K. Radhakrishnan

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K Radhakrishnan
Radhakrishnan in 2014
Born (1949-08-29) 29 August 1949 (age 72)
Alma materGovernment Engineering College, Thrissur (BE)
IIM Bangalore (MBA)
IIT Kharagpur (PhD)
Known forChandrayaan-1, Mangalyaan
AwardsPadma Bhushan (2014)[1]
Scientific career
FieldsElectrical Engineering
Space research
K. Radhakrishnan
Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation
In office
30 October 2009 – 31 December 2014
Preceded byG. Madhavan Nair
Succeeded byShailesh Nayak

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. He had a brief stint of five years (2000-2005) in the Ministry of Earth Sciences as Director of Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS).[6]

Presently, he is the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur[7][8] and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the IIT Council besides being Honorary Distinguished Advisor in the Department of Space/ISRO.[9]

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.[10]

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.[11]

Education and personal life[edit]

Koppillil Radhakrishnan hails from Irinjalakuda in Thrissur district, Kerala. 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.[11]

Indian Space Research Organisation[edit]

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.[12] 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.[12]

Remote Sensing Applications.[edit]

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. 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.

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.[12][13] As the Director of National Remote Sensing Agency, he scripted India’s modern multi-mission ground station for Earth Observation Satellites.

Space Transportation System and Chandrayaan-1 Mission[edit]

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.[12]

Chief of India's Space Programme[edit]

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;[14] a re-entry experiment of an un-manned crew module;[14] and new space capabilities through IRNSS (1A, 1B, 1C) for navigation; GSAT-7 for strategic communication; and RISAT-1 for microwave radar imaging.[15] ISRO completed two joint satellite missions (Megha Tropiques and SARAL) with the French National Space Agency[16]and inked another agreement with NASA to jointly build an advanced Radar Imaging Satellite.[17] India's standing in the global space market was enhanced as PSLV launched 18 commercial satellites for 11 countries.[18] 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[19] 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][20]

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)[edit]

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,[21] and at significantly low cost (INR 4.5 Billion) .[22]

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle and Indian Cryogenic Stage[edit]

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.[23]

Ocean Observation and Information Services[edit]

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.[12]

Kathakali and Carnatic Music[edit]

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.[24][25] 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.[26][27]

Positions held[edit]

He has held several key positions in ISRO and was one of the key people behind India's Chandrayaan-1 moon mission.[10] He has held the following positions:

  • Project Director, Regional Remote Sensing Service Centres under the umbrella of National Natural Resources Management System (1987–1989)[6]
  • Director, Regional Remote Sensing Service Centres under the umbrella of National Natural Resources Management System (1989–1997)[6]
  • Director, Budget and Economic Analysis, Indian Space Research Organisation/Department of Space, Bangalore, India (1987–1997)[6]
  • National Mission Director, Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development and a Deputy Director of the National Remote Sensing Agency (1997–2000)[28]
  • Director, Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (2000–2005)[28]
  • Project Director, Indian Tsunami Warning System (2005)
  • Vice Chairman - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO (2001–2005)[28]
  • Founding Chairman, Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System (2001–2006)[28]
  • Regional Coordinator, Indian Ocean for the International Argo Project (2001–2005)[28]
  • Director, National Remote Sensing Agency, Department of Space (2005–2008)[29]
  • President, Indian Society of Remote Sensing (2005-2007)[6]
  • Vice President, Indian Geophysical Union (2007-2009)[6]
  • Member of the Indian delegation to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (2006-2009)[28]
  • Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, India (2007–2009)[29]
  • Chairman, 'Working Group of the Whole' of S&T Sub-Committee of UN COPUOS (2008 & 2009)
  • Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation, Bangalore, India (2009-2014)[5]
  • Chairman, Board of Antrix Corporation, Bangalore, India (November 2009-July 2011)[30]
  • Chairman, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, India (2009-2014)[31]
  • Member, Planning Committee of National Natural Resources Management System (2009-2014)[6]
  • Chairman, NNRMS Standing Committee on Technology & Training (2009-2014)[6]
  • President, Astronautical Society of India (2010-2014)[6]
  • Member of CSIR Society and Member of CSIR Governing Council (2010-2013)[6]
  • Chairman, Research Council of National Aerospace Laboratory (2010-2013)[6]
  • Ex-officio Member of Scientific Advisory Committee to Prime Minister (2009-2014)[6]
  • Ex-officio Member of Scientific Advisory Committee to Cabinet (2009-2014)[6]
  • Chairman, Indian Institutes of Engineering Science and Technology, Shibpur, India (2014–2017)[32]
  • Adviser, Department of Space/Indian Space Research Organisation (2016 & 2017)[9]
  • Honorary Distinguished Adviser, Department of Space/Indian Space Research Organisation (March 2018 – present)[9]
  • Chairperson, Board of Governors of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (February 2019 - present)[7][8]
  • Chairman, Standing Committee of the IIT Council (December 2019 - present)

Major Awards and honours[9][edit]

  • 2014: Radhakrishnan received the Padma Bhushan Award for contribution to Science and Engineering, especially in the field of Space Science and Technology.[2]
  • 2014: Named one of Nature's ten "people who mattered" of 2014 on 18 December 2014, along with Radhika Nagpal, and others.[33]
  • 2003: K.R. Ramanathan Memorial Gold Medal of Indian Geophysical Union
  • 2005: VASVIK Industrial Research Award
  • 2006: Silver Jubilee Honour by Ministry of Earth Sciences
  • 2008: BHASKARA Award of Indian Society of Remote Sensing
  • 2008: Dr. Y. Nayudamma Memorial Award of the A.P Academy of Sciences
  • 2009: Social Sciences Award of the International Academy of Astronautics
  • 2010: Vikram Sarabhai Memorial Award of Indian Science Congress
  • 2010: Distinguished Alumnus Award of IIT, Kharagpur
  • 2010: Distinguished Alumnus Award of IIM, Bangalore
  • 2014: ISRO's Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2014: The Allan D. Emil Award of International Astronautical Federation
  • 2014: Ernst & Young Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2014: Technovation-Sarabhai Award of Indian Electronics & Semiconductor Association
  • 2015: Lifetime Achievent Award of Union Bank of India
  • 2015: Lifetime Outstanding Innovation Award Indore Management Association
  • 2015: Bharat Asmita Vigyan Tantragyaan Shreshta
  • 2015: P.C. Chandra Purashkar for Lifetime Achievement
  • 2016: Lifetime Achievement Award, Engineers’ Forum, Nagpur
  • 2017: Global Indian (Science) Award of Times Network
  • 2018: Qimpro Platinum Standard 2018 (Business)[34]

He has been conferred Honorary Doctorates by IIT Kharagpur and 12 Indian universities.[9]


  1. ^ "List of Padma awardees". The Hindu. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Isro, IISc men get top national honour". The Times of India. 26 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  3. ^ "ISRO gets a new chairman". Deccan Herald. 25 October 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  4. ^ "Dr K Radhakrishnan made ISRO chief". Press Trust of India. 24 October 2009. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009.
  5. ^ a b "ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan retires". Hindustan Times. Press Trust of India. 31 December 2014. Archived from the original on 31 December 2014. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Dr. K. Radhakrishnan (2009-2014) - ISRO". Indian Space Research Organisation. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b Somasekhar, M. "Former ISRO chief nominated as chairperson at IIT Kanpur". @businessline. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Former Isro chief Radhakrishnan nominated as IIT-Kanpur board chairman - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Radhakrishnan Koppillil". LinkedIn.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ a b "My Odyssey - Penguin India". Penguin India. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e Radhakrishnan, K. (23 November 2016). My Odyssey: Memoirs of the Man behind the Mangalyaan Mission. Penguin UK. ISBN 9789385990380.
  13. ^ "RS&GIS Applications in Planning and Conservation of Resources in Rainfed Watersheds" (PDF).
  14. ^ a b "India's space odyssey: ISRO creates history in 2014". The Indian Express. 27 December 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  15. ^ "ISRO's Timeline from 1960s to Today - ISRO". Indian Space Research Organisation. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  16. ^ "France-India space cooperation - Four more years for emblematic Megha-Tropiques climate space mission". presse.cnes.fr. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  17. ^ "US and India sign space agreement". BBC News. 1 October 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  18. ^ "International Customer Satellites Launched". Antrix Corporation. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  19. ^ "K Radhakrishnan interview: Success due to tireless efforts of Isro". Hindustan Times. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  20. ^ Narasimhan, T. E. (31 December 2014). "Isro gives farewell to its 'Man of Steel' K Radhakrishnan". Business Standard India. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  21. ^ "India becomes first country in world to place spacecraft in Mars' orbit in first attempt". Deccan Chronicle. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  22. ^ Amos, Jonathan (24 September 2014). "Why India's Mars mission is so cheap - and thrilling". BBC News. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ Radhakrishnan, M. G. (25 October 2009). "New ISRO chief a noted Kathakali dancer". India Today.
  25. ^ "ISRO chief sings a different note". The New Indian Express. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2011.
  26. ^ "Scientist as an artist". Frontline. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  27. ^ Kumar, R. Krishna (4 December 2015). "Space scientist regales connoisseurs of music". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "Dr. K. Radhakrishnan". University of Hyderabad. Archived from the original on 7 December 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  29. ^ a b "Dr K Radhakrishnan takes over as Secretary, Department of Space, Chairman, Space Commission and Chairman, ISRO" (Press release). Indian Space Research Organisation. 31 October 2009. Archived from the original on 29 September 2010. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  30. ^ D. S., Madhumathi (9 July 2011). "ISRO's commercial arm Antrix gets new chief". The Hindu BusinessLine. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  31. ^ "About Us". Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology.
  32. ^ "Board stamp on IIEST upgrade". The Telegraph. 3 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ "Qimpro Foundation - Qimpro Awards". www.qimpro.org. Retrieved 30 July 2018.

External links[edit]

Media related to K. Radhakrishnan at Wikimedia Commons

Government offices
Preceded by ISRO Chairman
Succeeded by