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Moved to headquarters, is Tapan Misra out of race for top post? key ISRO scientist shunted to adviser role

ISRO officials said his appointment as an adviser to the present chairman practically edges him out of the race to head the space agency.

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad |
Updated: July 22, 2018 5:58:30 am
ISRO, Sriharikota, GSAT-11 satellite, Indian Space Research Organisation, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, ISRO space launch, ISRO satellite launches Next only to ISRO chairman K Sivan, Misra was not only a key scientist in the development of critical technologies for India. (Image: AP)

An eminent scientist who is credited with developing space-borne radars, which can pierce through clouds and aid military surveillance, map annual cropping patterns and accurately predict cyclones, has been moved out as director of the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC), a crucial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

The scientist, Tapan Misra, has been transferred to Bengaluru and appointed an adviser to ISRO chairman K Sivan.
ISRO officials said his appointment as an adviser to the present chairman practically edges him out of the race to head the space agency. “It is a consultative post, not an executive one. The chairman has always been selected from the pool of executive directors. Besides, such a post never existed in the organisation before,” an ISRO official said on condition of anonymity.

Having taken over the reign of SAC from A S Kirankumar, who went on to become the ISRO chairman in 2015, Misra headed sensitive projects, including development of a series of communication satellites for military and civil applications.

Next only to ISRO chairman K Sivan, Misra was not only a key scientist in the development of critical technologies for India but was said to be in the running to become the next chairman of the space organisation. Sivan’s term ends in January 2021. Associate director at SAC, D K Das, takes Misra’s place at the Ahmedabad centre.

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Sources in the organisation said Misra was moved out after a string of incidents, the most recent being “recall” of GSAT-11 from Arianespace’s spaceport in French Guiana this April. Sources in ISRO said Misra was strictly against the recall, as he felt it would further stall the already delayed project.

GSAT-11 is the heaviest communication satellite to be developed by ISRO, and is tipped to usher in a revolution in internet communication. The other incident is a “mysterious fire” incident at the Antenna Test facility of SAC on May 3, which damaged ISRO’s crucial communication payload testing facility where the most advanced high-throughput communication satellites were being tested. Misra was in Delhi for a meeting that day. This fire has been called the “biggest” in the history of SAC — a CISF official, who was inside as part of the firefighting, was injured in the blaze.
On Saturday, Misra remained noncommittal about the decision to move him out. “No comments,” is all he told The Sunday Express.

Misra, who joined SAC as a digital hardware engineer in 1984, said, “The biggest satisfaction for me has been to modify space technology for the benefit of the common man. Second, the radar imaging technologies and high-throughput satellite technologies developed at SAC have been done at just 1/10th of the cost at which NASA does (it).”

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