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Udupi Ramachandra Rao (10 March 1932-24 July 2017) was a space scientist and chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.He was also the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and Nehru Planetarium at Bengaluru and chancellor of the Indian Institute for Space Science and Technology (IIST) at Thiruvananthapuram.

Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India in 1976, and Padma Vibhushan in 2017. He was inducted into the Satellite Hall of Fame, Washington, on 19 March 2013 at a ceremony organised by the Society of Satellite Professionals International. With this he became the first Indian to be inducted. He was also to be inducted in International Astronautics Federation (IAF) as on 15 May 2016. He was also the first Indian again to achieve such a feat. UR Rao died on 24 July 2017.

U. R. Rao was born at Adamaruin the state of Karnataka. 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.

Rao started his career as a cosmic ray scientist, and worked under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, which 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.

He was 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 Awardin the Space science & technology field
  • 1976 Padma Bhushan
  • 1980 National Design Award
  • 1980 Vasvik Research Awardin the Electronic Sciences & Technology field
  • 1983 Karnataka Rajyotsava Award
  • 1987 PC Mahalnobis Medal
  • 1993 Om Prakash Bhasin Awardin the Energy & Aerospace field
  • 1993 Meghnad Saha Medal
  • 1994 P.C. Chandra Puraskar Award
  • 1994 Electronics Man of the Year Awardby ELCINA
  • 1995 Zaheer Hussain Memorial Award
  • 1995 Aryabhata Award
  • 1995 Jawaharhal Nehru Award
  • 1996 SK Mitra Birth Centenary Gold Medal
  • 1997 Yudhvir Foundation Award

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.


D.Litt. (Hon. Causa) from Kannada University, Hampi
D.Sc (Hons. Causa) from the Universities of:

  • 1976 Mysore
  • 1976 Rahuri
  • 1981 Calcutta
  • 1984 Mangalore
  • 1992 University of Bologna (Italy)
  • 1992 Banaras
  • 1992 Udaipur
  • 1993 Tirupati (SV)
  • 1994 Hyderabad (JN)
  • 1994 Madras (Anna University)
  • 1994 Roorkee University
  • 1995 Punjabi University, Patiala
  • 1997 Shri Shahu Ji Maharaj University, Kanpur
  • 1999 Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad
  • 2001 D.Litt. (Hons. Causa) from Kannada University, Hampi
  • 2002 Ch. Charan Singh University, Meerut
  • 2005 UP Technical University, Lucknow
  • 2006 Viswesvaraiah Technical University, Belgaum
  • 2007 Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi