NEW DELHI: Fondly known as the Missile Man of India, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, a specialist in Aeronautical Engineering and one of the most distinguished Indian scientists, had made several contributions to Indian space research programmes with the evolution of the country’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III).
He was the project director of India’s first satellite — Rohini. During his tenure in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), he headed the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme to develop five different missiles — Prithivi, Agni, Trishul, Akash and Nag.
As the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister and the secretary to the DRDO, Kalam envisioned the concept of joint partnership, which led to the formation of BrahMos Aerospace between Indian and Russia.
After graduating from the Madras Institute of Technology in 1960, Kalam joined the Aeronautical Development Establishment, a laboratory of DRDO as chief scientist.
During the early days of his career there, Kalam designed a small helicopter for the Indian Army.
Kalam was associated with the Indian National Committee for Space Research as a rocket engineer, working under Dr Vikram Sarabhai. In 1963-64, he visited Nasa’s Langley Research Centre in Poquoson, Virginia, Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Wallops Flight Facility situated in the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
In 1969, Kalam was transferred to the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).
From the 1970s to 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar SLV and SLV-III projects, which proved to be a success.
In 1974, Kalam was shifted to the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), a subsidiary of DRDO.
He was invited by the ‘Father of India’s nuclear programme’ Raja Ramanna to witness the country’s first nuclear test ‘Smiling Buddha’.
In the 1970s, a landmark achievement was made when Isro first launched into space the locally built Rohini-1, using the SLV rocket.
In the 1970s, Kalam directed Project Devil and Project Valiant, which sought to develop ballistic missiles from the technology of Kalam’s successful SLV programme, though both of them were called off later.
Although discontinued in 1974 without achieving success, Project Valiant, like Project Devil, later led to the development of the Prithvi missile in the 1980s.
As Chief Executive of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, he played a major part in developing many missiles in India including Agni and Prithvi.
He was the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of DRDO from July 1992 to December 1999.
Kalam served as the Chief Project Coordinator for Pokhran-II nuclear tests, where he played an intensive political and technical role.
In the year 1998, with cardiologist Dr Soma Raju, Kalam developed a low cost coronary stent, making an otherwise expensive cardiac cure affordable for the millions who do not have the means to avail first-class care in the country.