Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: Former President of India
  Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam    
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15-12-2003 :  Manesar

Multi-dimensions of Aerospace technologies

I am delighted to address the Seminar-cum-Exhibition on Aerospace Technology Challenges in the millennium. My greetings to Shri Chandrababu Naidu, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, Chief of the Air Staff, Dr. V.K. Saraswat, Chairman, AeSI, Hyderabad Chapter, organizers of the Conference, delegates and distinguished guests.

Technology advances

I visited Poorna Prajnaya Public School, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi where the children had created a painting exhibition on my life based on the events described in "Wings of Fire". In the exhibition, nearly 100 children have painted various phases of my life; about Rameshwaram, my house, my kith and kin, college where I studied etc. They took me around and showed me the gallery where series of pictures of Satellite launch vehicles were depicted - first one tiny SLV3, next slightly bigger ASLV, next bigger PSLV and then the bigger GSLV. Suddenly one girl asked me, "Uncle, which one of these rockets you built? You built all of them?" I showed the tiny SLV3 and told her that I built this. She quipped and laughed and told me, "What Uncle, you built this small one?" Through this event, the child indirectly gave a nice message of the growth of technologies which had taken place during the last twenty years, since SLV3 was built. At that time, the SLV3 had the first generation guidance control system with just a 30 ton vehicle carrying a payload of 40 kg, whereas the GSLV with its advance guidance control systems with 350 ton vehicle capable of carrying nearly two tons of payload. This is the type of technological growth which has taken place in the last twenty years. During the last twenty years ISRO has built the PSLV and GSLV. DRDO has built a larger version of AGNI and its variants, Prithivi and its variants, Super sonic cruise missile - BRAHMOS and LCA and the nation has grown technologically and also these systems have been operationalised. I am witnessing the technological upgradation of the generation. Similarly, when we look back at the systems being delivered now in the year 2020, they look comparatively small, since the rate of change of development is exponential.


Three technological events

I would like to share with you certain experiences from the events I have participated during the last decade. The first event is about a missile system. On 11th April 1999, the AGNI-II took off with computer command from the beautiful island range. 600 parameters from the missile were monitored in real time through a series of radars, telemetry stations and ship borne instrumentations networked with our own communication satellites. The AGNI with its payload reached with close accuracy on the target 2000 kms away. The partnership of DRDO labs with academic institutions and industries brought this important success and it is another triumph for self reliance, in spite of the technology denials.

Another event is about India's rocket technology. The successful launch of the GSLV-D2/GSAT-2 on May 8, 2003 takes India closer towards self-reliance in the satellite launch business. Typically, the telecommunications satellites - INSATs - are heavy, going upwards of 2 tonnes each. While India can launch the remote sensing satellites, using the well-proven `Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle', or PSLV rockets, the country still has to depend upon overseas launchers such as Arianspace in French Guyana for putting telecommunications satellites into space. These launchers charge about Rs 15 lakh per kg (of satellite), and therefore the bill for launching a telecommunications satellite could come anywhere between Rs 300 and Rs 400 crore. The GSLV programme is meant to bring in self-reliance in this area too. Studying the telemetry data thrown up by the first launch, ISRO scientists made a few "fine tunings", in the cryogenic stage. These fine tunings and changes made in the rocket - such as more fuel, fired at higher pressure - enabled the GSLV-D2 to carry a heavier satellite. Since this launch was perfect, India has learnt the technology for launching more than 2-tonne class of communication satellites into geo-synchronous orbit.

On 4th Jan 2001 the first flight of the technology demonstrator TD1 of Light Combat Aircraft (now TEJAS) took place. This was designed by ADA and HAL - DRDO Programme. Subsequently, TD2 was launched on 6th June 2002 and PV1 on November 2003. So far we have had 129 sorties cumulatively from the three aircrafts and we have reached 1.1 mach speed. Very soon we will be reaching 1.4 mach. This demonstrator has used the following technologies: the carbon fiber wing, fly by wire, high performance composites, virtual reality, CAD/CAM/CAE and simulation.

These three events demonstrate that India has the capability to achieve a higher level of technological goals in spite of technology denials and control regimes. It means, if we have mission oriented programmes with leadership and political commitment, we will achieve these goals, however difficult they are. India definitely has multiple high technologies that may lead to convergence of technologies and hence new systems.


Convergence of Technologies

The system of space, missile and aircraft have many common technologies in materials, structure, control and guidance systems, instrumentation, ICT, simulation, manufacturing. The differences between the technologies are diminishing and enabling the integration seamlessly. Now it is a right time that space, defence research, aircraft, missiles organisations should work together and synergise each other to go for big missions.


Flapping wing technology

Prof Satish Dhawan, in his book "Bird's flight" has given monogram for components of flapping wing design. This is another area for future technology with the large power to weight ratio engines, adaptive flight control systems, very low radar and infrared cross section structure. The newer type of flight vehicle is in the horizon. The technology area macro to micro vehicles will emerge and the MEMS/NANO high performance materials will influence all the flight vehicles. Flexibility in engineering and integration of MEMS with advanced software are the technological challenges to be addressed. These above missions can provide excellent challenges for the aerospace community in the next two decades.


Future Technologies and systems

The technologies derived from the space, missile and aircraft have tremendous potential for developing new systems. With proper technical effort, it should lead to the development of following systems:

1. Long range Unmanned Aerial vehicle with the varied payloads with the mission of reconnaissance and delivery of payloads.

2. Miniature Unmanned Air Vehicle with miniature sensors.

3. Development and production of 150-200 Seater Passenger Jet with two or three nation Partnership (Short term goal)

4. Long range missile systems

5. Single Stage to Orbit Hypersonic Reusable Vehicle

6. Solar powered satellite for bringing electrical power through microwave communication.

7. Constellation of satellites for digital contour mapping and aerial imagery for the mission of Interlinking of rivers.



In the last two decades major breakthrough have taken place in the country in the areas of space technology, missile technology and aircraft technologies and has provided a sound platform for launching major missions in the aerospace areas. Our experience of the past shows that we were more preoccupied in developing systems than technologies. If we as a nation aspire to be the first in every mission and move away from the fifth country syndrome, large scale investment and focus is required in technology development and technology incubation area. The space, defence research and development, CSIR, HAL, ADA should have intense partnership and collectively invest in technologies of the future complementing each others strengths.

With the maturity obtained through our present projects, the R&D and production units must produce competitive products. The components of competitive products will include quality, cost effective and timely delivery. This aspect has to be kept in mind in all our future systems. Aerospace systems have many users mainly from the armed forces. Competitiveness along with just-in-time supply will certainly attract many new international users apart from Indian users. Particularly, Indian aerospace users have to appreciate self-reliance which will enable them to stand steadfast during critical times, with the flexibility to make configuration changes.

I wish the aerospace community many successes in their missions.

My best wishes to all of you.




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