Udipi Ramachandra Rao obtained his BSc from Madras University and MSc (Physics) from Banaras Hindu University. Thereafter, he joined the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad in 1954 to carry out research on cosmic ray time variations under the supervision of Vikram Sarabhai. After obtaining the PhD, he joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge in 1960 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow where he carried out fundamental investigations on solar wind using Mariner-2 observations. He joined University of Texas at Dallas in 1963 as Assistant Professor, where as prime experimenter on Pioneer 6, 7, 8 and 9 Deep Space Probes and Explorer 34 and 41 Spacecrafts, he carried out outstanding research on solar as well as galactic cosmic ray phenomena and the electromagnetic state of the interplanetary space. On returning to India, he joined the PRL Faculty, and later took over as Chairman, Space Commission and Secretary, Department of Space in 1984. He is recipient of DSc (hc) from over 22 universities in India and abroad.
Academic and Research Achievements: While at PRL, Rao initiated research on X-ray and Gamma-ray high energy astronomy using balloon, rocket and satellite borne payloads. He undertook responsibility to establish satellite technology in India in 1972. Under his guidance, beginning with the first Indian satellite 'Aryabhata' in 1975, over 15 satellites including INSAT-1 and INSAT-2 series of multipurpose satellites and IRS series of remote sensing satellites were designed, fabricated and launched. After taking charge as Chairman, Space Commission, he accelerated the development of rocket technology, resulting in the successful launch of ASLV rocket in 1992 and the operational PSLV launch vehicle in 1995. He initiated the development of the geostationary launch vehicle GSLV and the development of cryogenic technology in 1991. He aimed at utilization of vast benefits from space technology for the development of India in the areas of 'communication, broadcasting, education, management of national natural resources and disaster management'. He also published over 300 papers and many books covering cosmic rays, interplanetary physics, high energy astronomy, space technology and its applications.
Awards and Honours: Professor Rao was conferred Padma Bhushan (1976). He also won the Group Achievement Award of NASA, SS Bhatnagar Memorial Award, Vikram Sarabhai Award, VASVIK Award, Aryabhata Award, Om Bhasin Award, Jawaharlal Nehru Award, Gujar Mal Modi Award, Life-time Achievement Award of INAE and ISRO; and AV Rama Rao Technology Award. He also received Allan D Emil Award, Frank J Malina Award, Von Karman Award, Vikram Sarabhai Medal by COSPAR, PC Mahalanobis Medal, Yuri Gagarin Medal and Meghnad Saha Gold Medal. He was Vice President of International Astronautical Federation (1984-92), Chairman of UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (1997-2000) and President of UNISPACE-III Global Conference (1999). He is Fellow of many Indian Science and Engineering Academies, including International Academy of Astronautics, Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and World Academy of Arts & Sciences.