Satish Dhawan

23 Sep 2019
3 Jan 2002
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Satish Dhawan (25 September 1920 – 3 January 2002) was an Indian aerospace engineer, widely regarded as the father of experimental fluid dynamics research in India. Born in Srinagar, Dhawan was educated in India and further on in the United States. Dhawan was one of the most eminent researchers in the field of turbulence and boundary layers, leading the successful and ingenious development of the Indian space programme. He succeeded M G K MENON, as chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1972.

Dhawan was a graduate of the University of the Punjab in Lahore, British India (now Pakistan), where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and Bachelor of Science in physics, followed by a Master of Arts in mathematics from the same institution. In 1943, he moved to the United States to further his education. He attended the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and completed a Bachelor of Engineering in mechanical engineering. In 1947, he completed a Master of Science in aerospace engineering and an Aeronautical Engineering Degree from the California Institute of Technology followed by a double PhD. in mathematics and aerospace engineering under the supervision of his advisor Dr. Hans W. Liepmann in 1951.

Dr. Dhawan took over as Chairman of Space Commission and Chairman, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)and Secretary to the Government of India at the Department of Space. In the year of 1975, when APJ Abdul Kalam was the director of a SLV mission, the mission failed to launch the satellite in the orbit. Instead it was put into Bay of Bengal. The team of Abdul Kalam knew that there is a leakage in the fuel of the system. Hoping that the leakage is negligible as they thought they have enough fuel in the system. This misinterpretation lead to the failure. At this moment, Abdul Kalam was afraid to attend the press conference. But Satish Dhawan being the chairman at the time, called Abdul Kalam and conveyed to press “We failed! But I have a very good trust in my team that next time we will be succeeding for sure”. This surprised Abdul Kalam as the blame of the failure was taken by the chairman of ISRO. The next mission was prepared and launched successfully on 1980. At this moment of success, Satish Dhawan told Abdul Kalam to attend the press meet without his presence. When the team failed, he took the blame. But when the team succeeded, he redirected the success to his team.

Dr. Dhawan joined as faculty at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore in 1951 and became its Director in 1962. Although he was the head of the Indian space programme, he devoted substantial efforts towards boundary layer research. His most important contributions are presented in the seminal book Boundary Layer Theory by Hermann Schlichting. He set up the country’s first supersonic wind tunnel at IISc. He also pioneered research on relaminarization of separated boundary layer flows, three-dimensional boundary layers and trisonic flows

Dhawan carried out pioneering experiments in rural education, remote sensing and satellite communications. His efforts led to operational systems like INSAT, a telecommunications satellite; IRS, the Indian Remote Sensing satellite; and the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), that placed India in the league of space faring nations.

Following his death in 2002, the satellite launch centre at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, located about 100 km north of Chennai in South India, was renamed the Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Satish Chandra Dhawan Govt. College , Ludhiana is named after him.

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