Indian students get chance at rocket science

Indian students get chance at rocket science


Bhubaneswar:India’s secretive defence research agency has helped launch a university course in missile sciences and opened its labs to students, hoping to infuse young talent into a stagnating technology programme.

India’s missile programme has built short- and long-range missiles, including one that can hit targets deep inside China.

But its projects have been hit by time and cost overruns and the programme has also struggled to attract young engineers and scientists in the face of stiff competition from the more lucrative IT sector, experts say.

A first-of-its-kind masters course in applied physics and ballistics, launched this month at Fakir Mohan University in the eastern state of Orissa, hopes to change that, officials said.

“Students have high levels of creativity and we hope their association will help our research activities," W Selvamurthy, a top Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) official, told Reuters.

“We expect students from this course to join DRDO after completion of their studies," Selvamurthy, who is DRDO’s chief controller of research and development, said on telephone from New Delhi.

18 students selected after a tough screening programme for the two-year course would not only study missile engineering and new technologies, but also get to use DRDO labs in the area where the agency has missile testing facilities, officials said.

“We are trying to open our labs to more and more universities," Selvamurthy said.

Formed in 1958 with a network of 10 laboratories, DRDO today has 51 labs where 5,000 scientists and 25,000 other employees work, according to the agency’s Web site.

In April, DRDO successfully tested its most ambitious and longest-range ballistic missile, the Agni III, which is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead more than 3,000 km (2,000 miles).