Rao taught us valuable lessons

It was in 1963 that I returned from a spell of training in NASA to set up the sounding rocket launch facility at Thumba near Trivandrum.

Published: 25th July 2017 10:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th July 2017 10:43 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: It was in 1963 that I returned from a spell of training in NASA to set up the sounding rocket launch facility at Thumba near Trivandrum. Shortly thereafter, I met Professor U R Rao who was at that time attached to the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, and was planning a series of sounding rocket experiments carrying payloads to detect X-ray sources. Over the next few years, Dr Vikram Sarabhai entrusted the task of setting up a satellite development division to Prof Rao. After the untimely demise of Dr Sarabhai in 1971, a decision was taken to shift the satellite development activities to Bengaluru under his leadership. The nascent centre was set up in a couple of industrial sheds in Peenya and this was where India’s first indigenous satellite Aryabhata was assembled. 

Prof Rao went on to become the Chairman of ISRO on the retirement of Prof Dhawan.

During his tenure, he appointed me as Director of the Sriharikota Launch Centre. This was a tumultuous period of great activity when there were many successes and failures. He ensured that the teams learnt valuable lessons from the failures and came out with improvements. 

The excellent reliability of our workhorse Polar SLV and the subsequent development of geostationary SLV with indigenous cryo-technology are all testimony to this. He also led the team, which battled the embargoes imposed on us by the US, thus sowing the seeds for the indigenous development of the cryo stage of GSLV.

Even after retirement, he continued to attend office every day. Prof Rao played a key role in defining the scientific objectives of all our major missions. His legacy is something which will continue to be with ISRO forever. (R Aravamudan was the Director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota and ISAC, Bengaluru. His book “ISRO: A Personal History” was published by Harper Collins in 2017).


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