Space scientist from a star villageOctober 20th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS
Chennai, Oct 20 (IANS) M.Y.S. Prasad, associate director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, has something common with Telugu movie stars Chiranjeevi and Krishnam Raju. All three are from Mogaltur village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. While Chiranjeevi and Krishnam Raju are movie stars turned politicians, Prasad sends rockets towards the stars.
As the man in charge of launch operations for India’s first lunar mission that blasts off Wednesday, Prasad, 55, is now busy checking everything is in place, as the final countdown ticks on.
He is also responsible for launch pad preparation and filling of the liquid propulsion fuel that will send the polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV) into space, carrying aloft India’s lunar orbiter Chandrayaan.
“Out of my 33 years with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), I have worked nearly 20 years in developing launch vehicles,” he told IANS from Sriharikota, India’s spaceport, 80 km from here.
He was part of the team that successfully launched India’s first satellite vehicle SLV3.
As part of the rocket team, Prasad has contributed significantly in the areas of avionics systems, payload augmentation and interfacing and ground station networks.
“We have reduced the inert weight of PSLV, thereby augmenting its fuel and payload capability,” he said.
He played a major role in introducing key technologies into ISRO’s launch vehicles, mainly in Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV), to make them reliable and robust.
“In a rocket the critical period is the liftoff and the first 20 km when the vehicle gathers momentum to escape the earth’s gravitational pull,” he said.
While the rocket speeds up from 9 to 15 km per second, it also has to deal with strong winds in the upper atmosphere.
“The learning of SLV3 and ASLV while designing the PSLV is that the first stage has to be well configured,” Prasad recalled.
He credited the late S.Srinivasan, former director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, for designing PSLV’s first stage which takes the rocket 50 km above the earth.
Prasad is an ISRO all rounder, having worked in various departments - launch vehicle, satellite design, managing India’s geostationary orbit satellites or communication satellites and also as space counsellor at Indian embassy in Paris, interacting with major European space agencies.
As the director of the Mission Control Facility (MCF), he was instrumental in ISRO increasing its transponder lease rentals by eliminating interference in satellite signals.
For some time, ISRO was losing money as five of its transponders were not earning their full potential owing to signal disturbances.
“We studied the issue and on one night we traced the disturbance to a loose connection in one of the V-Sat terminals located in Kolkata,” Prasad recalled.
He registered for a doctorate during his stint at MCF and got the Ph.D. for his research on interference in satellite communications.
Prasad was also instrumental in facilitating video conferencing between Indian scientists in Antarctica and their colleagues in Goa.
“That was a challenging task as heavy equipments had to be moved from the ship to the place where the Indian camp was located, with strong winds blowing against,” he recalled.
Now, after the Chandrayaan mission, Prasad is sure to become one more star from the star village Mogaltur.
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