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Biography of K. Sivan: The Farmer’s Son Who Became India’s Space Chief

Kailasavadivoo Sivan, popularly known as K. Sivan, is an Indian space scientist who has made remarkable contributions to the country’s space program. He served as the Secretary of the Department of Space and chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Space Commission from January 2018 to January 2023. He has also been the Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center and the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.

Sivan was born on 14 April 1957 in Mela Sarakkalvilai, a small village in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. He was the eldest of six children of Kailasavadivoonadar, a paddy and mango farmer, and Chellam, a homemaker. His family was very poor and he had to help his father in the fields and sell mangoes in the market. Despite the hardships, he was very brilliant at studies and had a keen interest in science and mathematics. He completed his schooling from a Tamil medium government school in his village and then pursued his B.Sc. degree in mathematics from South Travancore Hindu College, Nagercoil.

Sivan wanted to become an engineer but could not afford the fees for engineering college. He got a scholarship to study aerospace engineering at Madras Institute of Technology (MIT), Chennai, where he graduated with a gold medal in 1980. He then joined ISRO as a scientist/engineer at Thiruvananthapuram and worked on the development of launch vehicles. He obtained his M.E. degree in aerospace engineering from IISc Bangalore in 1982 and his Ph.D. degree in aerospace engineering from IIT Bombay in 2006.

Sivan has been instrumental in designing and developing various rockets and satellites for ISRO. He is known as the “Rocket Man” of India for his expertise in rocket propulsion and launch vehicle technology. He has played a key role in many successful missions such as PSLV, GSLV, Chandrayaan-1, Chandrayaan-2, Mangalyaan, Gaganyaan, and Aditya-L1. He has also led the development of India’s first reusable launch vehicle (RLV) and scramjet engine.

Sivan has received many awards and honors for his achievements in the field of space science. He is a recipient of the Padma Shri (2014), Dr Vikram Sarabhai Research Award (1999), ISRO Merit Award (2007), Dr Biren Roy Space Science Award (2011), Distinguished Alumnus Award from MIT Chennai (2013) and IISc Bangalore (2018), among others. He is also a Fellow of various prestigious institutions such as Indian National Academy of Engineering, Aeronautical Society of India, Systems Society of India, etc.

Sivan is married to Malathi Sivan, a homemaker, and has two sons, Siddharth Sivan and Sushanth Sivan. He is fluent in Tamil, English, Malayalam, Hindi, and Kannada languages. He is known for his humble and down-to-earth personality and his passion for space exploration.

Sivan is an inspiration for millions of Indians who aspire to achieve their dreams despite the odds. He has shown that nothing is impossible with hard work, dedication, and perseverance. He has also made India proud by leading its space program to new heights of glory. He is truly a farmer’s son who became India’s space chief.

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