UR Rao was associated with the launch of India’s first satellite Aryabhatta.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao eminent space scientist and former ISRO chairman dies at 85PTI / File photo
news Demise Monday, July 24, 2017 - 10:45

Renowned Indian space scientist Udupi Ramachandra Rao, a man known to have driven India’s space programme, passed away in Bengaluru on Monday, said a space agency official. He was 85.

A man known to have headed many of India’s successful space missions, UR Rao was the Chairman of ISRO for a decade from 1984 to 1994. 

"Rao was in a private hospital till recently for treatment as he had a heart ailment and was recovering at home. Our (ISRO) doctors were attending to him," said the official.

ISRO Chairman A.S. Krishna Kumar, senior space scientists and many officials of the space agency rushed to Rao's house to mourn his death and console his bereaved family.

"Saddened by the demise of renowned scientist, Professor U.R. Rao. His remarkable contribution to India's space programme will never be forgotten," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Satish Dhawan, UR Rao and K Kasturirangan at the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bengaluru. Courtesy: Rediff.com

UR Rao was associated with the launch of India’s first satellite Aryabhatta. According to ISRO, "Convinced of the imperative need to use space technology for rapid development, Prof 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 were designed and launched for providing communication, remote sensing and meteorological services."

During his tenure in ISRO, many successful PSLV missions were launched, but more importantly it was UR Rao and his colleagues who drove ISRO to initiate the GSLV vehicle. "After taking charge as Chairman, Space Commission and Secretary, Department of Space in 1984, Prof. Rao accelerated the development of rocket technology, resulting in the successful launch of ASLV rocket and the operational PSLV launch vehicle, which can launch 2.0 ton class of satellites into polar orbit. Prof Rao initiated the development of the geostationary launch vehicle (GSLV) and the development of cryogenic technology in 1991," ISRO's website states.

More than three decades ago, Prof UR Rao had also started work on indigenous cryogenic technology for Indian rockets. At that time, India was heavily dependent on Russia for cryogenic technology.

UR Rao being felicitated by ISAC.

For his contribution to India's space programme, Rao was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1976, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2017.

He has also received many international awards, including the Frank J Malina Award for space education by the International Astronautical Federation, Von Karman Award of International Academy of Astronautics, Vikram Sarabhai Medal of COSPAR.

Rao published about 350 scientific and technical papers, covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astronomy, space applications and satellite and rocket technology and authored many books.

He was a recipient of the Doctor of Science (D.Sc) degree from 25 universities, including University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe.

The scientist was born in a small village in Karnataka, Adamaru, in 1932. He studied in Mysore, graduated from Madras University, got a PhD from Gujarat University, and then went on to MIT in the US for further research.

Rao is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

(With IANS inputs)