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Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair

2011/Ph.D/ME Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), India

Dr. S Unnikrishnan Nair received his B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering from Mar Athanasius College of Engineering affiliated with Kerala University, ME in Aerospace Engineering from Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering under Prof P Chandramouli, from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

Dr. Nair is a highly esteemed Indian aerospace engineer who currently holds the prestigious position of Director at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). He also serves as the Director of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST), Thiruvananthapuram since September 2022.

Dr. Nair’s remarkable achievements include his pivotal role in leading several successful space missions in India. He has gained widespread recognition for his groundbreaking contributions to launch vehicle design and his involvement in the Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE), the first re-entry experiment of an orbiting space capsule, which paved the way for the Gaganyaan Mission. Serving as the Project Director of the Human Space Flight Mission and subsequently becoming the first director of the Space Flight Centre, Dr Nair played a crucial role in the entire project development.

As the Founding Director of the Human Space Flight Centre (HSFC), the youngest Centre in the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Nair has demonstrated exceptional leadership by spearheading the Gaganyaan Project. Under his guidance, the Astronaut Training Centre was established in Bangalore within the HSFC.

He has significantly contributed to defining the Crew Escape System, a vital system in manned missions for crew rescue under any contingency and was the Mission Director for the first Crew Escape System – Pad abort test held in July 2018. He served as the Programme Director of the Advanced Space Transportation Program (ASTP), a unified entity created for integrating the various technology development activities of Human space flight, Reusable launch vehicles, Air-breathing propulsion and Advanced test vehicles.

He received the ISRO Team Excellence Award for his contributions to SRE, the ISRO Excellence Award as Team Leader for Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE) in 2014, the ISRO Individual Merit Award for the year 2014 for his contributions towards technology development for manned space mission, the ISRO Excellence Award as a Team Leader for Crew Escape System Pad Abort Test in 2018, Atmanirbharata Award from Indian Society of Analytical Science in 2022 and National Systems Gold Medal from Systems Society of India in 2022.

Dr. Nair’s professional affiliations include membership in numerous esteemed professional bodies. He currently holds the esteemed position of national president of the Indian National Society for Aerospace and Related Mechanism (INSARM). He has authored several papers including 12 for international journals/conferences. He holds a patent and received two honorary doctorates for his contributions to the Indian space programme. He is the co-editor of a textbook on Finite element analysis published for undergraduate students. He has written a few short stories and published in leading Malayalam periodicals.
In recognition of his exceptional achievements and unwavering dedication the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and its esteemed alumni take great pride in presenting Dr. Unnikrishnan Nair with the Distinguished Alumni Award for the year 2024.

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