Udupi Ramachandra Rao

Udupi Ramachandra Rao, popularly known as U. R. Rao  is a space scientist and former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Presently he is the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and chancellor of Indian Institute for Space Science and Technology (IIST) at Thiruvananthapuram.

Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1976. He was inducted into the Satellite Hall of Fame, Washington on March 19, 2013 at a ceremony organised by the Society of Satellite Professionals International. With this he became the first Indian to be inducted. He is also to be inducted in International Astronautics Federation (IAF) as on 15th May 2016. He is also the first Indian again to achieve such a feat.

Early life

U. R. Rao was born at Adamaru in Karnataka State, India. His parents were Lakshminarayana Acharya and Krishnaveni Amma. He had his primary education at Adamaru. He completed his secondary education from Christian High School, Udupi. He completed his B.Sc in Government Arts and Science College, Anantpur, M.Sc from Banaras Hindu University and Ph.D at Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad under the guidance of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.


  • Ph.D. – Gujarat University, India, 1960
  • M.Sc. – Banaras Hindu University, India, 1954
  • B.Sc. – Madras University, India, 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 ofPioneer and Explorer spacecraft,[citation needed] Rao returned to India in 1966 as a professor at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.


Rao started his career as a cosmic ray scientist, under Dr.Vikram Sarabhai, which work he continued at MIT. In association with the JPL Group, he was the first to establish the continuous nature of the solar wind and its effect on geomagnetism using Mariner 2 observations. Rao’s experiments on a number of Pioneer and Explorer spacecraft led to a complete understanding of the solar cosmic ray phenomena and the electromagnetic state of the interplanetary space. Convinced of the imperative need to use space technology for rapid development, Rao undertook the responsibility for the establishment of satellite technology in India in 1972. Under his guidance, beginning with the first Indian satellite “Aryabhata” in 1975, over 18 satellites including Bhaskara, APPLE, Rohini, INSAT-1 and INSAT-2 series of multipurpose satellites and the IRS-1A and IRS-1B remote sensing satellites were designed, fabricated and launched for providing communication, remote sensing and meteorological services.

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 Padma bhushana in 1976.

Additional responsibilities

Chairman, Karnataka State Science and Technology, Chairman, Bangalore Association of Science Education-JNP, Chancellor, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow, Member, Central Board of Directors, Reserve Bank of India, Additional Director, Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Ltd., Bangalore, Chairman of the Governing Council of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.

Rao has published over 300 scientific and technical papers in various national and international journals covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astrophysics, space applications and satellite and rocket technology. He has authored many books, including “Physics of the Communication”, “Space and Agenda 21 – Caring for the Planet Earth” and “Space Technology for Sustainable Development”.

Rao is an elected Fellow of many academies such as Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Electronics and Telecommunications Engineers, International Academy of Astronautics and Third World Academy of Sciences. Rao was conferred Fellowship of the World Academy of Arts & Sciences. He was the General President of the Indian Science Congress Association for 1995-96. Rao was the Vice President of International Astronautical Federation (IAF) during 1984 to 1992 and continues to be the Chairman of the Committee for Liaison with Developing Countries (CLIODN) since 1986. Rao was elected as the Chairman of United Nations – Committee On Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) in June 1997 and also Chairman of UNISPACE-III Conference. He was elected as the Chairman of the 30th International Antarctic Treaty Consultative Committee Meeting at Delhi in April 2007.

He is the Co-Chairman of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa.was the first chairman of Prasar Bharati.


He is the recipient of many national and international awards, such as :

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
International Awards
  • 1973 Group Achievement Award by NASA, USA
  • 1975 Medal of Honour by Academy of Sciences, USSR
  • 1991 Yuri Gagarin Medal of USSR
  • 1992 Allan D Emil Award on International Cooperation
  • 1994 Frank J Malina Award (International Astronautical Federation)
  • 1996 Vikram Sarabhai Medal of COSPAR
  • 1997 Outstanding Book Award of the International Academy of Astronautics for the Book Space Technology for Sustainable Development
  • 2000 Eduard Dolezal Award of ISPRS
  • 2004 Space News magazine named him as one of the Top 10 International personalities who have made a substantial difference in civil, commerce and military space in the world since 1989
  • 2005 Theodore Von Karman Award which is the highest Award of the International Academy of Astronautics.
  • 2013 Inducted into Satellite Hall of Fame by Society of Satellite Professionals International’ 
  • 2016 Inducted into Hall of Fame by International Astronautical Federation.