Monday, January 15, 2018

A S Kiran Kumar, Chairman ISRO, interview Rediff-2

Second part of interview with the outgoing chief of ISRO, Dr A S Kiran Kumar

What ISRO is doing to put Indians into space

January 14, 2018 09:32 IST

'The astronaut's suit is already done by a Baroda company and has been tested.'

As Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Dr A S Kiran Kumar retires today, January 14,, he tells Shivanand Kanavi about India's upcoming missions to the sun, moon and Venus.

What is happening with India's navigation systems like Gagan and NAVIC ?
Gagan (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) has been certified by the director general of civil aviation. All aircraft registered beyond January 2019 must carry satellite assisted systems like Gagan so that the hole in our airspace can be filled.
Many are already using it for en route planning. Gagan is fully operational and three transponders in three separate satellites with redundancy.
As for NAVIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) earlier known as IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System) we have a constellation in orbit.
Using a small dongle attached to a mobile phone a fisherman can navigate. Trials have been done of this system and it will be rolled out this year.
The coast guard will also get information about boats within a 20 metre resolution.
The American GPS has been around for decades. For our system to become popular, we need entrepreneurs who will provide services based on our signal in a cost-effective manner while developing a sustainable business.
We are also starting a competition where participating companies will develop cost-effective solution for say 10,000 users.

The best solution will get an award and the development costs will be subsidised by ISRO.
The entire technical information of such solutions will be available in the public domain.
We are also developing digital chip sets for use. We are basically building the ecosystem.
What went wrong with the clocks (of IRNSS-1A)?
Clock stability is crucial in navigation satellites. We have built in triple redundancy.
Both the US GPS and the EU's Galileo have faced failures of clocks. In our case, all three clocks stopped functioning.
Where do you procure them from?
From France. But we are now building our own, which is undergoing tests and a team is working at the Satellite Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, so that from now onwards we will have our own atomic clocks on board.
What about electric propulsion?
We are working on it. GSat 19 is already carrying an experimental 30 milli Newton electric propulsion system which is being used for station keeping activities.
In the next flight we are sending 80 milli Newton system. We are also establishing a lab for developing 300 milli Newton.
The resultant advantage will be in higher payload capacity. Currently, we are developing 4 tonne launchers.
But if we use electric propulsion of Ion Thrusters, then we can boost the launch capacity to 6 tonnes.
It will lead to slower transition from elliptical GTO (geostationary transfer orbit) to circular GSO (geosynchronous orbits).
It might take 3 to 4 months instead of a few days achieved with gas propulsion, but the gain in payload makes up for it.
We have also given contract to a startup (Bellatrix Aerospace) from IISc Bengaluru which is developing a microwave electro-thermal thruster, which they have patented.
We still seem to be using Dubai-based Thuraya satellite phones. Is there any plan to launch our own sat phone system?
Yes, the innovation we have done is to create a sleeve which is as big as a normal mobile phone and when you put your mobile phone in it, it becomes a sat phone.
It is handheld.
We have a 6-metre diameter antenna on the satellite and we are building a new one with 12-metre antenna on the satellite so that a low power hand held mobile phone can be used as sat phone.
That's brilliant!
It is not for commercial use. It is used only for strategic purposes. Even the frequency has been released only for strategic use.
Tell us about Chandrayaan-2. Do we also have a plan for another Mangalyaan?
The Chandrayaan-2 configuration is frozen. It will have a moon orbiter and a lander and rover. It will be launched on GSLV Mark 2.
The flight model is getting integrated.
As for the lander we need the new technology of engines which can be throttled. So that we can vary the thrust levels for smooth descent and landing including hovering etc.
Trials are going on. The rover will come out of the lander and move around on the surface of the moon for one Lunar Day which is equal to 14 earth days.
Is the rover being made by a startup?
That is a different thing which is a part of Google's competition whose launch contract is with ISRO.
It is going through various ups and downs. It should have happened by now, but the development is still going on.
Our own rover is being tested already. It will move around and fire a laser into the lunar soil and whatever material gets kicked up will be analysed.
The result will be communicated from rover to lander and lander to orbiter and orbiter to earth.
As for other missions, right now we are looking at Venus, another Mars mission, an asteroid mission, Aditya, our solar mission etc.
Our approved missions are Chandrayaan-2 and Aditya.
Aditya will do solar coronagraphy and other measurements regarding the magnetic field, solar flare etc.
Within a year or so we will firm up. Venus feasibility has been established and we have announced opportunity for payloads.
Has any time table been set up for putting an Indian into space?
It is still not an approved thing. We are only developing critical technologies.
Crew module recovery, emergency recovery, environmentally controlled chamber for crew use in space, life support systems etc.
The astronaut's suit is already done by a Baroda company and has been tested.
But as far as priorities we still have a huge gap between supply and demand for various satellites in communication, earth observation etc, which we need to address. We have about 42 and we need 80 to 100.
In the meantime, GSLV Mark 3 will get stabilised and with higher capacity for low earth orbits of about 10 to 12 tonnes.
How is the unique Indian Institute of Space Technology evolving?
We are absorbing about 100 graduates every year. Now we have three disciplines in BTech and 18 disciplines for MTech and a PhD programme also.
We have started a Satish Dhawan endowments at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) and we are sending our toppers to study there.
They are all topping their batches there too. They will also do some internship in the industry there.
We are charging no tuition fee at IIST for all students, they have to pay only for hostel and food etc.
Do you have a training school for recruits in ISRO like the DAE (Department of Atomic Energy)?
We don't have a training school like the DAE.
Those who are recruited are trained in orientation programmes and mid-course programmes etc.
It is fairly systematic activity of 3 to 6 months and also encourages inter-disciplinary work.
What is the current level of attrition in ISRO?
Very small at this time.
After the 6th and 7th Pay Commission and additional incentives the packages are quite attractive.
More over many people like job security as well as the opportunity to do nationally important challenging projects.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dr Kiran Kumar, Chairman ISRO Interview Prajavani
ವಾರದ ಸಂದರ್ಶನ: ಡಾ. ಕಿರಣ್ ಕುಮಾರ್
ಐದು ವರ್ಷಗಳಲ್ಲಿ 60 ಮಹತ್ವದ ಉಡಾವಣೆ ನಿರೀಕ್ಷೆ’
ಶಿವಾನಂದ ಕಣವಿ
14 Jan, 2018
ನಿವೃತ್ತಿಗೆ ಎರಡು ದಿನಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ಇಸ್ರೊ ನಡೆಸಿದ್ದ 31 ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳ ಉಡಾವಣೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕಿರಣ್‌ ಅವರು ಪ್ರಮುಖ ಪಾತ್ರವಹಿಸಿದ್ದರು. ಉಡಾವಣೆ ಯಶಸ್ವಿಯಾದ ಬಳಿಕ ಅವರು ಇಸ್ರೊದ ಮುಂದಿನ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳು, ಹಾಗೂ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಪಯಣದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಮಾತನಾಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ.
ಡಾ. ಕಿರಣ್‌ ಕುಮಾರ್‌
ಭಾರತೀಯ ಬಾಹ್ಯಾಕಾಶ ಸಂಶೋಧನಾ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ (ಇಸ್ರೊ)ದೀರ್ಘ ಕಾಲ ಕಾರ್ಯ ನಿರ್ವಹಿಸಿ, ಅದರ ಅಧ್ಯಕ್ಷರೂ ಆಗಿದ್ದ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ, ಡಾ. ಕಿರಣ್‌ ಕುಮಾರ್‌ ಅವರು ಈಚೆಗೆ ನಿವೃತ್ತರಾಗಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಅವರ ನಿವೃತ್ತಿಗೂ ಎರಡು ದಿನಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ಇಸ್ರೊ ನಡೆಸಿದ್ದ 13 ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳ ಉಡಾವಣೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕಿರಣ್‌ ಅವರು ಪ್ರಮುಖ ಪಾತ್ರವಹಿಸಿದ್ದರು. ಉಡಾವಣೆ ಯಶಸ್ವಿಯಾದ ಬಳಿಕ ಅವರು ಇಸ್ರೊದ ಮುಂದಿನ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳು, ಹಾಗೂ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ತಮ್ಮ ಪಯಣದ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಮಾತನಾಡಿದ್ದಾರೆ.
*   ಉಡಾವಣೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಿರೀಕ್ಷಣಾ ಉಪಗ್ರಹ ಕಾರ್ಟೋಸ್ಯಾಟ್‌ ಜೊತೆಗೆ 30 ಚಿಕ್ಕ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನೂ ಕಳಿಸಿದ್ದೀರಿ. ಈ ಕಾರ್ಟೋಸ್ಯಾಟ್‌ನ ನಿಖರತೆ ಎಷ್ಟು?
ಅದರ ನಿಖರತೆ ಸುಮಾರು 60 ಸೆಂ.ಮೀ. (2ಅಡಿ). ಈ ಕಾರ್ಟೋಸ್ಯಾಟ್‌ ಸಹಾಯದಿಂದ ಉದ್ದ ಅಗಲಗಳ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಎತ್ತರವನ್ನೂ (ಮೂರನೆಯ ಆಯಾಮ–3ಡಿ)ನಾವು ಕೊಡಬಲ್ಲೆವು. ಅದಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಒಳ್ಳೆಯ ಗುಣಮಟ್ಟದ ಚಿತ್ರಗ್ರಹಣ ಬಹು ಮುಖ್ಯ.
* ಅಮೆರಿಕ, ರಷ್ಯಾದ ನಿರೀಕ್ಷಣಾ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳಿಂದ ಭೂಮಿಯ ಮೇಲಿನ ಕಾರುಗಳ ನಂಬರ್ ಪ್ಲೇಟನ್ನೂ ಓದಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯ ಅನ್ನುತ್ತಾರಲ್ಲ?
ಹೌದು, ಅದಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಅವರು 7–8 ಟನ್‌ ಭಾರದ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನು ಕಳಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದರು. ಅವು ಒಂದು ರೀತಿಯಿಂದ ಭೂಮಿ ಕಡೆ ನೋಡುವ ‘ಹಬಲ್’ ದೂರದರ್ಶಕಗಳೇ ಆಗಿದ್ದವು. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಕನಿಷ್ಠ 2.5 ಮೀಟರ್‌ ಅಗಲದ ದೂರದರ್ಶಕ ಬೇಕು. ನಾವೀಗ 70 ಸೆಂ.ಮೀ ಸಾಧಿಸಿದ್ದೇವೆ ಮತ್ತು 1.2 ಮೀ. ದೂರದರ್ಶಕವನ್ನು ನಿರ್ಮಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇವೆ.
* ನೀವೀಗ 30 ಚಿಕ್ಕ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನೂ (28 ವಿದೇಶದವು) ಕಳಿಸಿದ್ದೀರಿ. ಅವುಗಳ ವ್ಯಾವಹಾರಿಕ ಪ್ರಯೋಜನವೇನು?
ವಿಶ್ವದಲ್ಲಿ ಈಗ ಕೆಲ ಕಂಪನಿಗಳು 200 ಚಿಕ್ಕ (10–15 ಕೆ.ಜಿ. ತೂಕದ) ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳ ಮಾಲೆಗಳ ಮೂಲಕ ಭೂ ನಿರೀಕ್ಷಣೆ ಮಾಡಲು ಮುಂದಾಗಿವೆ. ಅದರಂತೆ 150 ಕೆ.ಜಿ. ಭಾರದ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನು ಉಪಯೋಗಿಸಿ ಇಂಟರ್‌ನೆಟ್ ಸೇವೆ ಒದಗಿಸುವ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳೂ ಇವೆ.
* ಆದರೆ ನಾವು 4–5 ಟನ್ ಭಾರದ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳೆಡೆಗೆ ಹೊರಟಿದ್ದೇವೆ...?
ಅದೂ ಬೇಕು. ಮಾನವನನ್ನು ಬಾಹ್ಯಾಕಾಶಕ್ಕೆ ಕಳಿಸಲು ಇಂಥ ಸಾಮರ್ಥ್ಯ ಅಗತ್ಯ. ಅದಲ್ಲದೆ ಚಿಕ್ಕ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಇಷ್ಟು ಸಾಧ್ಯತೆಗಳನ್ನು ತುಂಬುವ ತಂತ್ರಜ್ಞಾನ ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಇಲ್ಲ ಎಂಬ ಕಾರಣಕ್ಕೆ ನಾವು ಕೈಚೆಲ್ಲಿ ಕೂರುವುದು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಿಲ್ಲ.
* ನಮ್ಮ 4 ಟನ್ ಭಾರದ ಸಂವಹನ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನು ನಮ್ಮ ರಾಕೆಟ್ಟುಗಳ ಮೂಲಕವೇ ನಾವು ಎಂದು ಉಡಾವಣೆ ಮಾಡಬಹುದು?
ಜಿಎಸ್ಎಲ್‌ವಿ ಮಾರ್ಕ್‌-3 ರಾಕೆಟ್ಅನ್ನು ಪಳಗಿಸುವವರೆಗೂ ಫ್ರಾನ್ಸ್‌ ದೇಶದ ಆರಿಯಾನ್ ರಾಕೆಟ್‌ಗಳನ್ನು ಅವಲಂಬಿಸುವುದು ಅನಿವಾರ್ಯ. ಈಗಾಗಲೇ ಒಂದು ಉಡಾವಣೆ ಯಶಸ್ವಿಯಾಗಿದೆ ಇನ್ನೂ ಕೆಲವು ಉಡಾವಣೆಗಳ ನಂತರ ನಾವೂ ಈ ಸಾಮರ್ಥ್ಯವನ್ನು ಪಡೆಯುತ್ತೇವೆ. ಅದಲ್ಲದೆ ನಾವೀಗ ಎಲೆಕ್ಟ್ರಿಕ್ ಪ್ರೊಪಲ್ಷನ್‌ನಲ್ಲೂ ಪ್ರಯೋಗಗಳನ್ನು ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇವೆ. ಅದು ಯಶಸ್ವಿಯಾದರೆ 6 ಟನ್ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನು ಹಾರಿಸಲೂ ನಮ್ಮಿಂದ ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗಬಹುದು.
* ನಾವಿನ್ನೂ ದುಬೈ ದೇಶದ ಥುರಾಯಾ ಕಂಪನಿಯ ಸ್ಯಾಟಲೈಟ್‌ ಫೋನ್‌ಗಳನ್ನು ಬಳಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇವೆ. ನಮ್ಮದೇ ಸ್ಯಾಟಲೈಟ್‌ ಫೋನ್‌ ಯಾವಾಗ ಸಿದ್ಧವಾಗಬಹುದು?
ನಾವು ಮಾಡಿರುವ ಹೊಸ ಆವಿಷ್ಕಾರವೆಂದರೆ, ಸದ್ಯ ಇರುವ ನಮ್ಮ ‘ಎಸ್ ಬ್ಯಾಂಡ್‌’ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳನ್ನು ಬಳಸಿಕೊಂಡೇ ಕೈಯಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಮೊಬೈಲ್ ಫೋನ್‌ಗಳನ್ನೇ ಸ್ಯಾಟಲೈಟ್‌ ಫೋನ್‌ಗಳಂತೆ ಬಳಸಬಹುದು. ದೇಶದ ಯಾವುದೇ ಕಾಡು, ಗಿರಿ ಕಂದರಗಳಿಂದ ಸಂವಹನ ನಡೆಸಬಹುದು. ಇದಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ನಾವೊಂದು ವಿಶೇಷ ಚಿಕ್ಕ ಉಪಕರಣವನ್ನೂ ಅಭಿವೃದ್ಧಿ ಪಡಿಸಿದ್ದೇವೆ. ಸದ್ಯಕ್ಕೆ ಇದು ನಮ್ಮ ಗುಪ್ತಚರ ವಿಭಾಗ ಮತ್ತು ರಕ್ಷಣಾ ಪಡೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಲಭ್ಯವಿದೆ.
* ಅದೇ ತರಹ ನಮ್ಮದೇ ಜಿಪಿಎಸ್ ಉಪಗ್ರಹ ಮಾಲಿಕೆಯೂ ಸಿದ್ಧವಾಗಿದೆಯೇ?
ಹೌದು, ರಕ್ಷಣಾ ಪಡೆಗಳ ಅಗತ್ಯವನ್ನು ಗಮನದಲ್ಲಿಟ್ಟು ಹೆಚ್ಚು ನಿಖರ ಮಾಹಿತಿ ಪಡೆಯಲು ಸಾಧ್ಯವಾಗುವಂತೆ ಅದನ್ನು ರೂಪಿಸಲಾಗಿದೆ. ಸಾರ್ವಜನಿಕರಿಗೂ ಅದರ ಲಾಭ ಸಿಗಲಿದೆ.  ಅದರ ಲಾಭವನ್ನು ಜನರಿಗೆ ತಲುಪಿಸಲು ಹಲವು ಕಂಪನಿಗಳು ಮುಂದೆಬಂದಿವೆ.
* ಇಸ್ರೊದ ಮುಂದಿರುವ ಯೋಜನೆಗಳೇನು?
ಮುಂದಿನ ಐದು ವರ್ಷಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಮಹತ್ವದ ಸುಮಾರು 60 ಉಡಾವಣೆಗಳನ್ನು ನಡೆಸುವ ಯೋಜನೆ ಇದೆ. ಅದಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಉಪಗ್ರಹ ಮತ್ತು ರಾಕೆಟ್‌ಗಳ ನಿರ್ಮಾಣದಲ್ಲಿ ನಾವು ಕೆಲ ಖಾಸಗಿ ಕಂಪನಿಗಳನ್ನೂ ಒಳಗೂಡಿಸುವವರಿದ್ದೇವೆ. ನಮ್ಮ ಮಾರ್ಗದರ್ಶನದಲ್ಲಿ ಅವು ಕೆಲಸ ಮಾಡಲಿವೆ. ಇದರಿಂದ ನಮ್ಮ ಕ್ಷಮತೆ ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚುತ್ತದೆ. ಇದರೊಡನೆಯೇ ಸೆಮಿ ಕ್ರಯೊ ಎಂಜಿನ್, ನಮ್ಮದೇ ಶಟಲ್, ಚಂದ್ರಯಾನ–2, ಶುಕ್ರ ಗ್ರಹ ಯಾನ, ಆದಿತ್ಯ, ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ಮಂಗಳಯಾನ ಅದಲ್ಲದೇ ಈಗಿರುವ 42 ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳ ಸಂಖ್ಯೆಯನ್ನು 80–100ಕ್ಕೆ ಏರಿಸುವುದು... ಹೀಗೆ ಹಲವು ಯೋಜನೆಗಳಿವೆ. ಚಂದ್ರಯಾನ–2 ದಲ್ಲಿ ಚಂದ್ರನಮೇಲೆ ಇಳಿದು ಒಂದು ರೋಬೊ ವಾಹನವನ್ನು ಓಡಾಡಿಸಿ ಅಲ್ಲಿಯ ಮಣ್ಣಿನ ಪರೀಕ್ಷಣೆ ಮಾಡುವುದಿದೆ.
* ಮಾನವನನ್ನು ಬಾಹ್ಯಾಕಾಶಕ್ಕೆ ಕಳಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ಎಲ್ಲಿಯವರೆಗೆ ಬಂದಿದೆ?
ಅದಕ್ಕಿನ್ನೂ ಅನುಮತಿ ಸಿಕ್ಕಿಲ್ಲ. ಅದಕ್ಕೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ವಿವಿಧ ಕ್ಲಿಷ್ಟ ತಂತ್ರಜ್ಞಾನಗಳನ್ನು ನಾವು ಅಭಿವೃದ್ಧಿಪಡಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇವೆ, ಗಗನಯಾನಿಗಳನ್ನು ಭೂಮಿಗೆ ಹೇಗೆ ಸುರಕ್ಷಿತವಾಗಿ ಮರಳಿ ತರುವುದು, ಯಾನಿಗಳ ಕ್ಯಾಬಿನ್‌ ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ. ಉದಾಹರಣೆಗೆ ಗಗನಯಾನಿಗಳ ಸೂಟು ತಯಾರಾಗಿದೆ.
* ಇಸ್ರೊದಲ್ಲಿನ ನಿಮ್ಮ ವೈಯಕ್ತಿಕ ಯಾನ ಹೇಗಿತ್ತು?
ನಾನು ಇಸ್ರೊ ಸೇರಿದ್ದು 1975ರ ಆಗಸ್ಟ್‌ನಲ್ಲಿ. ಅದಕ್ಕೂ ಮೊದಲು ನಾನು ಬೆಂಗಳೂರಿನ ಮಲ್ಲೇಶ್ವರದಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಭಾರತೀಯ ವಿಜ್ಞಾನ ಸಂಸ್ಥೆಯಲ್ಲಿ (IISc) ಪಿಎಚ್.ಡಿ ಮಾಡುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. ಆಗ ‘ಫಿಸಿಕಲ್ ಎಂಜಿನಿಯರಿಂಗ್‌’ ಎಂಬ ಹೊಸ ಬಹು ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಕೋರ್ಸನ್ನು ಭೌತಶಾಸ್ತ್ರ ವಿಭಾಗ ಪ್ರಾರಂಭಿಸಿತ್ತು. ನಾನು ‘ಇಮೇಜ್‌ ಪ್ರೊಸೆಸಿಂಗ್‌’ನಲ್ಲಿ  ಡಿಜಿಟಲ್ ತಂತ್ರಜ್ಞಾನದ ಬಳಕೆಯನ್ನು ಅನ್ವೇಷಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದೆ. 1975ರಲ್ಲಿ ಅಹಮದಾಬಾದ್‌
ನಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಇಸ್ರೊದ ಉಪಗ್ರಹ ಅನ್ವೇಷಣಾ ಕೇಂದ್ರವನ್ನು ಸೇರಿದೆ. ಆಗ ಶುರುವಾಗಿದ್ದ ಭಾಸ್ಕರ 1 ಮತ್ತು 2 ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳಿಂದ ನನ್ನ ಪಯಣ ಶುರುವಾಯಿತು. ಅಂದಿನಿಂದ ಸುಮಾರು 50ಕ್ಕೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳ ವಿನ್ಯಾಸದಲ್ಲಿ ನನ್ನ ಕೊಡುಗೆ ಇದೆ. ಮೊದಲು ಭೂ ನಿರೀಕ್ಷಣೆ, ಆನಂತರ ಆಪ್ಟಿಕಲ್, ಮೈಕ್ರೋ ವೇವ್ ಇತ್ಯಾದಿ ಇಮೇಜ್ ಪ್ರೊಸೆಸಿಂಗ್‌, ಕೊನೆಗೆ ಸಂವಹನ ಉಪಗ್ರಹಗಳು... ಹೀಗೆ ಇಸ್ರೊ ಯಾನ ಅವಿಸ್ಮರಣೀಯ.
ಶಿವಾನಂದ ಕಣವಿಯವರು ನಿಯಾಸ್‌ನಲ್ಲಿ ಅತಿಥಿ ಅಧ್ಯಾಪಕ. ‘Sand to Silicon’ ಕೃತಿಯ ಲೇಖಕ. ಇದು ‘ಡಿಜಿಟಲ್ ಕ್ರಾಂತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಭಾರತ’ ಎಂದು ಕನ್ನಡಕ್ಕೆ ಅನುವಾದಗೊಂಡಿದೆ.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

A S Kiran Kumar interview-The Wire

An Interview With A.S. Kiran Kumar on Recon, Satnav and Image-Processing

A.S. Kiran Kumar. Credit: PTI
A.S. Kiran Kumar. Credit: PTI
On January 12, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched 31 satellites into various orbits. It included the Cartosat-2F, a reconnaissance satellite, and 30 smaller satellites, 28 of which were for foreign customers.
Shivanand Kanavi spoke to A.S. Kiran Kumar, the chairman of ISRO, for The Wire on reconnaissance, micro- and nano-satellites, satellite-guided aviation, India’s own GPS and Kumar’s journey in space applications. Kumar will retire from his position on January 15 and will be succeeded by K. Sivan.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
Shivanand Kanavi: In Cartosat, are there any specialised cameras?
Kiran Kumar: Basically, the cameras are the same. The difference is, here, for generating a third dimension, you need two images from different viewing angles. Second, accuracy is needed for retrieving the height information so you need good quality images. Otherwise cartography and very-high-resolution imaging are basically the same.
SK: We used to hear about spy satellites of the US and the Soviet Union that could read the number plate of a car. Do we have that?
KK: Today, we have two feet accuracy. But much of what you mentioned is like the Hubble space telescope looking towards Earth. It will be a 7-8-tonne satellite and have a huge optics system. You will need at least a 2.5-m diameter telescope.
So far we have built a 70-cm telescope and are now working on 1.2 metres.
SK: When you do recon, you should be able to move it to a particular sector when you need it, and not wait for the satellite to get to a particular point in its orbit.
KK: You can do it in a recurrent orbit, so every day you can come over the same region. Or some kind of revisit – by adjusting the orbit you can make your revisit fixed and steer the camera by pointing and collecting the data.
SK: Today you launched 30 small satellites including two of your own. Do micro- and nano-satellites have practical applications?
KK: Yes. There are companies that are coming up with 200-satellite constellations of 10 kg, 15 kg class that will provide daily coverage of Earth at 3-5-m multi-spectrum resolution. Even if a few satellites go bust, it won’t have a big impact. So they are looking at 60-70 satellites in a single launch. Internet services with 150-kg satellites, etc. Progressively improving your capacity to perform more actions with fewer resources.
SK: Are we continuing to move towards 4-5-tonne satellites?
KK: That is also required. Others might be going miniature because they have access to that technology. If I don’t have access to that technology, I have to make do with whatever technology is accessible to me. So on one side, we will continue to make things with higher efficiency, and in parallel look at new things that are coming up.
SK: When can we stop relying on Arianespace for our heavier communication satellite launches?
KK: Till we commercialise our four-tonne GSLV Mk III, we will need to launch heavy satellites outside. We are also working on another concept: electric propulsion. Chemical propulsion requires more fuel. In electric propulsion, we will use solar energy for the basic input but then use ions for thrusting. So the rocket has to carry less fuel. So effectively, a six-tonne satellite’s function I can realise with a four-tonne satellite.
Moreover, for manned missions, you need heavier capacity.
SK: Can you tell me something about the Indian satnav system, IRNSS?
KK: IRNSS is basically our cost-effective solution for ensuring that India is able to navigate on its own without having to depend on somebody else. Our seven satellites enable us to cover around 1,500 kms from the border. Actually it is much more but 1500 km is the guaranteed range. For example, when we launched our first satellite, somebody in Sweden started receiving [the signals], and then they were coupling it with Galileo and so on. We can cover some portions of the Pacific as well, till Japan.
SK: Again, with these navigation signals, there is the commercial use and there is strategic accuracy for military purposes that will be encrypted and be in a separate band. Is that correct?
KK: In both bands, there will be separate signals for strategic use.
SK: Is our military ready for this?
KK: They are continuously working on it.
SK: What is the Gagan (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) system and how is it going to improve our aviation?
KK: We have 26 different ground stations for Gagan. The ground receiver receives the signals from all the GPS satellites, plus the signals from Gagan, and then that receiver does the processing, discarding it if there is a satellite that should not be used, applying all those corrections to the data, and then every second it gives a position. All of this goes on in real-time. This is the one that enables the safety of life and integrity. Before Gagan came, in the Indian region there was an aerial hole. Even if an aircraft carried such a receiver, if it came over India, there was nothing to tell its position accurately. Now the Director General of Civil Aviation has certified Gagan.
SK: So even if tomorrow, for some reason, the GPS signal is cut, can Gagan link to this?
KK: We can do that because we are transmitting a signal to Gagan and bringing it down. So whatever we are transmitting in L5, we can do differently. Gagan is only one transponder in the sky. It doesn’t have anything on board. It just receives and retransmits. Rest is done on the ground. Between Airport Authority of India and ISRO, we have an entity which is set up here. Now we have three satellites carrying these payloads. So you are ensuring that at any point of time this service is not affected.
SK: When did you join ISRO? Tell me a bit about your journey in ISRO.
KK: August 1975. I was studying physical engineering, which is an interdisciplinary course conducted out of the physics department at IISc, Bengaluru. And at that time, one of the projects I did was on digital techniques in image processing. We used to take X-ray image scans and convert it into electrical signals, do some signal processing and write it back into the film so that doctors can see it as an enhanced picture. If the quality was not good and the doctors  could not extract the information, then they had to redo the entire process. So instead of re-exposing the patient to another dose of X-rays, our technique could help. Dr Deekshitalu was in the school of automation and, using a discarded lathe, they had come up with a drum scanner.
It started with black and white and later we made a colour scanner as well. And that is how I got into image processing. I joined ISRO in 1975 at the Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad. I initially started with our satellite for Earth observation, Bhaskara 1, and then Bhaskara 2. I was involved in building the payload. Since then, I have contributed to more than 50 electro-optical imaging systems which were put in orbit. Later, I got involved with communication payloads.
The very first payload on Bhaskara 1 had some problems and the initial turn-on was not successful. So we had to do some simulations on the ground to find out the problem. That gave us a very good exposure to the technology. As a result of that, I have been a part of the review process of many of these things.
SK: So you’ve spent the majority of your professional life in image processing…
KK: Building image systems. And then optical imaging to microwave imaging, where for example we built C-band radars in communication and navigation, etc. This course at IISc – physical engineering – was very interesting. You could join from engineering stream or science stream. So those who came from engineering had to do some core science subjects, and vice versa. Then, within the institute, you could choose whatever field you wanted. So we took courses from operations research to digital switching theory. And then we also had exposure to nuclear physics, vacuum physics, etc. That is what helped me.
Shivanand Kanavi is a theoretical physicist, senior journalist, former VP at TCS and author of Sand to Silicon: The Amazing Story of Digital Technology.

Friday, January 12, 2018

A S Kiran Kumar Interview -1 Rediff

The first of a two-part exclusive interview:

(appeared in )

ISRO chief: 'We want 60 launches in 5 years'

Shivanand Kanavi

Dr A S Kiran Kumar

January 12, 2018

'We are looking at a joint venture between ISRO and a few companies to assemble the PSLV and launch it from Sriharikota.'
'In a month or two, the vehicle assembly building will be ready.'
'After that, we could see 13, 14 launches a year.'

Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Dr A S Kiran Kumar tells Shivanand Kanavi about developments we can look forward to in India's space programme long after he has retired from space exploration on Sunday, January 14.

What are the challenges facing ISRO today?

GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) Mark 3 was launched and GSLV Mark 2 has also flown 4 times after January 2014. Cryogenic engines of two types have been tested.

After doing over 200 tests of the heavier engine for GSLV Mark 3, we have flown it successfully.

Now we are asking the government to sanction another 10 flights of GSLV Mark 3.

We will have one in February-March 2018 which will carry an experimental communication satellite.

It will carry 2 Ka (frequency 26.5-40 G Hz) band beams we are also trying out Optical communication and also Q (36-46 G Hz) and V (40-75 G Hz) bands which are even higher.

We are using the opportunity of a developmental flight to try out new communication bands which we cannot do in a regular commercial launch.

It will be called GSat-30. It will be primarily for data.

We flew a GSat 19 which had Ku (12-18 G Hz) and Ka combination eight spot beams with high throughput.

GSat 11 is getting ready which will have 14 GBps capacity it will have 16 beams with two polarisations hence practically 32 beams covering all of India.

We have considerably improved our data communication capability.

We are also trying to involve private companies more and more into satellite integration. We have already given a contract to a private company to assemble and integrate two satellites.

Unfortunately one of them was lost in the last GSLV flight. The second one is getting ready and will be launched shortly.

We are coming up with an RFQ for assembling and integrating different satellites by 3, 4 companies.

We want 60 launches in the next five years which will need assembled and integrated satellites by ISRO and the private sector in a joint venture.

The facilities for assembling are at the ISRO Satellite Centre, Bengaluru. Subsequently they can build their own facilities.

This capacity building will need 5 to 10 years.

We are also looking at a joint venture between ISRO and a few companies to assemble PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) and launch it from Sriharikota.

ISRO will provide critical services to this joint venture.

Who are the likely partners in this joint venture?

Walchandnagar, HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), Godrej, MTAR, Lakshmi Technologies and Engineering Industries etc who have already been with us.

Some new ones might also come in. This joint venture will have total end-to-end responsibilities.

ISRO will have service contracts like launch site activities etc. Tata Advanced Materials will be part of sub-system realisation.

Five-six entities will be involved and each will have end to end task definition. The total number of companies will be quite large.

Will it be similar to the European Space Agency and Ariane in France and the European Union?

They have reached a stage where the entire thing can be done by one company, whereas here we are creating a joint venture of many companies.

So it is more like Airbus Industries?


For launch capacity doubling you will need another launch pad.

Today, we are looking at bottlenecks in the current system. First is vehicle assembly.

Though we have two launch pads, we only have one vehicle assembly.

Earlier the interval between two launches was large. Now, we have brought it down and in fact this year we had three launches in a-month-and-a-half -- PSLV and GSLV Mark 2 and 3.

To sustain this, we need auxiliary capacity like vehicle assembly building, which is a 90-metre building.

In a month or two it will be ready. After that, we could see 13, 14 launches a year.

To achieve 18+ launches a year, we need to create more capacity.

We are also developing a new semi-cryo engine. Once it's ready, we will need another launch pad.

Why semi-cryo?

A semi-cryo will use liquid oxygen and kerosene. What we are using currently is UDMH (Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) and N2O4 (Dinitrogen tetroxide) which are toxic whereas a semi-cryo will not be.

Moreover, it will give better performance. We can add another tonne to our payload capacity.

On completing that, we will use it in GSLV Mark 3 which will be called Mark 3 Aug (augmented) with payload capacity increasing from 4 to 5.5-6 tonne.

Thus we are working on launch vehicles including a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).

We will try landing with a landing gear.

Will the RLV be a scaled-down model like before?

We will demonstrate it in a scaled-down model. The actual cost effective module is still being worked out.

The real cost effective solution for taking payload to space is still a grey area worldwide.

Can you say that the NASA (America's National Aeronautics and Space Administration) shuttle programme was a success as an RLV?

The shuttle programme was aimed at putting humans into space; cost-effectiveness was not the goal.

But today, cost-effectiveness is an issue with a large number of private entities coming into launch payloads and the competition becoming intense.

That's why, internationally they are giving contracts to the private sector.

The space shuttle cannot be a role model for us.

Our RLV has to be cost-effective, otherwise it will have no value for the nation.

There are about 31 companies building small satellite launchers globally.

Who succeeds and at what cost is still to be seen.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Dr Baldev Raj interview Business India

Business India, April 27-May 10, 2015

‘CSR funds give new hope to research’

The National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS ) was founded in a verdant campus in Bengaluru near the iconic IISc, by J.R.D. Tata and Raja Ramanna 25 years ago. Baldev Raj, director, NIAS, speaks to Shivanand Kanavi on the impact of the institution and its future vision

NIAS has completed 25 years. How would you visualise its role and future?

When J.R.D. Tata conceived this institute with Raja Ramanna the focus was on producing holistic thought leaders in all domains. He wanted to create a place where you could attract the best of the people in humanities, culture and heritage, science and technology, policies, strategic studies, education, etc. I think we have done eminently well in that respect. Every year we have about 15 or 20 such programmes for leaders from government and enterprises. When they go out, they say they were transformed.
We are an impactful institute but with a small budget. After I came onboard six months ago, I have interacted with everybody – our associates, adjunct faculty, chair professors or regular faculty, PhD students and so on. To be effective, to make an impact, in addition to people, you need some money. The Tata Trust supported us, in fact we exist because of the Tata Trusts. The way forward would be that, we create a sort of corpus, endowment money, which will yield us about `10-15crore a year, which is not much as an annual budget for such an institution.

To create this endowment fund are you tapping corporates, government, NRIs, and HNIs?

Fortunately, with CSR having been built into Company Law recently, I am sure our kind of institutions with deep societal impact will attract some CSR funds. So, one can approach some enlightened corporates and I have already started talking to a few. Another is to take up with the Departments of Science& Technology, Atomic Energy, Space and Defence, asking for endowment. They have already given us some money and I have requested them to enhance it based on our performance. We are also guided by an eminent management council headed by S. Ramadorai. Their large network of contacts would certainly help us.

What are the research areas the NIAS faculty is involved in?

We have people here who are in culture and heritage. We have child psychologists who are concentrating on informal education; strategic studies groups that work on different areas like space, defence, atomic energy; energy and environment groups. We also have people who are looking at why India has no time zones and so on. I also want to expand our work in agriculture, especially precision agriculture and sustainable agriculture. In India now we are giving a lot of emphasis to manufacturing but not enough to the future of agriculture.
My idea is to bring some young assistant professors, post-docs, PhD students and conduct field work and experiments in all these areas. So, our needs are small. However, NIAS needs to be more visible.

If you want to give inputs to NITI Aayog then what would be your focus areas?

I have brought on the agenda two new areas. One is the study of inequalities. It is not easy to analyse the inequalities. If you want to have inclusive development, inclusive growth, then, first of all, you need to know which are the excluded communities or what is the extent of exclusion.
The second area is our cultural heritage. I don’t think we really have anybody who can stand up in government to say what the holistic picture regarding heritage is.
Can we come to the level of where Europe is with respect to cultural characterisation in say 10 years of at least 100 items in our cultural heritage? I find NIAS to have the right people. We also have an interesting group on behavioural ecology studying the conflict of man, animals and forests and they have always in the field. I think they have great peer recognition but now we are trying to see how we can make an impact on the policy.

A highly neglected area is the Harappan sites and the tourism and public education through them.

Yes, we are working on Dholavira, in Kutch, one of the largest Harappan sites in India, along with IIT Gandhinagar using satellite and digital technology.