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Father of Indian Satellite Programme – Professor UR Rao passes away

Udupi Ramachandra Rao (Professor UR Rao) – a renowned space scientist and ex-chairman of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) passed away on 24-July-2017 at his residence in Bengaluru. Under his leadership between 1984 to 1994, ISRO underwent tremendous technological transformation from being an experimental organisation to a steadfast operational space power. He was also designated as the Chairman of Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and Nehru Planetarium at Bengaluru and Chancellor of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) at Thiruvananthapuram. Professor Rao was also the first Indian to be given the “Hall of fame” award by the International Astronautical Federation (IAF). Indian Government awarded him Padma Bhushan in 1976 and Padma Vibhushan in 2017.


ARYABHATA – India’s very first satellite was designed and built by Professor Rao and his team from scratch within the limitations of infrastructure, budget, time and the relatively new team of scientists and engineers. After successfully launching ARYABHATA, he and his team went on to design and develop various experimental satellites like BHASKARA 1&2, ROHINI and APPLE – the experimental communications satellite which was the base for ISRO’s maiden INSAT missions (Indian National Satellite). These satellites were forerunners of various space based applications like National Agricultural Drought Assessment and Monitoring Systems (NADAMS), Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water mission, Wastelands mapping, Flood mapping, Forest cover mapping, and Integrated Mission for Sustainable Development (IMSD). The experimental success of INSAT series and GSAT series brought about a communication revolution in India and hence enabled Satellite News Gathering (SNG), Direct-to-Home (DTH), satellite based internet services, e-Governance and telemedicine.

He was also well known for his unstinted support and encouraging the team that went on to design and develop various launch vehicles including ASLV, PSLV and GSLV under the Indian Launch Vehicle programme.


ANTRIX Corporation – a wholly owned company under Government of India and administered by Department of Space, was setup by Prof. Rao. He envisioned ANTRIX Corporation as a marketing arm of ISRO thereby promoting commercial exploitation of space products and services and also help technology transfer to other industries.

Given his immense contributions, he was affectionately called as “Father of Indian Satellite Programme” and “Satellite man of India”.

A detailed write up of his contributions, awards and honours are mentioned here ::

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