CHENNAI: In the corner of a museum in the headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army at Fort William in Kolkata is a a rocket-pod and twin-barreled auto canon that can be mounted on a fighter-aircraft.
According to veterans of the Indian Space Research Organisation, this was the prototype of the firearms that were mounted on the MiG-21 which bombed the Governor’s House in Dhaka, a decisive turning point in the 1971 war.
The rocket had the capability to travel 100 km with a 3 kg payload, said N Sivasubramanian, former chief general manager of Liquid Propulsion System Centre, ISRO, recalling his association with Kalam in developing and producing them indigenously.
“It was an idea given by Kalam, and I produced the gyroscope and other instruments that would provide the direction, speed and angle,” Sivasubramnian explained.
According to him, these rockets played a decisive role in the war that India eventually won, and this success was the turning point in Kalam’s career. He was soon made a project director for the satellite launch vehicle.
Going further back in history, Sivasubramanian recollected how the St Mary Magadelene’s Church in Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala served as the main office for the scientists before the Indian space technology became the success story that it is now.
In those nascent years, the bishop’s house was converted into a workshop, and the cattle shed became the laboratory, where Indian scientists, including Kalam, worked on the sounding rocket. The the idea the India Space Research Organisation originated there, Sivasubramanian said.
In those initial days, India was dependent on French technology for making rockets. “We were building rockets using French technology. It was in 1965-67 that we started focusing on developing our own rockets,” he said.
Sivasubramanian said he spent half of his 40-year long career with Kalam. In the latest, the instruments he provided for rockets was also used in developing stents for All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.
His uniqueness was his ability to tap the best minds and integrate them to deliver the goods for the nation. “We cannot get such a unique scientist in the future,” said Sivasubramanian.