Indian Institute of Space Science & Tech to take off on Sept 14

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram, Aug 30 | Updated: Aug 31 2007, 05:44am hrs
Legal knot or not, it's a featherlight softlaunch for country's first space institute. The Rs 270-crore Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) will quietly get going from September 14, according to ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair.

"IIST is planned to emerge as the world's biggest space institute," Nair told FE. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is to lay the foundation stone for the institute, during the second phase.

"However, in the first phase, the institute will start functioning in a temporary campus in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram from September 14", he said.

Land facility that ISRO had readied on the picturesque Ponmudy hill station for the IIST campus is apparantly tripped by Kerala government's plantation land caveat. "While we cannot give a waiver on the land and set a wrong precedent, the state government is concerned that the IIST stays in Kerala," state forest minister Binoy Vishwam said, after discussions with ISRO Chief, here.

The legal issue over land was minor and if found, too vexing, alternative land will be identified without wasting time, Nair said. The main criteria was that it should be near VSSC and Liquid Propulsion Centre, so that interaction with the scientists could be maintained.

Meanwhile, from faculty to syllabus, from admissions to specialisations all detailings have been lined up. The Union Cabinet had cleared Rs 270 crore initial investment and Rs 40 crore recurring annual investment for the Institute. IIST expects to draw upon the beau monde of space science academics from APJ Abdul Kalaam to BN Sathish, VSSC Director and IIST Director nominee.

All candidates in the extended list of IIT JEE-2007 (Joint Entrance Examinations of IITs) are eligible to be considered to be IISST's first batch . But then, in the coming years, getting a JEE ranking will be mandatory. The five-year integrated Master's programme in Applied Sciences will lead to an MSc degree on space-related subjects like avionics and aerospace engineering. Specialisations like RF (radio frequency) and microwave, embedded systems and communication systems (in avionics) and thermal sciences, machine design, aeronautics, propulsion and manufacturing ( in aerospace engineering) are also in pipeline.

It was when IT industry started usurping the cream of young scientific brains, that ISRO was forced to speed up setting up of a state-of-the-art space institute. IIST has dangled subsidies in the form of assitantships and scholarship from ISRO. There is a catch too - the scholar on subsidy may have to sign up to work for ISRO for five years. And not a bad deal, after all.