Udupi Ramachandra Rao, popularly known as ‘The Satellite Man of India’, was an Indian space scientist and the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization between 1984 and 1994. He is also known for Aryabhata, India’s first satellite launch in 1975. On 1 July 2022, in the film, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, Mohan Raman played the role of Udupi Ramachandra Rao.
Rao passed away in 2017 due to prolonged illness and age-related health problems.
Udupi Ramachandra Rao, also known as UR Rao, was born on Thursday, 10 March 1932.age 85 years; at the time of death) in Adamaru, Udupi, Karnataka (then South Canara District, Madras Presidency, British India). His zodiac sign was Pisces. He attended Christian High School, Udupi and Veerashaiva College, Karnataka. In 1952, he earned a bachelor’s degree in science from Madras University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. In 1954, he earned a master’s degree in science from the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. In 1960, he obtained his doctorate in Philosophy from Gujarat University, Gujarat.
Hair Color: semi bald
Eye Colour: black
parents and siblings
Rao’s father’s name was Laxminarayan Acharya, who worked in a hotel. His mother’s name was Krishnaveni Amma. He has three brothers, Krishnamurthy Acharya, who is a police officer, Vitthal Acharya and Sripati Acharya.
wife and children
Rao’s wife’s name is Yashoda Rao, who is a scientist.
His son’s name is Madan Rao, who works as a faculty at the National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. Their daughter’s name is Mala, who is an architect.
Rao followed Hinduism.
Rao belonged to the Brahmin caste.
- Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad and President of the Nehru Planetarium in Bangalore
- Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram
- General President of the Indian Science Congress Association, West Bengal (1995)
- Vice President of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), Paris (1984–1992)
- Co-Chair, National Center for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa (2012)
- First Chairman of Prasar Bharati, New Delhi (2002)
- President of Karnataka Academy of Science and Technology
- President of Bangalore Association of Science Education-JNP
- Vice Chancellor of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Lucknow
- Member, Central Board of Directors, Reserve Bank of India
- Reserve Bank of India Additional Director Note Mudran Private Limited, Bangalore
- Chairman of the Governing Council of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune
Rao began working as a teacher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, in 1960 after completing his PhD. After leaving MIT, he worked as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. He started his career as a scientist when he started working as a cosmic ray scientist under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai After leaving the job of Professor. In 1966, after returning to India from the US, joined the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad as Professor. In 1972, he contributed to the establishment of satellite technology in India. In 1972, after the death of physicist Vikram Sarabhai, Rao was put in charge of the satellite Aryabhata.
He led a team of students from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), trained them at the industrial shed at Peenya, and successfully launched the Aryabhata satellite in 1975.
Later, he along with his team members built eighteen other satellites including Bhaskar 1 and 2, Apple, Rohini, INSAT-1 and INSAT-2. In an interview, he talked about India’s contribution in making its own satellite, he said,
This saves a lot of money for the country. INSAT 2B, which we sent last month, would have cost us Rs 300 crore in foreign exchange if we had bought it. But it cost us only Rs 78 crore to make it here. We also make launch vehicles at least a third cheaper than elsewhere. This is because in high-technology, about 70 percent of the cost goes to scientific and engineering man-hours and it comes very cheap in India. ,
He did much research on the Pioneer and Explorer spacecraft, and theories on the concept of the solar cosmic-ray and the electromagnetic state of interplanetary space. He contributed to the creation of INSAT satellites which became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. INSAT satellites provided telecommunications in many remote areas of India. In 1985, he joined the Space Commission as a chairman and the Department of Space as a secretary, where he began researching rocket technology. In 1992, he led the creation of the ASLV rocket. In 1991 he created the Geostationary Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and Cryogenic Technology. In 1995, he built the PSLV launch vehicle that carried an 850 kg satellite into orbit. In an interview, he talked about the first failed PSLV launch vehicle mission in 1993 and said,
In our opinion, the launch was 90 percent successful. But space is an unforgivable business. Even one percent error is enough for us to fail the mission objective of launching the satellite into orbit. But this has been the biggest measure ever in terms of new technology. And all the major motors performed beautifully. The critical sequences went through the Earth’s atmosphere without a hitch in the hardest driven phase. ,
He became the first chairman of Antrix Corporation, the commercial arm of ISRO. He became a Fellow of several educational institutions including Indian Academy of Sciences, Bengaluru, Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi, National Academy of Sciences, Uttar Pradesh, Institute of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers, Chandigarh, International Academy of Astronautics, Paris. Third World Academy of Sciences, Italy. In June 1997, he was the President of the United Nations – Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN-COPUOS) and the UNISPACE-III Conference. In April 2007, he was the chairman of the 30th International Antarctic Treaty Consultative Committee meeting held in Delhi. He authored three books including ‘Perspectives in Communication’ (1987), ‘Space and Agenda 21 – Caring for Planet Earth’ (1995), and ‘Space Technology for Sustainable Development (1996)’. Reportedly, he published over 350 scientific and technical papers on topics such as cosmic rays, astronomy, space applications, satellite and rocket technology.
Awards, Honors, Achievements
- Padma Vibhushan (2017)
- He was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award instituted by ISRO and Dr. Received by Astronautical Society of India (ASI) A P J Abdul Kalam,
- On 19 March 2013, he received the Satellite Hall of Fame, Washington, becoming the first Indian to receive the honor at a ceremony organized by the Society of Satellite Professionals International.
- Electronics Man of the Year Award (1994) by ELCINA
- Jawaharlal Nehru Award (1995)
- Press Bureau of India Award (2003)
- Group Achievement Award by NASA, USA (1973)
- Frank J. Malina Award (1994)
- ISPRS’s Eduard Dolezal Prize (2000)
- Theodor von Karmann Prize (2005)
- In 2004, he was ranked among the top 10 international figures for making a difference in the civil, commerce and military space in the world since 1989 by the American magazine, Space News.
Comment: He won many other national and international awards.
Rao passed away on 24 July 2017 in Indiranagar, Bengaluru, Karnataka due to prolonged illness and age-related health problems.
Facts / Trivia
- He was known as Rao Bhava and Ramudu by his neighbours, friends and family members.
- Rao was interested in science since childhood. He wanted to become an emergency commissioned officer of the armed forces after completing his education. After starting PhD studies under physicist Vikram SarabhaiHe advised them to do research and choose the field of science.
- In the 1970s and 1980s, two rupee notes had the image of the Aryabhata satellite launched in 1975.
- In 1992, the Bengaluru Police Commissioner informed Rao that he got away with kidnapping by some people who wanted to become famous by kidnapping Rao.
- In 2004, a report made by Rao attracted controversy as he proposed a 30 percent cut in annual fees in Indian Institutes of Management. Talking about the same he said in an interview,
Private self-financing institutions are charging a lot of money. For example, in Chennai, the fee paid by a student for medical seats was Rs 30 lakh! Directors of various medical institutions, they also offer something called package deals. That is, you make an advance payment of one crore and in seven years you get a guaranteed MD or MS degree. What a foolishness this is! I mean, unless you have black money, who can buy this kind of money?”
- Several universities including Mysore (1976), Calcutta (1981), University of Bologna (Italy) (1992), and Madras (Anna University) (1994) gave him an Honorary Theory of Science (D.Sc).
- On 15 May 2016, he was introduced as a member of The International Astronautical Federation (IAF).
- On 10 March 2021, Google showed its respect to Rao on his 89th birthday by creating a Google Doodle. In the description, it wrote, ‘Your stellar technological advances continue to be felt across the galaxy.’
- Some members of ISRO pointed out that Rao had visited the office of ISRO Headquarters before his death in 2017.
- Rao loved to play cricket.