Vikram Sarabhai

Dr. Vikram Sarabhai (1919-70) is known as father of Indian Space Programme.The precursor to the current ISRO, Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was set up in 1962 under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai to formulate the Indian Space Programme. Under Dr. Sarabhai, INCOSPAR took the decision to set up Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) at Thumba on the southern tip of India.

In 1963, under his guidance, India launched a small U.S.-built rocket from Thumba. This rocket did no more than shoot up to a height of about 200 km and release a cloud of sodium vapour which, set aglow by the light of a setting sun, could be seen from afar in the gathering dusk. This was the humble beginning of India’s space programme and Dr. Vikram Sarabhai is thus called father of Indian Space Programme.


In April 1968, Sarabhai set up a group to study the feasibility of developing a launch vehicle to carry a satellite weighing about 30 kg. Following its favourable report, design options for such a vehicle were studied in detail. The configuration of the launch vehicle was chosen after a thorough comparative study of three-stage and four-stage combinations. A four-stage configuration, closely modelled on America’s Scout rocket, was selected and came to be known as SLV-3. The SLV-3 was a small and relatively simple launch vehicle. The SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle) project was headed by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.


The launch of first rocket ended in a failure. The second was a success but third was again a failure. After a fourth successful launch, SLV-3 formed the basis of the next-generation ASLV (Augmented SLV). Dr. Sarabhai also directed the launching of India’s first satellite Aryabhatta in 1975.

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