'Space probe' over: ISRO's tech cell finds home at UoP after 15 years

Published: 06 December, 2013 04:57 IST | Niranjan Medhekar |

The organisation's space technology cell, which was functioning out of two rooms in the varsity's Physics department since 1998, will finally be allocated a permanent area on campus

As Mangalyaan surges ahead in its endeavour to unravel the mysteries of Mars, back on Earth, the spacecraft’s architect -- the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) -- has managed to find a firm foothold in the University of Pune (UoP) campus. 15 years after it was established here, the space technology cell (STC) of ISRO is set to get a permanent shelter on the varsity’s grounds. 

Ready to blast off: By presenting their projects, the departments on the university campus and all affiliated colleges can seek research grants of up to Rs 2 crore annually from ISRO through this particular cell. File Pic

The STC was set up way back in 1998 following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ISRO and UoP. By presenting their projects, the departments on the university campus and all affiliated colleges can seek research grants ofup to Rs 2 crore annually from ISRO through this particular cell.

Space Jam: ISRO’s space technology cell is currently situated at the rear side of UoP’s Physics department. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

Unfortunately, the STC so far had to make do with a couple of rooms on the rear side of UoP’s Physics department owing to bureaucratic hurdles.

When MiD DAY enquired in the varsity’s estate department after learning that a tender of Rs 3.90 crore had recently been floated to construct a ground-plus-one-storey building for Atmospheric Science department, with separate permanent space for ISRO’s space tech cell, executive engineer R V Patil said, “Yes, the proposed building will allocate a fixed area for the cell. Currently, both these departments are occupying Physics department’s space.”

Interestingly, in a development in 2005, ISRO had provided UoP Rs 25 lakh in funds to construct a building for the STC.
According to the agreement made at the time, it was expected that the varsity would also contribute a similar sum for the building. However, the proposal failed to reach fruition.

“The STC plays the role of mediator between ISRO and UoP. As the university has infrastructure, like various laboratories, to conduct extensive research, ISRO had purposely selected the university for the cell. Which is why, we really don’t have any particular infrastructural need, as our main assignment is to screen the research proposals coming from either varsity departments or affiliated colleges,” said MC Uttam, visiting scientist of ISRO and director of ISRO-UoP STC.

When asked about the 15-year delay in allocation of permanent space, he said, “I don’t want to comment on it, but this would have happened due to bureaucratic hurdles. We are getting all the required support from the academic side, since the time of former vice-chancellor Ashok Kolaskar.”

Uttam, however, confirmed that ISRO had provided Rs 25 lakh for construction of the building in 2005.  

Significance of ISRO’s space technology cell
University of Pune (UoP) is the only state university in the country that ISRO has selected to establish the STC. Besides UoP, ISRO had started similar cells in IITs’ and IISC Bangalore.

“Many private or deemed universities in Pune approach us with research proposals. But according to the MoU, we can entertain only UoP’s research proposals, as it had been chosen by ISRO only because of its reputation in research,” said MC Uttam.  

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