Praful Bhavsar

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Praful Bhavsar is an Indian space scientist who has held several major positions in the Indian Space program including the Project Scientist for the first rocket launch into space from Indian soil on 21 November 1963.[1] In 1986, he retired from the position of Director, Space Applications Center of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)[2] and the Director, Indian Remote Sensing Satellite Utilization Program.[3]

Bhavsar was born on 17 August 1926 and received his Doctorate in Physics from Gujarat University in 1958 for his research in Cosmic Rays at the Physical Research Laboratory. In the same year he moved to the University of Minnesota as a research fellow to study high altitude Cosmic Rays using balloons. Whilst at Minnesota, Bhavsar collaborated with Professor Jacques-Emile Blamont who would later play a key role in India's first rocket launch.

The Scientific and Technical Sub-committee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COSPAR) was established in 1958. One of its objectives was to foster international scientific collaboration. In 1962 Indian National Committee for Space Research INCOSPAR was established by the Indian government under the chairmanship of Dr Vikram Sarabhai. One of its first projects was the establishment of the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) in the district of Trivandrum on the southern tip of India very close to Earth's magnetic equator.

Bhavsar was a former student[4] of Dr.Vikram Sarabhai, and at his request returned to India and joined a team of scientists as the project scientist that launched India's first rocket. The two stage Nike-Apache sounding rocket came from the USA and the French payload that left a vertical trail of sodium vapour in the upper atmosphere from a 100 to 120 km altitude. The primary purpose of this flight was to measure atmospheric winds, temperature, diffusion and turbulence by photographing the trail of the ejected sodium.

Bhavsar has held many prestigious positions over the years, including: Scientific Co-ordinator, ISRO (1967–1975); Member-Secretary INCOSPAR (1970–1981); Chairman – Remote Sensing Area, Space Applications Center[5] (1976–1984); Director, Indian Remote Sensing Satellite Utilization Programme (1981–1986); and Director, Space Applications Center,[6] ISRO (1985–1986).

In 1999 Bhavsar was awarded the Aryabhata Award[7] in recognition of his lifetime achievement in the area of Astronautics by the Astronautical Society of India.

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