He’s known as India’s ‘Missile Man’ but Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, chairman of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is not someone who will rest on his past laurels. Dr Satheesh played a pivotal role in the development of systems that guide a missile, travelling at hypersonic velocity, to a satellite 300 km away. Known for his vision and capability to develop indigenous technologies, Dr Satheesh, owes a lot to the resilience and unimaginable dedication of his parents.
“My father would sow the seeds in the field and water them daily. He would nurture them for months before we could see any visible results. We knew the importance of perseverance and hard work. Sometimes the missions would fail and missiles would crash but each failure was a learning experience. Once a path is decided, one has to walk on it. There is no looking back,” says Dr Satheesh, who was recently awarded with the Honorary Fellowship by the Royal Aeronautical Society. It is the world’s highest distinction for achievement in aerospace domain.
While studying in a small village in Andhra Pradesh, he never knew anything about England or that he had to prove his mettle in the field of aeronautics. It was a combination of perseverance, dedication and patience throughout his life that got him this far. “After completing my engineering, I was very clear that I wanted to work for the nation – at ISRO or DAE or DRDO. As an electronics engineer, when all my classmates were moving to the US, I wanted to be at the forefront of science and technology in India. In those days we were inspired by India’s progress in atomic energy and rockets. It was inspiring to read about the SLV launches. I was first selected to join DRDO and since then it has been my life,” says Dr Satheesh, who is the Secretary Defence R&D.
In fact, he is considered the architect of advanced missile technologies and smart guided weapons technologies in India.
It is a known fact that science and research is a hard subject. The difference of a single millimetre or gram can mar an endeavour. “Each success leads to more work as does each failure. The recent success of Mission Shakti gives me immense satisfaction as a leader. You can imagine the precision needed to hit a target with centimetre accuracy at 300 km altitude in space,” explains Dr Satheesh. He was born and bred in Mahimalur near Athmakur of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh.
Reminiscing his childhood days and early struggles in life, Dr Satheesh says that his parents were extremely hard working. In fact his father would be working in the fields by 4 am, while his mother would tend the cattle by sunrise. “Their work would continue even after sundown. We were naturally inspired to work hard like them. We would sleep in our teacher’s house regularly. We had no electricity in our house till I was in Class 7. We studied under lantern lights,” says Dr Satheesh.
He was also the first scientist from India to receive the Silver Medal from the Royal Aeronautical Society, London.
According to him, science and research teaches one to be humble and respect other’s opinions and views. He attributes his humility to his humble rural background. Not many know that Dr Satheesh considers former president Late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam as a source of inspiration. “Power has no place in science,” he says. The DRDO is working tirelessly for the nation. When the organisation is going through such exciting times, how on earth does he fit all this into his personal life? “My wife Padma is very supportive. My two children understand that long hours in office means I love them more. I owe them a lot for their unconditional support,” says the scientist, who feels blissful when his visits places of worship with his family.