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Udupi Ramachandra Rao : Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao 89th Birthday : India's Pioneer Space Scientist

Published on Mar 29, 2021

Udupi Ramachandra Rao : Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao 89th Birthday : India's Pioneer Space Scientist


Udupi Ramachandra Rao : Professor Udupi Ramachandra Rao is a world renowned space scientist andhas been one of the pioneers in the establishment of satellite technology in India.

He spearheaded the IT revolution in India during the 1980s and 1990s by using satellites for communication, broadcasting and remote sensing.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao

Born in 1932 in the small village of Adamaru in the state of Karnataka, U.R. Rao studied in Mysore and then graduated from Madras University in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science Degree and completed his Masters Degree from Banaras Hindu University by 1953. He studied further and acquired a PhD from Gujarat University in 1960, after which he left India to conduct advanced research on spacecrafts in the United States of America.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao

His Illustrious Career

Professor Rao went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, as a Post Doctorate Fellow in 1961. He taught at the University of Texas in Dallas before coming back to India in 1966 and joining the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, where he worked under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, the founder of the Indian Space Program. He became the Chairman of Space Commission, in the Department of Space under the Government of India and also the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in 1984.

Born 10 March 1932

Adamaru, South Canara, Madras Presidency, British India

(present-day Udupi district, Karnataka, India)

Died 24 July 2017 (aged 85)

Bengaluru, India


• Ph.D. – Gujarat University, 1960

• M.Sc. – Banaras Hindu University, 1954

• B.Sc. – Madras University, 1952

After working as a Faculty Member at MIT and Assistant Professor at University of Texas at Dallas where he carried out investigations as a prime experimenter on a number of Pioneer and Explorer spacecraft, Rao returned to India in 1966 as a professor at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.

As Chairman of ISRO

After taking charge as Chairman, Space Commission and Secretary, Department of Space in 1985, Rao accelerated the development of rocket technology resulting in the successful launch of ASLV rocket in 1992. He was also responsible for the development of the operational PSLV launch vehicle, which successfully launched an 850 kg. satellite into a polar orbit in 1995. Rao initiated the development of the geostationary launch vehicle GSLV and the development of cryogenic technology in 1991. He was responsible for successful launch of INSAT satellites during his stint at ISRO.

The launch of INSAT satellites gave a thrust to communications in India, during the 1980s and 1990s. The successful launch of INSAT provided telecommunication links to remote corners of India. During these decades fixed telephone (called as landline) expanded throughout country due to availability of satellite links at different places in the ground. People could talk easily from anywhere by use of STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialing) instead of waiting for hours to get the connection. This development played a key role in future for India to develop as an Information Technology hub. He was the first Chairman of Antrix Corporation. He received the Padma Bhushan in 1976.

Awards and Recognition

Professor Rao has received very high honors in India and abroad for his contribution to Space Science and Technology. He has received a D.Sc (Hons. Causa) from more than 20 Universities across India and has been named a Fellow by various academies worldwide including the International Academy of Astronautics and the World Academy of Arts & Sciences, USA.

Professor Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards, in the year 1976 by the Government of India, for his contribution to space technology and the benefits that it brought to the Indian society. Dr. Rao has been awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru award, Aryabhata award, Meghnad Saha as well as the Von Karman Award from the International Academy of Astronautics in 2005.

In 2007, President A P J Abdul Kalam presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

National Awards

• 1975 Karnataka Rajyotsava Award
• 1975 Hari Om Vikram Sarabhai Award
• 1975 Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in the Space science & technology field
• 1976 Padma Bhushan
• 1980 National Design Award
• 1980 Vasvik Research Award in the Electronic Sciences & Technology field
• 1983 Karnataka Rajyotsava Award
• 1987 PC Mahalnobis Medal
• 1993 Om Prakash Bhasin Award in the Energy & Aerospace field
• 1993 Meghnad Saha Medal
• 1994 P.C. Chandra Puraskar Award
• 1994 Electronics Man of the Year Award by ELCINA
• 1995 Zaheer Hussain Memorial Award
• 1995 Aryabhata Award
• 1995 Jawaharhal Nehru Award
• 1996 SK Mitra Birth Centenary Gold Medal
• 1997 Yudhvir Foundation Award
• 1997 Rabindranath Tagore Award of Viswa Bharati University
• 1999 Gujar Mal Modi Award for Science & Technology
• 2001 Nadoja Award from Kannada University, Hampi
• 2001 Life Time Contribution Award in Engineering of INAE
• 2002 Sir M. Visvesvaraya Memorial Award
• 2003 Press Bureau of India Award
• 2004 Star of India Award from Vishwabharathy Foundation, Hyderabad
• 2004 Special Award 2004, Karnataka Media Academy
• 2005 Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi Outstanding Leadership Award
• 2007 Life Time Achievement Award of Indian Space Research Organisation
• 2007 Distinguished Scientist Gold Medal of the Karnataka Science & Technology Academy.
• 2007 Vishwamanava Award by Vishwamanava Samsthe
• 2007 A.V. Rama Rao Technology Award
• 2008 Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award for 2007-2008 from ISCA
• 2017 Padma Vibhushan

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