Udupi Ramachandra Rao Biography: Birth, Education, Achievements, Awards and Honours, Death, and Google Doodle

Today is the 89th birth anniversary of the former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Udupi Ramachandra Rao. The article sheds light on his early days, education, career, books authored, awards and accolades and more.
Created On: Mar 10, 2021 12:21 IST
Modified On: Mar 10, 2021 12:52 IST
Udupi Ramachandra Rao Biography
Udupi Ramachandra Rao Biography

To commemorate the 89th birth anniversary of the former Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Udupi Ramachandra Rao, Google Doodle featured his sketch with a background of Earth and stars. The description says, "Your stellar technological advancements continue to be felt across the galaxy". He was also the Chairman of the Governing Council of the Physical Research Laboratory at Ahmedabad and Nehru Planetarium at Bengaluru and of the Indian Institute for Space Science and Technology (IIST) at Thiruvananthapuram.

He was also the Co-Chairman of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa, first chairman of Prasar Bharati, fourth President of the Governing Body of the Centre for Space Physics and changed its name to Indian Centre for Space Physics due to its National importance.

The article sheds light on his early days, education, career, books authored, awards and accolades and more. 

Udupi Ramachandra Rao: Birth, Early Life, Family and Education

Udupi Ramachandra Rao was born on 10 March 1932 in Karnataka's Adamaru village to  Lakshminarayana Acharya and Krishnaveni Amma. 

He completed his secondary education at Christian High School, Udupi. He moved to Andhra Pradesh for further studies and did B.Sc. from Government Arts and Science College, Anantpur. He then moved to Uttar Pradesh to complete M.Sc. from Banaras Hindu University. For his Ph.D., he moved to Gujarat and completed it from Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad under the guidance of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao: Career

He started his career as a cosmic ray scientist and worked under Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. U.R. Rao was the first to establish the continuous nature of the solar wind and its effect on geomagnetism by using Mariner 2 observations in association with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory group. His numerous experiments led to a complete understanding of the solar cosmic-ray phenomena and the electromagnetic state of the interplanetary space. 

In 1972, Udupi Ramachandra Rao took the responsibility for the establishment of satellite technology in India. In the year 1975, beginning with the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, over 18 satellites including Bhaskara, APPLE, Rohini, INSAT-1 and INSAT-2 series of multipurpose satellites and  IRS-1A and IRS-1B remote sensing satellites were designed, fabricated and launched under his guidance to provide communication, remote sensing, and meteorological services.

Rao after working as a Faculty Member at MIT and Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas returned to India in 1966 as a Professor at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.

In the late 90s, he became the Chairman of Space Commission and Secretary, Department of Space. Soon after taking the charge, he accelerated the development of rocket technology and successfully launched the ASLV rocket and operational PSLV launch vehicle into polar orbit. In 1991, he initiated the development of the geostationary launch vehicle GSLV and the development of cryogenic technology. 

During his stint at ISRO, he successfully launched the INSAT series of satellites, giving a thrust to communications in India. This led to the expansion of telecommunication links to remotest areas of India, allowing people to communicate easily through Subscriber Trunk Dialing, popular by its acronym STD. This played a major role in developing India as an IT hub. 

Scientific Journals and Books Authored

He had published more than 350 scientific and technical papers in various national and international journals covering a wide range of topics such as cosmic rays, high energy astronomy, space applications and more. 

Udupi Ramachandra Rao has published many books including Physics of the Communication, Space and Agenda 21 - Caring for the Planet Earth and Space Technology for Sustainable Development.

Udupi Ramachandra Rao: Death

He passed away at his residence in Bengaluru, India at around 3 a.m., after prolonged illness and age-related health issues on 24 July 2017 at the age of 85. 

Awards and Accolades

National Awards

  1. Karnataka Rajyotsava Award (1975)
  2. Hari Om Vikram Sarabhai Award (1975)
  3. Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award in the Space science & technology field (1975)
  4. Padma Bhushan (1976)
  5. National Design Award (1980)
  6. Vasvik Research Award in the Electronic Sciences & Technology field (1980)
  7. Karnataka Rajyotsava Award (1983)
  8. PC Mahalnobis Medal (1987)
  9. Om Prakash Bhasin Award in the Energy & Aerospace field (1993)
  10. Meghnad Saha Medal (1993)
  11. P.C. Chandra Puraskar Award (1994)
  12. Electronics Man of the Year Award by ELCINA (1994)
  13. Zaheer Hussain Memorial Award (1995)
  14. Aryabhata Award (1995)
  15. Jawaharhal Nehru Award (1995)
  16. SK Mitra Birth Centenary Gold Medal (1996)
  17. Yudhvir Foundation Award (1997)    
  18. Rabindranath Tagore Award of Viswa Bharati University (1997)
  19. Gujar Mal Modi Award for Science & Technology (1999)
  20. Nadoja Award from Kannada University, Hampi (2001)
  21. Life Time Contribution Award in Engineering of INAE (2001)
  22. Sir M. Visvesvaraya Memorial Award (2002)
  23. Press Bureau of India Award (2003)
  24. Star of India Award from Vishwabharathy Foundation, Hyderabad (2004)
  25. Special Award 2004, Karnataka Media Academy (2004)
  26. Bharat Ratna Rajiv Gandhi Outstanding Leadership Award (2005)
  27. Life Time Achievement Award of Indian Space Research Organisation (2007)
  28. Distinguished Scientist Gold Medal of the Karnataka Science & Technology Academy (2007)
  29. Vishwamanava Award by Vishwamanava Samsthe (2007)
  30. A.V. Rama Rao Technology Award (2007)
  31. Jawaharlal Nehru Birth Centenary Award for 2007-2008 from ISCA (2008)
  32. Padma Vibhushan (2017)

International Awards

  1. Group Achievement Award by NASA, USA (1973)
  2. Medal of Honour by Academy of Sciences, USSR (1975)
  3. Yuri Gagarin Medal of USSR (1991)
  4. Allan D Emil Award on International Cooperation (1992)
  5. Frank J Malina Award (International Astronautical Federation)(1994)
  6. Vikram Sarabhai Medal of COSPAR (1996)
  7. Outstanding Book Award of the International Academy of Astronautics for the Book Space Technology for
  8. Sustainable Development (1997)
  9. Eduard Dolezal Award of ISPRS (2000)
  10. Theodore Von Karman Award which is the highest award of the International Academy of Astronautics (2005)
  11. Inducted into Satellite Hall of Fame by Society of Satellite Professionals International' (2013)
  12. Inducted into Hall of Fame by International Astronautical Federation (2016)


D. Litt. (Hon. Causa) from Kannada University, Hampi

D.Sc (Hons. Causa) from the below-mentioned Universities:

  1. Mysore in 1976
  2. Ch. Charan Singh University, Meerut in 1976
  3. Mangalore in 1976
  4. University of Bologna (Italy) in 1992
  5. Banaras in 1992
  6. Udaipur in 1992
  7. Tirupati (SV) in 1993
  8. Hyderabad (JN) in 1994
  9. Madras (Anna University) in 1994
  10. Roorkee University in 1994
  11. Punjabi University, Patiala in 1995
  12. Shri Shahu Ji Maharaj University, Kanpur in 1997
  13. Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad in 1999
  14. Rahuri in 2001
  15. Ch. Charan Singh University, Meerut in 2002
  16. UP Technical University, Lucknow in 2005
  17. Viswesvaraiah Technical University, Belgaum in 2006
  18. Indian Institute of Technology - Delhi in 2007 


  1. Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences
  2. Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy
  3. Fellow of National Science Academy
  4. Fellow of Third World Academy of Sciences
  5. Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics
  6. Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering
  7. Fellow of the Astronautical Society of India
  8. Hon. Fellow of the Aeronautical Society
  9. Distinguished Fellow Institution of Electronics and Telecommunication Engineers
  10. Hon. Fellow of Indian National Cartographic Association
  11. Fellow of Broadcasting and Engineering Society of India
  12. Hon. Fellow Aero Medical Society of India
  13. Distinguished Fellow of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad
  14. Fellow of World Academy of Arts & Sciences, USA.
  15. Fellow of the International Aeronautical Federation (IAF) proposed.

Other Achievements

  1. During 1986-1992, he served as the Vice President of the International Astronautical Federation.
  2. During 1996-1999, he was the Chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
  3. During 1997-2000, he served as the Chairman of UN-COPUOS (United Nations - Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space).
  4. In 1979, he served as the President of UNISPACE III Conference held in Vienna.
  5. In 1999, he was the President of UNISPACE-III Conference.
  6. In 2002, he became the President of UNISPACE-III
  7. In 2007, he served as the Chairman of the 30th International Antarctic Treaty Consultative Committee Meeting

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