BANGALORE: Room No. 316 at Antariksh Bhavan is once again abuzz. A.S. Kiran Kumar has just transited smoothly into a new orbit there and will now steer the Physical Research Laboratory, called the cradle of the country's space sciences, planetary and other research in physics.

The late UR Rao, former Space Secretary, operated the hallowed room as well as the PRL chair for several years until his demise last July.

Until January 15, Mr. Kiran Kumar headed the Space establishment for the last three years as Secretary, Department of Space, Chairman, Space Commission and Indian Space Research Organisation. K. Sivan, who headed ISRO's rocket development unit, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, is the new DoS Secretary.

Where does the space program stand now and what is the way forward? "Everything is streamlined, the centres are focussed on moving ahead," Mr. Kiran Kumar said.

The Department of Space is banking on a good increase in budgetary allocation next month, according to him. As ISRO moves forward, "One of the things that will hold us back could be the resources that will be available. We do expect significantly more [in the February budget] than last time's," he told The Hindu.

In Budget 2017-18, the DoS was earmarked its highest ever, 9092 crore. "Though there has been a significant increase [in budgetary outlays] in the last few years, we still need more [money] if we have to put more spacecraft in orbit and increase the total number of launches. We need appropriate next generation launchers, the development of the semi-cryogenic launcher and others. For all of them, we need additional resources."

ISRO would try to make sure that "people who matter will understand this." And it would work with available resources by taking up projects on the basis of their urgency and priority.

In January 2015, when he took charge, the main task was to overcome the problems in launch vehicles, get the cryogenic-powered GSLV-Mark II regularised and narrow the gap in spacecraft required for communication, remote sensing and navigation - jobs now done.

To push up the launch frequency, Indian industry was roped in to get into making the launchers. Last year, ISRO began outsourcing of spacecraft assembly to industry.

Mr. Kiran Kumar's tenure can count 14 PSLV low-Earth launches including the record-making launch of 104 satellites on a single flight; three GSLV Mark-IIs and one full-fledged first test flight of heavy launcher GSLV Mark III; besides the laying the foundation of future projects such as a reusable launch vehicle and a Scramjet test.

Mark III will lead to India's near self-sufficiency in launchers. A Space Law draft has moved ahead, as also activities to let industry make entire spacecraft and shortly, launchers.

Mr. Kiran Kumar said the second vehicle assembly building at Sriharikota launch centre would help to increase launches and should be ready in a couple of months. "We made sure that all approved projects were taken up and pushed."

As for his 46-year tenure at ISRO, he said, "It has been quite an eventful period right from when i joined the Space Applications Centre at Ahmadabad in 1975." His roles that began with the Bhaskara has run up to recent remote sensing, microwave satellites, communication and navigation spacecraft; and in visualising and developing specialised electro-optic cameras on some 50-plus satellites.

Also to his credit is in realising the make-or-mar manoeuvre three years back that finally put the Mars orbiter into its now glorious orbit around Mars - India's historic victory at first shot.