Dr. S. Unnikrishnan Nair, Distinguished Scientist, took charge as Director, VSSC in February, 2022. He is also the Director of IIST, Thiruvananthapuram. He is the Founding Director of Human Space Flight Centre, Bangalore. He is BTech in Mechanical Engineering from Kerala University, ME in Aerospace engineering from IISc, Bangalore and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from IIT(M), Chennai. He also holds an MA in Telecommunications and Space Law from NALSAR, Hyderabad. He started his career in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Trivandrum in 1985 and was involved in the development of various aerospace systems and mechanisms for PSLV, GSLV and LVM3.
He played a key role in the maiden orbital re-entry experiment, Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), right from the study phase onwards to its mission accomplishment in 2007. He has made seminal contributions in developing the Parachute and other Recovery systems for are-entering vehicle for the first time in the country. He has also played a pivotal role in lining up various national agencies including the Services for formulating the recovery procedures and implementation for the recovery of SRE from sea.
He was associated with Human Spaceflight Programme from its study phase since 2004 and was the Project director for Pre-project technology development activities. He led the project team fordefining the Vehicle configuration, Systems engineering and in identifying various critical technology development areas to initiate the pre-project activities. He was the Payload Director for CARE [Crew module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment], where a full-scale Crew Module, was flown successfully in the LVM3X-CARE sub-orbital mission held in December 2014. He also served as Deputy Director, Structures Entity of VSSC concurrently with the human space flight technology development.
He has significantly contributed in defining the Crew Escape System, a vital system in manned missions for crew rescue under any contingency and was the Mission Director for the first Crew escape system - Pad abort test held in July 2018. He served as the Programme director of Advanced Space Transportation System, a unified entity created for integrating the various technology development activities of Human space flight, Reusable launch vehicle, Air breathing propulsion and Advanced test vehicle.
As founding Director of the youngest Centre in ISRO, the Human Space Flight Centre, HSFC, he has led the team for Gaganyaan Project and established the Astronaut Training Centre at Bangalore in HSFC at Bangalore.
He has received ISRO team excellence award for his contributions to SRE, ISRO Excellence Award as Team Leader for CARE in 2014, ISRO Individual Merit award for the year 2014 for his contributions towards technology development for manned space mission, ISRO Excellence Award as Team Leader for Crew Escape System Pad Abort Test in 2018, Atmanirbharata Award from Indian Society of Analytical Science in 2022 and National Systems Gold Medal from Systems Society of India in 2022.
He is a member of many professional bodies and is the national president of the Indian National Society for Aerospace and Related Mechanism (INSARM). He has authored several papers including 12 for international journals/conferences. He is holding a patent and received an honorary doctorate for the contributions to human space flight activities.
He is the co-editor of a text book on Finite element analysis. He is an ardent nature lover and works for its preservation. He has also published a few short stories in leading Malayalam magazines.
Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre
Kerala, India, Pin Code:695022
Phone: 0471- 2565567
Fax: 0471 270 4105
Email: [email protected]