The author Ved Prakash Sandlas depicts his journey beginning from a rocket launching station at Thumba, near Trivandrum in 1967. Anecdotes depicting the local traditions are mentioned, which were different to those practised in North India, from where the author hails.
Later, the author had set up an amateur radio station, which he says provided a critical radio communication link with Sriharikota island, from where SLV-3 launches were conducted.The writer speaks of his childhood, school and college days. He shares light-hearted snippets while studying at IIT Kharagpur. He details his experiences during the installation of communication systems at Sriharikota Range (SHAR) during the early 70s.
Ved Prakash also speaks of his friendship with former President of India and ‘Missile Man’ Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, who was assigned to head the SLV-3 project in the 70s.Interestingly, the first SLV-3 flight in August 1979 was ‘partially unsuccessful’, due to technical reasons. The next launch, of SLV-3-E-02 in July 1980, was successful, injecting a 35 kg Rohini satellite into a near-Earth orbit. With this launch, India entered the exclusive club of nations with satellite launch vehicle capability – the others being Soviet Union (Sputnik-I in 1957), United States (Explorer-I in 1958), France (Asterix in 1965), Japan (Osumi in 1970) and China (Dongfanghong-I in 1970). Notably, the SLV-3 was conceived, designed, built and tested by Indians, and was an entirely self-reliant venture.
Soon afterwards, the author says he was appointed as Project Director of SLV-3 Continuation Project, with a specific mandate to launch SLV-3-D1 (the first developmental flight). The launch was held successfully in May 1981. However, owing to the satellite lifetime being just nine days, there were widespread negative views about the mission.
In April 1983, SLV-3-D2 launch was held, attended by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, then Chief Minister of united Andhra Pradesh NT Rama Rao, and others at SHAR.The Leapfroggers is interspersed with funny, real-life incidents involving the author’s family members and friends. Also, we get to know of the working style of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, with whom the author had shared a close bond.All in all, the book provides a lot of technical details about the SLV-3 programme, which the scientific community would definitely love to relive.
Pages: 231; Publisher: HarperCollins;
— Shyam Yadagiri