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A launch pad for space scientists

The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IISST), a prestigious academic project of the Indian Space Research Organisation, is all set for take-off in Thiruvananthapruam, reports G. Mahadevan.


The curriculum at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology is modelled along the lines of what is being offered by the Indian Institutes of Technology and at other top-notch institutes conducting programmes in electronics and communication, mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering.



SET FOR TAKE OFF: The Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology will enable students to further help develop the country’s prowess in space technology, one that has led to the launch of rockets like the PSLV-C7.

The first week of September – that is the ‘launch window’ finalised by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to place into orbit the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IISST) – ISRO’s home-grown antidote to the gravitational pull of the IT-driven job market in the country today.

The temporary campus of the institute is all but ready on the premises of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. The syllabus has been put in place, the specialisations finalised and the faculty members lined up.

In short, every system is ‘go’ for September when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to lay the foundation stone for the institute, which will eventually come up amidst picturesque settings at Ponmudi, near Thiruvananthapuram.

The course

The IISST will offer a bachelor’s programme in technology. The counselling for admission is already over this year. In this four-year programme students will be able to specialise in avionics and aerospace engineering. “These specialisations are tailor-made to the requirements of ISRO and the syllabus will be formatted accordingly,” the director of the IISST and the present director of the VSSC B. N. Suresh said.

The five-year integrated Master’s programme in Applied Sciences will lead to an M.Sc. degree with special emphasis on space-related subjects.

While there will be 50 seats for the B.Tech. programme in Space Technology (Avionics), there will be 40 seats for the specialisation in aerospace engineering. For the integrated programme in applied science, the IISST will have only 30 seats.

Curriculum

The curriculum at IISST is modelled along the lines of what is being offered by the Indian Institutes of Technology and at other top-notch institutes conducting programmes in electronics and communication, mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. The syllabus for the first year will be common to all students and the second and the third year of the bachelor’s programme will have a curriculum that is similar to that of the engineering courses. The curriculum for the final year will have optional credits with a combination of specialisations.

Integrated programme

For the first three years of the integrated five-year master’s programme, the ISRO plans to give students a through footing in theoretical science. The last two years of this programme will offer specialisation in astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, materials science, remote sensing and GIS. The emphasis here will be on experimental studies.

In other words, at the IISST there will be the technology stream and the applied science stream. In the technology stream, students opting for avionics will put through their paces in such areas as RF and microwave, embedded systems and communication systems. For one opting to focus on aerospace engineering the areas of specialisation include thermal sciences, machine design, aeronautics, propulsion and manufacturing.

In the applied science stream, the students will be exposed to the latest in astronomy, astrophysics, atmospheric sciences, material science, remote sensing and GIS. According to ISRO sources, the new institute will have departments of Aerospace, Avionics and Applied Science.

Dr. Suresh said the education at the IISST would be subsidised. Though Dr. Suresh said it would not be correct to term education at the Institute as ‘free,’ he pointed out that everything from fee to boarding would be “taken care of” by ISRO.

“We are holding out the promise of absorbing all these students into ISRO provided they meet and maintain certain minimum standards. Such persons will have to work for the ISRO for a minimum period of five years,” he explained.

Admissions

As of now the IISST will do talent hunt based on the rank list of the Joint Entrance Examinations of the IITs. (All those placed in the extended list of the IIT JEE-2007 were eligible to apply this year.) This is for the first phase. In the second phase, only those who get a JEE rank will be able to apply (after the completion of counselling for IIT seats, provided the students do not opt for a seat). Final admission to the IISST will be on the basis of a combined merit list.

Emphasis

Even though students at the IISST will be able to utilise top-notch research facilities of the ISRO including those at the VSSC the IISST will eventually set up full-fledged research centres of its own. According to information posted on the website www.IISST.ac.in, strong emphasis would be placed on publishing the fruits of research carried out at the Institute in journals of national and international repute. Scientists and engineers from ISRO and other frontline organisations engaged in research and development will be invited to participate in research programmes as visiting scientists, visiting professors and adjunct faculty members, the website notes.

Campus

The proposed campus of the IISST will have an academic area, research laboratories, a library and information area, computer centre, an administrative block, a convocation centre, a residential centre for staff, hostel for students and studio-type apartments for research fellows.

The academic area will have lecture halls, laboratory space, computing facility, faculty offices, meeting rooms, seminar halls, counselling halls. All the departments will have separate state-of-the-art digital connectivity to facilitate online learning with e-learning modules. The Institute’s computing facility is expected to be armed with the latest software, including AutoCad, NX, Nastran, Linmic, FPGA Tool and Matlab. The library is expected to have over one lakh books with facilities for both digital and conventional access.

All those who sign for the degree and master’s programmes will have access to ISRO’s libraries and laboratories.

Other facilities

The proposed campus will also sport a guest house for visiting scientists, primary health centre, health club and will also have other student amenity centres. The Kendriya Vidyalaya, Pattom, is expected to facilitate the education of the children of faculty members and support staff of the institute.

In order to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the institute power will be drawn from both the local grid and from internal sources.

The institute is expected to have its own water treatment plant, electrical substation and a rain water harvesting facility.

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