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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This space engineer has licence to kill

S Krishnamurthy is the only man who has the permission to kill ISRO rockets that go awry and can pose a danger to life and property on earth

CHENNAI: The name's Krishnamurthy. S Krishnamurthy. He is 59 and has a dull designation — General Manager Safety. However, he is the only man licensed to kill in midair; the rockets of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) without seeking anybody's permission.
    The aerospace engineer at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) has used his 'licence' once, in 2006 — destroying ISRO's Geosynchronous Space Launch Vehicle (GSLV F02) that was carrying the 2,168-kg Insat 4C communication satellite.
    As India prepares for the October 22 launch of its moon mission Chandrayaan, Krish
namurthy and his team members are also getting ready in their remote location away from the mission control room.
    They will monitor the flight path of the moon rocket, diligently plotting the Instantaneous Impact Point (IIP) — the point where the vehicle or its debris would fall.
    Laughing at the sobriquet 'James Bond', Krishnamurthy said, "I will push the destruct button only when the rocket veers away from its path endangering lives and property."
    Terming each rocket launch as unique, he said, "Prior to any launch, we will critically analyse all the systems and do a cause and consequence
    For each launch the boundaries are strict and crossing any of them will call for rocket destruction.
    "After the launch, four radars at SDSC will track the ascending rocket. We will get the rocket's performance through telemetry data. We will know the performance of the rocket exactly."
    Event at the rocket design stage it is ensured that the hardware will fall into deep sea, he said. Recalling the GSLV F02 flight, he said, "We saw the rocket failing and moving in a wayward manner. It had to be destroyed." On July 10, 2006, when the group saw the GSLV F02 going
awry, 45 seconds after the liftoff Krishnamurthy pressed the "destroy" button.
    Soon after that a huge ball of flame was seen in the sky, though the dark clouds obscured a lot.
    The vehicle at that time was 15 km over the sea and the debris would not have fallen on land even if the vehicle was not destroyed. Three huge pieces — probably the strapon motors — came down separately with a thick trail of smoke behind.
    Krishnamurthy said a day prior to the moon rocket launch, ISRO will inform the aviation authorities to avoid the skies over Sriharikota and the rocket's trajectory. IANS


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