IIT Madras was the centre of attraction when it honoured its alumni who were a part of Chandrayaan 3 mission. Over 12 IIT Madras alumni in Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) received honours.
They have played a pivotal role in the historic Chandrayaan 3 mission. The top scientists from ISRO also interacted with the students of IIT Madras and various government schools and city colleges during an event titled ‘Over the Moon with Team Chandrayaan-3’ held in the campus on Sunday (8 October 2023).
Those honoured during the occasion include Dr. S. Unnikrishnan Nair who completed his PhD from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, in 2011 (2011 / PhD / ME) and is the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), ISRO, and Dr. P. Veeramuthuvel (PhD / ME), Project Director, Chandrayaan-3, ISRO, who completed his PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2016.
It is also to note that S Somanath, Chairman, ISRO, is currently pursuing a PhD from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IIT Madras.
Chief Guest Dr. S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), ISRO, said this month, they will be having the first big mission of Gaganyaan from Sriharikota.
We are going to demonstrate the in-flight system. In manned missions, it is not the mission success but it is the safety of the crew that counts, he said speaking at IIT Madras.
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‘We are testing and ensuring that the escape system has got a very high reliability…The escape system will be activated in transonic conditions, which is Mach 1.2 and we will demonstrate how the crew will be rescued.’
We are all looking forward to that mission. There are many exciting missions in the future, he said at IIT Madras.
Chief guest further said in the last one year, India has launched many, many missions. There were failures and we came out of the failures but there were some unique missions too. We thought of using inflatable systems.
‘Can we reduce the speed of an aircraft or a rocket part by inflating a system and reducing its velocity from supersonic conditions to sub-sonic conditions so that we can recover the stage and reduce the cost?’
That was one experiment we did using a sounding rocket and it was a successful experiment. We are now trying to scale it up, so that in future, we can recover the spent stages that are falling into the sea and re-use by using this technology, he said at IIT Madras.
Recalling his days as a PhD Student at IIT Madras, Dr. S. Unnikrishnan Nair added, “I stayed in this campus for hardly one semester but that one semester made a lot of changes in me.
My guru for PhD, Prof. P. Chandramouli is now heading the Department…We feel proud that we belong to this institute and that we could do something that is because of the energy and enthusiasm that we got by being part of great institution, he said at IIT Madras.
Delivering the keynote address and a presentation on Chandrayaan-3 at IIT Madras, Dr. P. Veeramuthuvel, Project Director, Chandrayaan-3, ISRO, said it is by virtue of excellent team work and sheer perseverance that we have achieved this safe and soft landing technology on the lunar surface.
‘It is not only an achievement for the scientific community but it has become the country’s achievement. This time, failure was not an option for us.’
But success did not come easily also. We crafted the lander in such a way that any path it takes, it should land. That was our strategy this time, he said at IIT Madras.
All our teams, particularly, across navigation, guidance, control, propulsion systems, sensors and all the components, worked in unison.
The confidence stemmed from hundreds of lab tests and three important field tests. That was the most challenging task – creating the lunar environment on earth and proving that all our systems will work before the launch. It was one of our important tasks, he said at IIT Madras.
Dr. P. Veeramuthuvel said, “The Moon is away by 3.84 lakh kms. Reaching the moon itself is a challenging task, even though we have done it in Chandrayaan 1 and 2.
We have to do it precisely. All system performances have to be on the dot to reach the moon.
Unlike other spacecraft, we have to launch in a specific launch window because the landing is dictated by the launch window. We cannot launch in any given month, he said at IIT Madras.
‘We typically have a window which is twice in a year – January-February and July-August. Which means, we have to realize the spacecraft well on time,’ he said at IIT Madras.
Prof. V. Kamakoti, director of IIT Madras addressing the students present, added, the days are gone when only Computer Science was deemed important. Please understand that every field of engineering has something great to contribute.
This is a very clear message to all our B Techs and our aspiring school students who want to do engineering. Chandrayaan-3 stands as an outstanding example of our times, said IIT Madras director.
Take pride and love the subject that you are in. You can see here Mechanical Engineers, Aerospace, Chemical Engineers, and Civil Engineers, all of them put together in one project that has created success, he said.
Other ISRO scientists and engineers (IIT Madras Alumni), who were part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, shared their experiences during the event. They include:
1. Dr. P. Arun Kumar (1999/M.Tech/ME), Deputy Director, Earth Storable Engines and Stages (ESES)
2. Dr. John Tharakan (1987/M.Tech/ME, 2001/PhD/AMBE), Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC)
3. Abdul Hameed, (2004/M.Tech/ ME) Scientist/Engineer, U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC)
4. Rajeev Senan C. (2005 / M.Tech / ME), Division Head, Monopropellant Systems & Components Division, LPSC
5. Dr. Shamrao (2009/ M.Tech, 2020/PhD / ME), Scientist, URSC
6. H.M. Raghavendra Prasad (2012 / M.tech / ME), Scientist/Engineer, Head, Mechanism Assembly Section, Spacecraft Mechanisms Group, URSC
7. Dr. S. Mathavaraj, Scientist (2012 / M.Tech / AE), URSC
8. R. Karthik (2019 / MS, PhD / EE), Scientist, LPSC
9. B.S. Phani Dinakar (2017 / M.Tech / ME), Scientist, URSC
10. Sakthivel M. (2017 / M.Tech / ME), Scientist/Engineer, Mechanism and Development Division, Spacecraft Mechanisms Group, URSC