Mr Raja VLN Sridhar, Scientist, Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems, Bangalore

"Space technology in the service of Human kind"

Mr Raja VLN Sridhar, Scientist,
Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems, Bangalore

 The ISS team member, Ms. Manasa Perikala, had an opportunity to interact with Mr Raja VLN Sridhar, Scientist from laboratory for elector-optics systems, Bangalore. In this interviews, he gives a detailed information about his contribution in Chandrayaan-1, Mangalyaan and in the upcoming Chandrayaan-2 mission. In addition, he also talks about the work culture in ISRO and the opportunities available to the students.

Please visit the rest of the section to read the detailed interview.

Q1. Could you please introduce yourself to our audience?
Hello to all…! First of all thank you very much for the warm wishes, indeed this spectacular success of MOM is attributed to all Indians, who had kept faith on us (ISRO Scientists/Engineers) and have been always with us during ups and downs. Genuinely, such an awesome support motivates us to dream and realize this kind of ambitious and challenging goals along with the prime focus on ‘Space technology in the service of Human kind’. Coming to myself, I am an engineer/scientist working in Laboratory for Electro-Optics Systems (LEOS) in Bangalore, one of the vital units of ISRO responsible for development of attitude and navigation sensors (crucial for Satellite navigation), telescopes for Remote-Sensing Satellites and elector-optical Scientific Instruments [like LLRI/Chandrayann-1, LAP/MOM, LIBS/Chandrayaan-2 (to be flown)]. I have joined ISRO in 2006 and since then been involved in development of planetary science instruments.   

Q2. Could you please briefly describe your research interests and your on-going projects?
My fascination has been always towards the Space science and Astronomy since my school days. After acquiring my master’s degree in Science as well as in Technology my research is focused towards the inter-disciplinary areas i.e., bio-medical optics, planetary science, laser spectroscopy, plasma physics and instrumentation. Currently, I am working in realization of a space-compatible miniaturized LIBS instrument for Chandrayaan-2 Rover, Laser Raman Spectroscope, miniaturized Laser Source development and Atmospheric LIDAR.

Q3. Please share your experience working  as a Team Member in development of first Indian space based laser altimeter(LLRI) flown in Chandrayaan-1.
An unforgettable, satisfactory and full-filled journey.  Though, this is my first project and I was a new entrant, I blessed to have the mentor(s), who gave the freedom to think, express and bestowed the faith. The goal was completed in an enthusiastic and friendly environment within the defined schedule and the result was the first ever developed Indian space based laser altimeter that was flown in Chandrayaan-1 and performed operations orbiting the moon. Undoubtedly, this experience was further motivated dream bigger. 

Q4. You worked as an overall Instrument-Engineer for the development realization of LAP payload on India’s Maiden Mission to Mars (MOM). Please share with us your experiences working on this payload.
After the successful journey as a team-member, I had got the responsibility as an Instrument Engineer in developing of LAP instrument for MOM. This was really an unbelievable task that is completed within 18 months of time frame. The conceptualization of LAP was entirely new and developing the working model itself was a challenge for us.  The united and ceaseless efforts of team members contributed in developing, qualifying and delivering the instrument to the spacecraft.  LAP is too the first Indian space-based FUV Lyman-alpha photometer that was flown to Mars to study the Red planet’s exosphere to asses water loss rate.

Q5. Currently you have been channeling the responsibilities as an Instrument Engineer for two of the instruments (LIBS), destined for Chandrayaan-2. Could you please speak a few words about this ?
Out of two instruments, the first one is the LAP, which was successfully reached/orbiting the Mars right now and sending the science data. The second one is the LIBS instrument, which is currently under development. LIBS will be housed to the bottom of the Rover and is primarily targeted to perform in-situ elemental analysis of lunar-surface in vicinity of the roving area on the moon. LIBS instrument zaps a highly focused laser beam towards the surface and owing to the enormous power density resulted at the surface, plasma is generated.  As this plasma cools down, will emit wavelengths that are the characteristic of the elements present at that instant. Novel methods and innovative techniques are adopted to develop the space-borne LIBS instrument meeting projected scientific goals.

Q6.  Many students interested in Space Physics including myself have a dream of working in ISRO. What are the steps that you advice them to follow( after pursuing  their undergraduate or graduate degree)  to get into ISRO?
Young and energetic engineers/scientists are always a boon to any organization and ISRO is one of the right platforms to realize the dreams that were dreamt.  Getting into ISRO is purely merit and talent based.  Keep an eagle eye on notifications (employment news, ISRO website) and respond in right time. B.Tech/BE students have to go through a written test based on the short-listing and then to appear for an interview, while M.Tech/ME students are called directly for an interview.  Please browse the ISRO website to get more details and also peep in to the IIST website to aid your younger generation in shaping their career.

Q7. You have been nominated for International Astronautical Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa. Please share you experience.
An ever-lasting memory of my life.  We had sent a paper on LIBS to this conference and fortunately it was accepted. I was thrilled to know that my name was being nominated to attend and the Principal Investigator of LIBS project further conveyed me to present the paper to the global scientific community. I was speechless at that time (what else budding scientists like me that stage would anticipate from the management and the team-leader). This was my first official foreign trip, met many eminent personalities, glanced at the various space projects, and got a chance to meet the first Korean astronaut. After my talk, I had been interviewed by a South-African journalist (initially I wasn’t aware of that, I thought she was one of the audiences) and they kept that conversation in their archive. Many such memories to list on, I will always be indebted to my management and the team leader for bestowing this valuable journey to get understand the unknown reaches of space research.

Q8.  Please share your experience in developing Space-based Nd:YAG laser.
Laser development itself a challenge. This was the project which was completed in collaboration with LASTEC/DRDO. A 30-mJ space-compatible Nd:YAG laser was developed,  demonstrated and qualified for space-conditions successfully.  This task was further motivated us to develop a still higher energy laser and is currently under development at LEOS premises.

Q9. You have published 30+ publications in national/international journals. Please share experience here.
Another vital aspects of our profession/job, is to make our research work get published and let the scientific/engineering community round the globe aware about our work. A publication indeed grants a sense of satisfaction and provides a platform to get/receive co-operative/complimentary handshakes round the globe that will sharpen our knowledge and career.  Paper writing is one of the lessons that I had learnt during my M.Tech days at IIT. My advice to all of the students like you is, instead of thinking about Impact Factor of the journal and its level (national/international); look at the journals of your work-related, keep on penning down of your work and submit to the conferences/journals when bell strikes.  The time makes you master on one day and never let down the spark within you. Good luck.

Q10.  There are a lot of student satellites being launched and worked out in India. There are students working on the high-altitude balloons based experiments as well. Could you please recommend some interested scientific payloads related to astronomy/astrophysics for the students to experiment?
As a student, you may not be fully exposed to the intricacies and challenges to be faced during the experimentation or development of payloads. Few of the  projects (in my opinion) that can be experimented or thought of are; ‘Ozone quantification and layer depletion analysis of earth atmosphere’, ‘early-sensing of earth quake and tsunami’, ‘green-house gases monitoring’, ‘space-based solar power plants’ and the astronomy/astronomical point of view experimentation may be focused towards solar physics i.e., coronal mass ejections, solar winds etc.

Q11.  It is indeed an honour that you have been awarded “Chadrayaan-1 Team Award” in Scientific Instrument Development Category (2012) , ISRO Team Excellence Award for the year 2011. What would be your advice for the budding student engineers/scientists interested in space physics to achieve success in their lives.
Thank you very much. Remember, our life simply can’t run on seeking or listening to advices, indeed on implementation of those. It is easy to give advices, but first of all listen to your inner voice, try to understand that, if spark is there, fire can be caught anywhere. All the best…J!


Ms Manasa Perikala
Student, II-BHU


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