one.” He added that ISRO would soon flight-test the engine.
Focusing on research
When ISRO is on the fence of the first generation people leaving the organisation, it is high time that it goes for a detailed HR / Knowledge Auditing. Reading between the lines, it is to be seen that people like Abdul Kalam left ISRO to join DRDO, Yeshpal left for UGC, Gowariker for DST, as did others like Y.S. Rajan, Chandrasekhar et al from ISRO HQ office who were strong scientific leaders in the Space Department!
When an organisation runs with R&D and Project mode with people working in parallel manner, it will have many disadvantages. Project mode people get extra mileage and in the horse-race, R&D people are forced to change track. Thus, ISRO lacks real research people and credible published papers. Such an organisation should have been holding many PhDs in the allied subjects, whereas today it is mostly technology reconstructions that are running the show.
ISRO must encourage R & D and hope the IIST at Thiruvananthapuram will grow to a good centre of excellence with autonomous status to give timely solutions to many of the problems of ISRO. IIST has to grow as a knowledge repository of ISRO.
ISRO could play a major role in real world application towards economic development, natural resource management, etc. R & D in areas of data utilisation and ground segment activity need to be boosted. Proper orientation for the young blood inducted into the organisation for a vision is to be revisited. Training departments in ISRO units are given least importance. Maybe each centre must have a Research and Training Department and could work in tandem with IIST in teaching / research.
Young Indian researchers from all over the globe who are in space-related areas must be invited to come back to India to join ISRO, like the effort of Nehru in the early ages of Indian Scientific Development. Radhakrishnan, the present chairman has the managerial excellence to take ISRO into higher levels, learning from two successive GSLV failures, moon and beyond.
A team of large human technological manpower around, ISRO is not in line with required managerial skills. Many of the middle level managers and head of the units are grown over time with technical contributions and are not trained in managerial abilities and human resource / knowledge management.
A strategic analysis group must be active with ISRO for foreign political interventions, defence related issues, analysis of the development of space activity in the neighboring countries are to be set up to learn geopolitical reasoning for failures and steps required to take precautions.
(The writer was formerly Deputy Director, Directorate General of Security, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, Delhi. He was also Scientist & Section Head -ADRIN, Hyderabad, Scientist of Space Application Centre, Ahmedabad and Programme Planning & Project Management, ISRO-HQ, Bangalore).