Page 30 - April 2021
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          Prof Rao was the first director of the ISRO Satellite Centre, now named after him
on April 19, 1975, atop a Russian rocket from Kapustin Yar in the then Soviet Union.
After the successful launch of Ary- abhata, Prof Rao was made the first director of the ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC), Bangalore. Under his guidance, over 20 satellites were designed, fabri- cated and launched in the country. He went on to frame the experimental re- mote sensing satellites, Bhaskara 1&2, Rohini D2 and technology satellites in the SROSS series.
But, Prof Rao is best remembered as the man who ‘connected’ India as it was under his leadership, during the tenure of Satish Dhawan as the ISRO chair- man, that the project of INSAT series of communication satellites, to provide do- mestic satellite communication services, was initiated, making India a leading nation in the field. The INSAT-1A com- munications satellite was launched in April 1982. INSAT-1B was launched in August 1983 and INSAT-1C in 1988. Collectively, INSAT satellites linked people all over the country, including re-
Prof Rao is remembered as the man who ‘connected’ India as it was under his leadership that the INSAT series of communication satellites were launched.
mote corners, through fixed telephones due to the availability of satellite links at different places. It heralded the STD (subscriber trunk dealing) revolution in India, laying the foundation stone for the IT revolution in the decades to follow.
Under Prof Rao’s leadership, ISRO also built and launched the first gen- eration of IRS remote-sensing satellites between 1988 and 1995. The IRS-1A, 1B, P2 and 1C satellites helped in track- ing the changes in forest cover, bio- mass change, wasteland management, mapped land-use change, water aqui- fers, and mineral deposits and aided in
disaster management.
An important contribution of Prof
Rao was the acceleration he provided to the development of rocket technology after taking over as ISRO chairman. He expedited efforts towards operation- alising the Indian launch vehicle pro- gramme that saw the successful launch of the ASLV (Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle), PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) as well as the GSLV (Geo Stationary Launch Vehicle) and cryo-engines at various stages, despite occasional setbacks. In fact, the IRS-P2 was launched on a PSLV rocket in its first successful launch in October 1994.
The development of launch vehicle technology in India was not without its challenges, though. Serious restric- tions from the developed nations was a major issue but Prof Rao ensured the project was not affected even as he dealt with the threat of US embargoes. For instance, the development of indigenous cryogenic technology was delayed due to international sanctions. However, Indian scientists beat odds to finally
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