Former Directors

Prof. E. V. Chitnis

In February 1981 Professor E.V. Chitnis assumed Directorship of the Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, which is primarily concerned with the applications of space science and technology to practical uses. These include telecommunica­tions, television broadcasting and reception via satellites, use of remote sensing techniques to survey natural and renewable earth resources and studies in space meteorology and satel1ite geodesy, search/rescue and navigation. He retired on July 31, 1985 and was appointed Advisor SAC from August 1, 1985.

Scientific Career
Professor Chitnis was educated as a Physicist with specialisation in Electronics and Communica­tions. After a brief teaching stint, he began his research career in 1953 at Physical Research Labora­tory, Ahmedabad. He built for the first time in the country a Cerenkov Counter and associated Electronics for Cosmic-ray work. From 1956 to 1958 he conducted a Cosmic-ray extensive Air Shower Experiment at Kodaikanal. In this experiment Cosmic-rays were used as deep space probes and their arrival directions were determined to get some insights into the anisotropy and the origin of Cosmic-rays. He was invited to join Professor Bruno Rossi's Cosmic-ray Group at Massa­chusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. At MIT (1958-61) he completed the Cosmic-ray Exten-sive Air Shower data analysis and published the results and later he joined a team under Profe­ssor Caldwell involved in designing and building a scintillation chamber. He moved with the team to Brookhaven National Laboratory to conduct λ° spin study experiment using the scintillation chamber.

After a three-year stay at MIT he returned to become member of the Physical Research Labora­tory Faculty. In 1961 he set up a Satellite Teleme­try Station -at the Physical Research Laboratory. He studied solar X-ray data telemetered from Solarad satellites during the International Years of the Quiet Sun (IQSY). He also collaborated in setting up a microwave radiometer for monitoring 10 cm solar emission from the Sun. From 1967 to 1970 he participated in X-ray Astronomy experi­ments conducted with rocket and balloon borne instruments.

Space Research
In 1962, when Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) was constituted he became its Member-Secretary. Since 1962 he has been very closely involved in the formulation and implementation of the Indian Space Programme and in particular the establishment of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station and the Space Science and Technology Centre (which are now part of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Trivan­drum) and the Experimental Satellite Communica­tion Earth Station which is now part of the Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad.

Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE)
One of the areas on which he spent a great deal of time was the evolution of the concept of Sate­llite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE). SITE was a leap frogging in the use of satellite technology of direct broadcasting for educational and developmental purposes and the success achie­ved is due to the end-to-end approach adopted. As Programme Manager, he directed the SITE experiment, which was conducted in 1975-76, after a five-year preparation, in 2,330 villages, dispersed over 20 districts in 6 states. Besides providing management leadership, he showed a rare commit­ment to the basic aims of the experiment in both the hardware -and software areas. SITE was the largest communication experiment ever undertaken anywhere in the world. SITE demonstrated that it is possible to reach remote areas of India with high quality television signals day after day. This has been one application of advanced technolo­gy, which has not penalised rural areas for their distance and isolation. Useful information and skills could be easily, quickly and cheapily diffused to people who need these most and who have little access to mass media. The satellite became “tea­cher in the sky” when it beamed educational progra­mmes to distant and far-flung primary school children in villages. SITE showed for the first time that distant television stations could be hooked up into a national forum. SITE also emphasised that the satellite based advanced software system required rapid widespread expansion of software facilities and trained manpower. SITE brought to the fore the need for development agencies to get involved in the production of instructional programmes. S1TE emphasized the crucial role of timely formative research, pre-testing of proto-types and quick and continuous feed-back on programme performance. Above all, SITE has shown that software design and hardware planning must be built around social goals.

Kheda Communication Project
Later, as Chairman of the Software Systems Group (1976 to 1981) of the Space Applications Centre, he devoted his time in acquiring insights into deve­lopmental communication through experimental television transmission to rural areas of the Kheda District. He exhibited great social commitment in respect of the Kheda Communication Project, which was built around India's first rural television transmitter at Pij, in the Kheda District. Some of the insights and innovations of this project have become important chapters of the world communication history.

Design of INSAT
The experience gained under his leadership in the SITE/Kheda context has been incorporated in the design of INSA T system. He is dedicated to the use of communication for education and development. He has demonstrated that space technology can radically change the educational and literacy profile of our country. He worked on UGC Panel on “Mass Communication” and facilitated the establishment of Educational Media Research Centres, which produce programmes for “the country­wide class room”.

APPLE Applications Programme
He was the Director of the APPLE Applications Programme of the Indian Space Research Organi­sation (1979-83). In this programme many advan­ced and innovative experiments with APPLE space­craft were conducted. These involved the use of digital techniques, data and business communi­cations, computer networking, facsimile transmi­ssion, teleconferencing, distance learning and emer­gency communications. The experience gained has great relevance for the INSAT system. The inauguration of the APPLE Applications Programme at the Delhi Earth Station on August 13, 1981 itself was a unique function in which communica­tion replaced travel. The function at which the Prime Minister dedicated the APPLE spacecraft to the nation was arranged in a teleconferencing mode between Delhi Earth Station and Vikram Ha11 at Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad. The Scientists associated with APPLE Programme had assembled at the Vikram Ha11. Via APPLE transmissions they “met” the Prime Minister and the dedication function at Delhi Earth Station was witnessed live by TV viewers in Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Pune and Ahmedabad.

Transition from experiments to operational system
The experimental work done at the Space Appli­cations Centre under his leadership has clearly demonstrated the special features of Sate11ite Communications, namely reliable access to remote and isolated communities, immediate and total coverage, the flexibility, immunity to natural disasters, possibility of quick implementation inde­pendent of distance. These features are being exploited in the implementation of an operational system - INSA T.

United Nations
Professor Chitnis has represented India at the Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee meetings of the U.N. Outer Space Committee from 1967 to 1972. He was Chairman of the UN Working Group on Navigational Sate11ite System. As a representative of India, he contributed immensely to the report of UN Working Group on the Direct Broadcast Sate11ites (1969-72) of Outer Space held in Vienna in 1968 and attended the Conference as a member of the Indian delegation. He also attended the UNISPACE-82 at Vienna as a delegate from India.

Memberships,Committees,Working Groups
He has been Member of a number of Scientific and Advisory Committees, Governing Councils, Research Advisory Committees, Working Groups, etc. (list enclosed).

In November 1983 he received the L.N. Gupta Memorial Award for Science.
On January 26, 1985 the President of India honoured him with the award of Padma Bhushan.
For his significant contributions in the field of interaction between Science and Society, Professor E.V. Chitnis was given on February 26, 1987, Hari Om Ashram Award instituted by University Grants Commission.

He has a number of publications/papers on Space Communications/Electronics including Media Utilization for Education and Development, Cosmic-ray Physics and X-ray Astronomy (List enclosed).

Positions Held

Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR)

1962 to 1969

1962 to 1969 Secretary
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

1969 to 1972

Programme Manager
Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE)

1969 to 1976

Planning & Projects Group Space Applications Centre ISRO

1976 to 1977

Technical Services Group Space Applications Centre ISRO

1978 to 1979

Software Systems Group Space Applications Centre ISRO

1976 to 1982

APPLE Applications Programme ISRO

1979 to 1983

Space Applications Centre ISRO

1981 to 1985 (July 31)

Advisor SAC

From August 1, 1985