Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan

Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan (Former Chairman of Space Commission, Secretary of Department of Space and Chairman of ISRO) has been; an astute Institution-builder with a strategic vision; an able and diligent administrator; a dynamic and result-oriented manager; and an inspiring leader credited with nurturing leadership in the younger generation.

An Electrical Engineering graduate from Kerala University (1970), Radhakrishnan was inducted into ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in 1971 as an Avionics design and development engineer. After completing PGDM at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (1974-76), he held key roles at VSSC and ISRO HQ for system planning and technology management for avionics systems of SLV-3, ASLV and PSLV, space economics and space applications. Notably, during 1987-97, he held concurrent roles of Director of Budget & Economic Analysis for ISRO and Project Director/Director of five Regional Remote Sensing Centres. Later, at the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), he headed a national mission on spatial data base for sustainable development of land and water resources. Radhakrishnan obtained his PhD from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, IIT Kharagpur in 2000 for the thesis 'Some Strategies for the Management of Indian Earth Observation System'.

He served a stint of five years (2000-05) at the Ministry of Earth Sciences as Founding Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS). Dr. Radhakrishnan became the Regional coordinator in Indian Ocean for International Argo profiling float Project and later the first Project Director of the India’s Tsunami Early Warning System. Dr. Radhakrishnan was Vice Chairman of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (2001-05). Back at the Department of Space as Director of NRSA (2005-2008), he scripted India’ modern multi-mission ground station at Shadnagar for Earth Observation Satellites. As the Director of VSSC (2007-2009), he oversaw several successful launches of PSLV including the first flight of the high-end version PSLV–XL that lofted Chandrayaan-1, development of India’s advanced launcher GSLV Mk3 and formulation of Indian Human Spaceflight programme.

Dr. Radhakrishnan is acclaimed for his decisive leadership of 16,000-strong ‘Team ISRO’ during November 2009 to December 2014, executing 37 space missions that included several historic ones such as (i) induction of Indian Cryogenic Engine for GSLV, (ii) experimental flight test of GSLVMk3, (iii) re-entry experiment of unmanned Crew module, (iv) new Indian space capabilities for navigation, strategic communication and microwave remote sensing, (v) a dozen PSLV missions to loft Indian and foreign satellites. Most notably, he is credited for steering India’s first planetary exploration mission to Mars (alias Mangalyaan) from concept to fruition within four years (2010-14) establishing India as the first country to have successful mission to Mars in its first attempt and at a significantly low cost (INR 4.5 Billion). Under his able guidance, ISRO received several accolades, notably the 2014 Gandhi Peace Prize and the 2014 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development.

Dr. Radhakrishnan has been bestowed with ‘Padma Bhushan’, the third-highest civilian award in India in 2014. The Nature International Weekly Journal of Science chose him as one of the ‘Ten people who mattered in the year 2014’. He is a Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering; Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India; Honorary Life Fellow of the Institution of Engineers, India; Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers, India; Member of the International Academy of Astronautics etc. He is recipient of more than 40 awards including the Lifetime Achievement Awards from ISRO, Allan D Emil Memorial Award of International Astronautical Federation, as well as Distinguished Alumnus Awards of IIM Bangalore and IIT Kharagpur. He has been conferred Honorary Doctorates from 12 Indian Universities.

Dr. Radhakrishnan was Chairman, BOM of Indian Institute of Space Science & Technology (IIST) at Thiruvananthapuram (2009-14) and Chairman of BOG of IIEST at Shibpur (2014-17). Presently, he is Honorary Distinguished Advisor in the Department of Space/ISRO.

His biography, “My Odyssey: Memoirs of the Man behind the Mangalyaan Mission”, co-authored with Nilanjan Routh, was published by Penguin India Random House in 2016.

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