K. Radhakrishnan
Radhakrishnan in 2014
Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation
In office
30 October 2009 (2009-10-30) – 31 December 2014 (2014-12-31)
Preceded byG. Madhavan Nair
Succeeded byShailesh Nayak
Prime MinisterManmohan Singh
Personal details
Born (1949-08-29) 29 August 1949 (age 74)
Thrissur, United State of Travancore and Cochin,
now Kerala (South India)
Alma mater
Known forChandrayaan-1, Mangalyaan
AwardsPadma Bhushan (2014)[1]
Scientific career
FieldsElectrical Engineering
Space research

Koppillil Radhakrishnan[2] (born 29 August 1949) is an Indian space scientist who headed the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) between November 2009 and December 2014 as Chairman of Space Commission, Secretary of the Department of Space and Chairman of ISRO.[3][4][5] Prior to this, he was the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (2007–2009) and Director of National Remote Sensing Agency (2005–2008) of the Department of Space. [6] Under his leadership, India became the first country to reach Mars in its first attempt.[7]

Presently, he is the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur[8][9] and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council; Chairman of the overarching Committee set up my Ministry of Education for strengthening the Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Educational Institutions;[10] Chairperson of the Oversight Committee of Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB-DST),[11] Chairman of the Expert Committees of DST on 'Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes (SATHI)[12] & 'Sophisticated Analytical Instruments Facilities (SAIF)'; and Chairman, High-powered Committee of Indian Knowledge Systems, Ministry of Education-Government of India [13] besides being a Member of National Security Advisory Board, and Space Commission[14] and Honorary Distinguished Advisor in the Department of Space/ISRO.[15]

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; Distinguished Fellow of Astronautical Society of India; Fellow of the Andhra Pradesh Academy of Sciences; Honorary Fellow of the Kerala Academy of Sciences; Fellow of the Indian Society of Remote Sensing; and Fellow of the Indian Geophysical Union.[6] He is an accomplished vocalist (Carnatic music) and Kathakali artist.[16]

Penguin Random House India published his autobiography My Odyssey: Memoirs of the Man Behind the Mangalyaan Mission (ISBN 978-0-670-08906-2), co-authored by Radhakrishnan and Nilanjan Routh, in November 2016.[17]

Education and personal life

Koppillil Radhakrishnan hails from a Malayali Hindu family of Thrissur, United State of Travancore and Cochin, now Kerala (South India). After his schooling at the National High School, Irinjalakuda, he did two-year Pre-degree studies (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry) at Christ College, Irinjalakuda. He studied Electrical Engineering at the Government Engineering College, Thrissur and acquired BSc (Engg.) degree in First Class with Honours from Kerala University in 1970. He did post-graduate studies in management at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore in 1974-76. He obtained doctorate from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, in 2000, for the thesis : 'Some Strategies for the Management of Indian Earth Observation System'.[6]

Radhakrishnan married Padmini Kizhakke Valappil from Irinjalakuda in 1983. Padmini worked with State Bank of Travancore from 1980 to 2010.[17]

Indian Space Research Organisation

Radhakrishnan joined ISRO in May 1971 at the Space Science & Technology Centre at Thiruvananthapuram (the present Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) as a design and development engineer of electro-mechanical devices. Later he worked on system planning and technology management for avionics systems of SLV-3, ASLV and PSLV.[18] During 1981-97, at the ISRO Headquarters, he oversaw the preparation and review of annual budgets of ISRO, formulation of decade profile and Five Year Plans for Indian Space programme and the related techno-economic analysis.[18]

Remote Sensing Applications.

As Project Director, he set up a chain of regional remote sensing service centres (RRSSC) at Bangalore, Nagpur, Kharagpur, Jodhpur and Dehradun for capacity building in central and state government agencies.[citation needed] While he was the Director, RRSSCs came to prominence in the national remote sensing application missions including the Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD) aimed at generation of spatial database of natural resources and action plans for sustainable development of land and water resources.[citation needed]

Later, Radhakrishnan succeeded as the Mission Director of IMSD and moved to National Remote Sensing Agency in Hyderabad. IMSD was considered as largest remote sensing application experiment ever done in the world using a meticulous participatory approach.[18][19] As the Director of National Remote Sensing Agency, he scripted India's modern multi-mission ground station for Earth Observation Satellites.[citation needed]

Space Transportation System and Chandrayaan-1 Mission

While at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre as its Director, he oversaw five successful launches of PSLV including development of its high-end version PSLV –XL that lofted Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008 as well as formulation of Indian Human Spaceflight programme.[18]

Chief of India's Space Programme

As India's space chief from November 2009 to December 2014, Radhakrishnan led ISRO to achieve 37 space missions including several historic feats including Mars Orbiter Mission; flying Indian Cryogenic Engine on GSLV; the first experimental flight of the GSLV Mk III;[20] a re-entry experiment of an uncrewed crew module;[20] and new space capabilities through IRNSS (1A, 1B, 1C) for navigation; GSAT-7 for strategic communication; and RISAT-1 for microwave radar imaging.[21] ISRO completed two joint satellite missions (Megha Tropiques and SARAL) with the French National Space Agency[22] and inked another agreement with NASA to jointly build an advanced Radar Imaging Satellite.[23] India's standing in the global space market was enhanced as PSLV launched 18 commercial satellites for 11 countries.[24] Through an inclusive organisational process, Radhakrishnan charted out clear programmatic directions and nurtured younger generation of leaders for carrying forward the legacy of ISRO.[6] Re-defining the Chandrayaan-2 mission with Indigenous lander and rover[25] and extending the application of space technologies and tools to all central ministries are highlights of his leadership regime at ISRO.[6] He worked to enhance the partnership with the Indian space industry for the production of operational launchers and satellites.[6][26]

During his leadership, ISRO received the 2014 Gandhi Peace Prize; the 2014 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development; the 2014 Knowledge Economy Network KEN Award; the 2014 CNN-IBN Indian of the Year-Lifetime Achievement Award; the 2014 Global Game Changer Award by the Marico Innovation Foundation; and the 2013 CNBC-18 India Business Leader Award-BRAND INDIA.[6]

Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan)

Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM; aka Mangalyaan) was conceived, planned and executed, within four years (2010–2014), establishing India as the first country to have successful mission to Mars in its maiden attempt,[27] and at significantly low cost (INR 4.5 Billion) .[28]

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle and Indian Cryogenic Stage

GSLV had a checkered history in its initial flights of 2001-2007 and they were powered by cryogenic upper stage of Russia. After failure of the Indian Cryogenic upper stage on GSLV in April 2010 (GSLV-D3) and recurrence one more failure of GSLV with Russian Cryogeinc upper stage (GSLV-F06) in December 2010, Radhakrishnan steered ISRO towards the landmark success in January 2014 GSLV-D5. This marked the beginning of the successful series of GSLV with Indian Cryogenic Upper Stage.[29]

Ocean Observation and Information Services

Radhakrishnan had a stint of five years the Ministry of Earth Sciences to set up, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS). In the aftermath of the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster of December 2004, he emerged as the Project Director to set up the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning Centre.[18]

Kathakali and Carnatic Music

K. Radhakrishnan (1987) Enacting the role of King Daksha, who is annoyed at Siva for taking away his daughter Sati in marriage.
Radhakrishnan singing at Guruvayoor Chembai Sangetholsavam 2018
Radhakrishnan singing at Guruvayoor Chembai Sangetholsavam 2018

Radhakrishnan is a Carnatic music and Kathakali enthusiast and performer.[30][31] Radhakrishnan was drawn into the world of performing arts from childhood. After formal training in Kerala Natanam, under Professor Thrippunithura Vijayabhanu, he had training in Kathakali dance under Guru Pallippuram Gopalan Nair, Kalanilayam Raghavan and Shri T.V.A Varier. Also, he was trained in Carnatic music by eminent musicians like Prof. Vechoor Harihara Subramania Iyer, Dr. R.K. Srikantan, Dr. Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana; currently he is student of Vidwan R.S. Ramakanth. Dr. Radhakrishnan has performed at Bengaluru Sangeethotsav, Sankranthi Music Festival of RK Srikantan Trust, Swaralaya, Bangalore Centre for Kathakali and Arts, JSS Sangeetha Sabha, Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar Music Festival at Chennai. He has been singing at the Guruvayoor Chembai Sangeetholsavam every year since 2008.[32][33]

Positions held

He has held several key positions in ISRO and was one of the key people behind India's Chandrayaan-1 Moon mission.[16] He has held the following positions:

Major Awards and honours

He has been conferred a doctorate by IIT Kharagpur[15] and honorary doctorates by 12 Indian universities [citation needed].


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  7. ^ "Citation Needed", Retcon Game, University Press of Mississippi
  8. ^ a b Somasekhar, M. (22 February 2019). "Former ISRO chief nominated as chairperson at IIT Kanpur". @businessline. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Former Isro chief Radhakrishnan nominated as IIT-Kanpur board chairman - Times of India". The Times of India. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
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  11. ^ a b "The Oversight Committee: Science and Engineering Research Board, Established through an Act of Parliament: SERB Act 2008, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India". serb.gov.in. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  12. ^ a b "Pti".
  13. ^ a b https://www.shiksha.com/news/education-ministry-constitutes-22-member-high-powered-committee-on-iks-blogId-105251. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  14. ^ a b c "Space Commission". www.isro.gov.in. Retrieved 24 October 2022.
  15. ^ a b c d "Radhakrishnan Koppillil". LinkedIn.
  16. ^ a b "Dr K Radhakrishnan made ISRO chief". Hindustan Times. 24 October 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  17. ^ a b c "My Odyssey - Penguin India". Penguin India. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  18. ^ a b c d e Radhakrishnan, K. (23 November 2016). My Odyssey: Memoirs of the Man behind the Mangalyaan Mission. Penguin UK. ISBN 9789385990380.
  19. ^ "RS&GIS Applications in Planning and Conservation of Resources in Rainfed Watersheds" (PDF).
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  28. ^ Amos, Jonathan (24 September 2014). "Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling". BBC News. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  29. ^ "GSLV Rocket, Billed 'Naughty Boy' By Scientists, Is Now 'Adorable'". 11 February 2018. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  30. ^ Radhakrishnan, M. G. (25 October 2009). "New ISRO chief a noted Kathakali dancer". India Today.
  31. ^ "ISRO chief sings a different note". The New Indian Express. 2 September 2011. Archived from the original on 8 October 2014. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  32. ^ "Scientist as an artist". Frontline. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  33. ^ Kumar, R. Krishna (4 December 2015). "Space scientist regales connoisseurs of music". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
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  38. ^ "Board stamp on IIEST upgrade". The Telegraph. 3 January 2015. Archived from the original on 10 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
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  42. ^ Gibney, Elizabeth; et al. (18 December 2014). "365 days: Nature's 10". Nature. 516 (7531): 311–319. Bibcode:2014Natur.516..311.. doi:10.1038/516311a. PMID 25519114.
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Media related to K. Radhakrishnan at Wikimedia Commons

Government offices Preceded byG. Madhavan Nair Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation 2009 - 2014 Succeeded byShailesh Nayak Preceded byB. N. Suresh Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre 2007 - 2009 Succeeded byP. S. Veeraraghavan