Dr. K. Radhakrishnan (2009-2014)


Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan, is a Technocrat par excellence; a dynamic and result-oriented Manager with very fine personal and inter-personal qualities; an astute Institution-builder with a strategic vision; an able and diligent Administrator with a positive attitude; and an inspiring Leader with a rather rare skill of nurturing leadership in the younger generation.

Dr. Radhakrishnan was born on August 29, 1949 at Irinjalakuda, Kerala. He graduated in Electrical Engineering from Kerala University (1970), completed his PGDM from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (1976) and obtained Doctorate for his thesis titled “Some Strategies for Indian Earth Observation System” from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (2000). He is a Fellow of Indian National Academy of Science (FNASc), Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering (FNAE); Honorary Life Fellow of The Institution of Engineers, India; Honorary Fellow of The Institution of Electrical and Telecommunication Engineers, India; and Member of International Academy of Astronautics.

Starting his career as an Avionics Engineer in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, he held several decisive positions in ISRO in the domains of space launch systems, space applications and space programme management. He had commendably held the post of Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, the lead centre for launch vehicle technology in ISRO and Director, National Remote Sensing Agency. In his brief stint (2000-2005) in the Ministry of Earth Sciences, he had also been the Founder Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and the first Project Director of Indian National Tsunami Warning System. He also held several important positions at the international level including Vice Chairman of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (2001-05), Founder Chairman of Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System (2001-06) and Chairman of the Working Group of the Whole UN-COPUOS STSC (2008-2009).

Since October 2009, Indian Space Programme have carried the signatures of the strong leadership of Dr. Radhakrishnan with focussed thrust towards (a) space applications for societal services and national imperatives; (b) creation, management and sustenance capability and capacity for space systems; (d) undertaking new and path-breaking missions (e) development of several critical technologies ; and most importantly (f) ensuring synergy of 16,000 strong ISRO Team with Indian Industry, Academia, User community and several National R&D Laboratories.

Under his direction as Chairman, ISRO, 37 Indian Space Missions (Launch Vehicles & Satellites) were executed since October 2009. These Missions include 20 spacecraft missions, 15 launch vehicle missions and latest being the experimental flight of LVM3 launcher carrying an un-manned crew module. Among the satellites, RISAT-1- the first Indian Microwave Imaging Satellite; GSAT-10, the heaviest communication Satellite; GSAT-7 the advanced multiband communication satellite, Megha-Tropiques and SARAL satellites from Indo-French Collaboration and Hylas Communication Satellite for a European commercial satellite service operator; deserve special mention. The establishment of GAGAN Signal in Space from GSAT-8 and GSAT-10 satellites has been another landmark event for the country. Apart from the 12 consecutively successful PSLV missions, he stressed all efforts towards the development the indigenous cryogenic stage for improved reliability of the GSLVs. Such concerted efforts achieved a spectacular success on January 5, 2014, with the successful flight of GSLV-D5 with GSAT-14 satellite, a landmark in the technological progression of the country.

The realization of the constellation for Indian Regional Navigation Satellite Systems received tremendous thrust from his regular and timely guidance. He mounted several initiatives to commission the entire system by 2015.

Under his effective leadership, India’s first planetary exploration--the Mars Orbiter Mission--was conceived, planned and executed with a great deal of originality. India became the first country in the world to have succeeded in reaching the Planet Mars in its maiden attempt.

The development of GSLV Mk III, ISRO’s next generation launch vehicle has gained significant momentum under his authority during last several years as Director of VSSC and Chairman of ISRO. The successful development and ground testing of S200 motor, the third largest solid booster in the world, and L110, the liquid core motor for GSLV-Mk III Vehicle as well as realization of the experimental flight with a passive Cryogenic Stage and a Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) are the snapshots of the accomplishments in the project.

As Head of Indian Space Agency Dr. Radhakrishnan has provided great impetus for International Cooperation in Indian Space Programme. The Megha-Tropiques and SARAL missions have been joint efforts of ISRO and CNES, which benefit the larger global community engaged in related scientific studies, and stand as fine examples of ISRO’s emphasis on promoting International Cooperation in Space, nurtured by Dr. Radhakrishnan. Whereas, the data from RESOURCESAT-2 and RISAT-1 are also on the anvil of being directly received and distributed from Europe, for use in management of natural resources and monitoring natural disasters and environment. The recent initiative of ISRO and NASA to jointly build an advanced dual-frequency Radar Imaging Satellite underscores the emphasis Dr. Radhakrishnan lays on international partnerships for realizing complex Earth Observations Systems.

Providing three dedicated PSLV rockets for launching of a French Earth Observation Satellite - SPOT-6 (2012), and two joint ISRO-CNES spacecrafts - Megha-Tropiques (2011) and SARAL (2013); realization of the W2M and HYLAS Communication Satellites (2009-10) for two European Agencies; and launching of 9 more foreign satellites (2010-13) from 9 countries as co-passengers on board PSLV; are testimony to his ideology of working with international partners.

Institutionalisation for ensuring integration of Space based Services into the value chain of the user agencies at the Central and State level, has been one of the highlights of his efforts in the area to promote operational Space Applications. The National Urban Information System, National Water Resources Information System, Space based Information System for Decentralized Planning as well as setting up of Mahalanobis National Centre for Crop Forecasting are cases in point.

He had been a thorough proponent of a larger Indian Aerospace Industry capable of meeting all domestic demands as well as a competitive force in the global market. Also, he provided tremendous impetus towards enthusing the Academia for frontline research activities in space technology and towards establishing the Indian Institute of Space science and Technology as the global benchmark for capacity building in Space Technology.

As Director, VSSC, he oversaw five successful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle Missions that orbited 21 Satellites precisely into the desired Earth Orbits (including Chandrayaan-1, Cartosat-2A, Indian Mini Satellite-1, RISAT-2, Oceansat-2, and two major foreign commercial satellites POLARIS and AGILE, and 14 foreign Nano-satellites). Also, he commendably steered the formulation of the Indian Human Space Flight Programme through a nationally orchestrated effort which achieved the approval of the Space Commission and a high level National Committee.

He propelled the National Remote Sensing Agency (currently the National Remote Sensing Centre) to figure among the premier remote sensing satellite ground segment, applications and capacity building in the world. He shaped NRSA to be the nerve centre of the ISRO’s Disaster Management Support Programme by successfully institutionalizing the 24/7 Disaster Support Centre (DSC) at NRSA He mounted several initiatives for setting up a state-of-the-art multi-mission ground segment for the future Earth Observation Satellites as well as a dedicated Aircraft-based disaster Surveillance System. It was with his sheer capacity of Institution building, he executed the organisational re-structuring of NRSA into National Remote Sensing Centre ,a government entity under ISRO/DOS in 2008.

As the Mission Director of Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD) in the late 90’s, he steered the efforts of 35 Project Directors and 300 Scientists drawn from all State Governments and ISRO/NRSA to generate comprehensive spatial database of natural resources and action plans for sustainable development of land and water resources for nearly 85 million hectares landmass of the country. IMSD, a unique and perhaps the largest remote sensing application project ever conducted in the world, later became a role model for integrated spatial planning and monitoring of land and water resources at micro level.

As Director of National Natural Resources Management System-Regional Remote Sensing Service Centre (NNRMS-RRSSC) in the 80’s, he played a crucial role in establishing the NNRMS in the country, dovetailing the national imperative needs with the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) programme and facilitating capacity building in the Central and State Governments and Industry. Today, these RRSSCs have matured as the regional hubs for remote sensing applications.

In his small stint at the Department of Ocean Development, as the founder Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), he is credited with setting up a globally recognized scientific institution in the Ministry of Earth Sciences right from concept to reality in a record time of just two years. His relentless efforts in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster of December 2004 resulted in the formulation of a national project and system design for the Indian National Tsunami Warning Centre at INCOIS, which was later successfully established.

As Director of Budget and Economic Analysis at ISRO HQ during 1987-97, he shouldered the responsibility for overseeing, for the entire ISRO/DOS, formulation of annual budgets as well as identification of crucial budget elements linked to the programme elements of the 1990-2000 decade profile as well as VIII and IX Five Year Plans.

Awards & Honours

Dr. Radhakrishnan is recipient of numerous accolades including the prestigious Allan D Emil Memorial Award from International Astronautical Federation;“Distinguished Alumnus Award” of IIT Kharagpur (2010) and of IIM Bangalore (2010); Vikram Sarabhai Memorial Award of Indian Science Congress.(2010); Social Sciences Award (2009) of the International Academy of Astronautics; Athivishishta Rajakeeya Puraskaram – "Sastra Ratna" by the Pazhassiraja Charitable Trust (2010); Dr. Y. Nayudamma Memorial Award of Andhra Pradesh Academy of Sciences (2009); BHASKARA Award of Indian Society of Remote Sensing (2008); Silver Jubilee Honour by Ministry of Earth Sciences (2006); VASVIK Industrial Research Award in the field of Electrical and Electronics Sciences & Technology (2005); and K.R. Ramanathan Memorial Gold Medal of Indian Geophysical Union (2003). In 2014 he was bestowed with the coveted Padma-Bhushan, the third highest civilian honour in the country.

Dr. Radhakrishnan has been conferred Honorary Doctorates by as many as ten Indian Uiversities (i) Amity University, (ii) IIT Kharagpur, (iii) Shri Krishnadevaraya University, Anantpur; (iv) Pandit. Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur; (v) KIIT University, Bhubaneswar; (vi) Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati; (vii) Rajasthan Technical University, Kota; (viii) GITAM University, Visakhapatnam, (ix) Tumkur University and (x) SRM University, Chennai.

Dr. Radhakrishnan has contributed to academia in several ways. He had been author/co-author for more than 55 publications, including 12 in standard referred journals includingSpace Forum, Current Science, Journal of Aerospace Sciences and Technologies, Acta Astronautica, Journal of Geological Society of India, Journal of Rural technology etc. He has also delivered several prestigious addresses/award lectures including the Air-Marshall Katre Memorial Lecture (2013); 29th Convocation Address at Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram (2013); 35th Convocation Address at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (2010); "Statistics Day of India" Technical Seminar at Indian Statistical Institute Calcutta (2010); 1st Invited Lecture at IISc Alumni Association(2010), 9th Convocation Address at International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (2010), Subroto Mukherjee Memorial Oration of Indian Aerospace Society (2008); and ARDB Dr. Satish Dhawan Memorial Lecture of Aeronautical Society of India (2007).

He has had a distinguished career adorned with accomplishments spanning beyond 41 years in space technology, applications and space programme management.

  • Starting his career as an Avionics Engineer in May 1971 at ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram; he commendably held several decisive positions in ISRO later such as Project Director for setting up Regional Remote Sensing Centers (1987-89); Director of Budget & Economic Analysis for entire ISRO (1987-97); Director of National Natural Resources Management System-Regional Remote Sensing Service Centers (1989-97); Mission Director of Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development and Deputy Director of National Remote Sensing Agency (1997-2000); Director of National Remote Sensing Agency (2005-08); Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (2007-09); and Member, Space Commission (October 2008-October 2009) with some responsibilities in concurrence.
  • During July 2000-November 2005, he had a stint in the Department of Ocean Development (currently Ministry of Earth Sciences) as the Founder Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services and the first Project Director of Indian National Tsunami Warning System.
  • He held several important positions at the international level during his tenure at Department of Ocean Development and also in ISRO. The prestigious positions include Vice Chairman of Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (2001-05), Regional Coordinator (Indian Ocean) for International Project on Argo Profiling Floats (2001-05), Founder Chairman of Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System (2001-06), Chairman of the Working Group of the Whole of UN-COPUOS STSC (2008-2009) and Leader of Indian delegation to UN-COPUOS (2008-09).

In November 01, 2009, Dr. Radhakrishnan assumed the concomitant responsibilities of Chairman of Space Commission and Secretary, Department of Space, Government of India as well as the Chairman of ISRO Council (Chairman, ISRO).

  • Also, he has been also holding related ex-officio portfolios as (i) Chairman of INSAT Coordination Committee; (ii) Chairman of Board of Management of Indian Institute of Space Science & Technology (IIST), Thiruvananthapuram; (iii) Chairman of Management Council of Semiconductor Laboratory (SCL),Chandigarh; (iv) Chairman of Governing Council of North-Eastern Space Applications Centre, Shillong; (v) Chairman of Governing Council of National Atmospheric Research Laboratory, Tirupati; (vi) Member of Council of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and (vii) Member of Planning Committee of National Natural Resources Management System (PC-NNRMS). He was Chairman of the Board of ANTRIX Corporation Ltd during Nov 2009-July 2011.
  • He is Member of the CSIR Society and Governing Body (since 2011) and Chairman of Research Council, National Aerospace Laboratory of CSIR (since April 2010).
  • He is Ex-officio Member of the Scientific Advisory Committees to PM and to the Cabinet. Also, he is a Member of the Council of NITs, Governing Councils of several IISERs.

Under his leadership as Chairman, ISRO, 21 Indian Space Missions (Launch Vehicles & Satellites) were executed during 2009 - 2013.

Sl No Launch Vehicle / Satellite Mission Month & Year Remarks
1 Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-D3 (First Indian Cryo) Apr 2010 Failed
2 GSAT-4 Satellite (Communication) Apr 2010 Not reached orbit
3 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-15 (CA) July 2010 Successful
4 CARTOSAT-2B Satellite (Earth Observation) July 2010 Successful
5 HYLAS Satellite along with ASTRIUM (Communications) Nov 2010 Successful
6 Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle GSLV-F06 Dec 2010 Failed
7 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-16 Apr 2011 Successful
8 RESOURCESAT-2 (Earth Observation) Apr 2011 Successful
9 YOUTHSAT Satellite (Earth Observation) Apr 2011 Successful
10 GSAT-8 Satellite (Communications and GAGAN) May 2011 Successful
11 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-17 (XL) July 2011 Successful
12 GSAT-12 Satellite (Communication) July 2011 Successful
13 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-18 (CA) Oct 2011 Successful
14 Megha-Tropiques Satellite, along with CNES, France (Climate) Oct 2011 Successful
15 GSAT-5P Satellite (Communications) Dec 2010 Not reached orbit
16 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-19 (XL) Apr 2012 Successful
17 RISAT-1 Radar Imaging Satellite (Earth Observation) Apr 2012 Successful
18 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-21 (CA) Sep 2012 Successful
19 GSAT-10 Satellite (Communications and GAGAN) Sep 2012 Successful
20 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-20 (CA) Feb 2013 Successful
21 SARAL satellite, along with CNES, France (Climate) Feb 2013 Successful


Under his leadership as Director, VSSC, 5 Launch Vehicle Missions were successfully accomplished. 

Sl No Launch Vehicle Mission Month & Year Remarks
1 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-10 (CA) Jan 2008 Successful
2 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-9 Apr 2008 Successful
3 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-11 (XL) Oct 2008 Successful
4 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-12 (CA) Apr 2009 Successful
5 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C-14 Sep 2009 Successful
  • Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering (2009)
  • Fellow of National Academy of Sciences (2010)
  • Hon. Life Fellow, Institution of Engineers, India (2010)
  • Hon. Fellow, Institution of Electronics & Telecom. Engineers, India (2011)
  • Member of International Academy of Astronautics (2010)
  • Fellow of Andhra Pradesh Academy of Sciences (2008)
  • Fellow of Indian Society of Remote Sensing (2008)
  • Fellow of Indian Geophysical Union (2003)
  • Vice President, Indian Geophysical Union (2007-09)
  • President, Indian Society of Remote Sensing (2005-07)
  • President, Astronautical Society of India (since 2010)