Dr. S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Distinguished Scientist took charge as Director, VSSC on February 07, 2022. He took over as the first Director of Human Space Flight Centre, Bengaluru in January 2019. He has B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from Kerala University, ME in Aerospace engineering from IISc, Bengaluru and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from IIT(M), Chennai. He started his career in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Trivandrum in the year 1985. During his tenure at VSSC, he has made significant contributions in launch vehicle mechanisms, acoustic protection systems and payload fairing areas.
He was the Member-Secretary of the Study team for Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) and Deputy Project Director of SRE for Deceleration and Recovery systems. He was associated with the development of recovery systems for SRE and involved in the recovery of SRE capsule from sea. He was associated with Human Spaceflight Programme since its inception as the Project Director for technology development activities. He was the Payload Director for CARE [Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment], where a prototype of Crew Module was flown successfully on Dec 18, 2014 in LVM3X vehicle. He served as Deputy Director, Structures Entity of VSSC till January 2017 concurrently with human space flight technology development. He led the team for the technology development of Crew Escape System and was its Mission Director for the Pad Abort Test held on 5 July 2018. Prior to the formation of HSFC, he was serving as Programme Director of Advanced Space Transportation System leading all advanced projects like Human Spaceflight, Air Breathing Propulsion and Reusable Launch Vehicle Development.
He has received ISRO team excellence award for his contributions to SRE, ISRO excellence award as team leader for CARE in 2014 and ISRO Individual Merit award for the year 2014 for his contributions towards technology development for manned space mission. He is a member of many professional bodies viz. Fellow of Institution of engineers, life member of Aeronautical society of India, Systems society of India, Acoustical society of India, Astronautical society of India etc. Previously, he has served as the president of Indian National Society for Aerospace and Related Mechanism (INSARM), Trivandrum chapter. He has authored several papers including 12 for international journals/conferences. He is an ardent nature lover and works for its preservation. He has also published a few short stories in leading Malayalam magazines.