K Sivan’s Journey to ISRO: A farmer’s son who reached a top job

KANYAKUMARI/CHENNAI: A humble son of a farmer who studied in local government schools in Tamil medium at Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu is now all set to helm India’s premier Space agency ISRO.

K Sivan, now Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, who has been named the next Secretary of Space Department and Chairman of Space Commission and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is a native of Tarakkanvilai in Kanyakumari district.

“Sivan hails from a very ordinary family. His father was a farmer. He is the first graduate in the family”, his uncle A Shunmugavel said.

Recalling Sivan’s student days, Shunmugavel told PTI that the rocket expert was “self-made, studious and hard working. He never went to any tuition or coaching classes.”

He studied in government schools in Tarakkanvilai his native village and at neighbouring Valangumaravilai in Tamil medium. Later, he graduated from ST Hindu College in Nagercoil, he said.

“The entire village is happy. The school where he studied today held a function and distributed sweets.”
On his elevation, Sivan told PTI: “This is a rare opportunity. This is a post held by legendary people, I accept this with humility.”

Expressing happiness, he recalled the efforts of his seniors and work by juniors in space initiatives (for organisational and nation’s growth) and said the government also “believed in me.”

Asked if he expected the elevation, he said “I did not expect it,” adding his “mind is full of PSLV (launch).”

Sivan graduated from Madras Institute of Technology in aeronautical engineering in 1980 and completed Master of Engineering in Aerospace engineering from IISc, Bangalore in 1982.

Subsequently, he completed his PhD in Aerospace engineering from IIT, Bombay in 2006.

He joined ISRO in 1982 in Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project and contributed immensely towards the end to end mission planning, mission design, mission integration and analysis. He held various responsibilities during his stint in ISRO.

Sivan, who will succeed incumbent A S Kiran Kumar for a three-year term, has numerous publications in various journals and is a fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering, Aeronautical Society of India and Systems Society of India.

He has received various awards throughout his career, including Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) from Sathyabama University, Chennai in April 2014 and Shri Hari Om Ashram Prerit Dr Vikram Sarabhai Research award for 1999.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami and Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin, today greeted Sivan on his appointment as ISRO chief.

“I congratulate you on your appointment as the Chairman of ISRO. It is a matter of pride for Tamil Nadu that a person from our state has attained such a high position through ability and dint of his hard work,” Palaniswami said.

In his congratulatory letter to Sivan, Palaniswami said his appointment “is a fitting recognition of your long and distinguished career in space research.”

“On behalf of the people and Government of Tamil Nadu, I congratulate you on your elevation and wish you all success in your new position,” he added.

Stalin, DMK Working President, also congratulated Sivan.

“My hearty congratulations to Dr K Sivan on his appointment as Chairman of ISRO. I wish him extraordinary success in his efforts to take our nation’s space establishment @isro to further heights,” he said in a tweet.

PMK founder S Ramadoss also greeted Sivan and wished him well in his endeavours.

The Appointments Committee of the Union Cabinet yesterday approved Sivan’s appointment as Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman of Space Commission for a three-year tenure.

Sivan’s appointment was cleared on Wednesday, two days ahead of the proposed historic launch of ISRO’s 100th satellite along with 30 others in a single mission from Sriharikota.