In 1961, on the advice of Prof. Abdus Salam, the then Scientific Adviser to the President of Pakistan, it was decided to set up a Committee dealing with space sciences. Consequently, a Space Sciences Research Wing of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was established through an Executive Order of the President of Pakistan dated 16 September 1961, which was addressed to Dr I H Usmani, the then Chairman PAEC. The programme of rocket firings was entrusted to Chairman PAEC. Initially the Space Sciences Research Wing had the following members:
- Prof Abdus Salam, FRS – Chairman
- Dr I H Usmani, Chairman PAEC – Vice-Chairman
- Mr Sibte Nabi Naqvi, Director, Pakistan Meteorological Department – Member
- Dr Innas Ali, Member PAEC – Member
In September 1961, Mr Tariq Mustafa, Principal Engineer , PAEC ; Mr Salim Mehmud, Scientific Officer PAEC; Mr Sikandar Zaman, Assistant Engineer PAEC; Mr A Z Farooqi, Scientific Officer PAEC; and Mr M Rehmatullah, Regional Director, Pakistan Meteorological Department were sent to NASA for training in rocket launching.
On 07 June 1962 at 1953 hours the two-stage rocket: Rehbar-I consisting of a Nike-Cajun combination (which was earlier developed by NASA) was successfully launched from Sonmiani Rocket Range. It carried a payload of 80 pounds of sodium and soared to about 130 km into the atmosphere. With the launching of Rehbar-I, Pakistan had the honour of becoming the third country in Asia and the tenth in the world to conduct such a launching. The other countries, which had, until then, already conducted launchings of this type were: USA, USSR, UK, France, Sweden, Italy, Canada, Japan and Israel. Rehbar-II was also successfully launched from Sonmiani Rocket Range on 09 June 1962.
The data received from Rehbar-I and Rehbar-II gave scientists information on wind shear and structure in the layers of the upper atmosphere extending beyond the stratosphere. The data collected also helped in the study of cloud formation, cyclones and weather over the Arabian Sea.
A high-powered meeting was held on 25 July 1964 under the Chairmanship of the then President of Pakistan. A number of decisions were taken in that meeting including the placement of SUPARCO under the direct control of the President of Pakistan. A three-tier structure was thus created consisting of (a) the Governing Body; (b) the Executive Committee; and (c) the Technical Committee to take care of and run SUPARCO’s affairs. SUPARCO started functioning independent of PAEC with effect from 16 September 1964 with Dr I H Usmani looking after its affairs as its Co-Chairman.
The structure of SUPARCO was superseded by a Government of Pakistan Resolution dated 8 March 1966 whereby SUPARCO was constituted as a separate organisation under the administrative control of Scientific and Technological Research Division (S&TR), Government of Pakistan and a revised constitution for SUPARCO was adopted in the shape of “Rules of SUPARCO” issued by S&TR Division on 19 April 1967. Air Cdre W J M Turowicz was appointed as the first Executive Director of SUPARCO (Air Cdre Turowicz was a Polish national who served in the Royal Air Force in India in WW-II and after the war, he was among those Polish Air Force Pilots who opted for Pakistan’s nationality).
In 1970, after the retirement of Air Cdre Turowicz, Air Cdre K M Ahmed was appointed as SUPARCO’s second Executive Director who relieved his charge in 1976 to Mr Salim Mehmud, who remained Executive Director of SUPARCO until 15 December 1979 when he resigned the service of SUPARCO. Dr M Shafi Ahmed succeeded Mr Salim Mehmud and remained in office till 15 December 1980 when the President of Pakistan appointed Mr Salim Mehmud as Chief Executive Officer of SUPARCO and asked him to submit necessary recommendations for up-gradation of SUPARCO to the status of a full-fledged Commission.
On 22 April 1981, Mr Salim Mehmud was appointed as the first Chairman of Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO).
The President of Pakistan signed and promulgated SUPARCO Ordinance No. XX of 1981, which was issued in the Gazette of Pakistan on 21 May 1981, to provide for the establishment of a Space Research Council (SRC), an Executive Committee of the Space Research Council (ECSRC) and the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), granting SUPARCO an autonomous status. The then Chairman SUPARCO established three Technical Wings namely; Space Technology Wing, Space Research Wing and Space Electronics Wing. The National Assembly, ratified SUPARCO Ordinance vide Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Amendment) Act, 1987-Act No. II of 1987, providing for, inter alia, the replacement of President of Pakistan with the Prime Minister of Pakistan as the President of Space Research Council.
SUPARCO remained under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division until September 2000 for almost 20 years. During this period, only one meeting of the SRC (headed by the President of Pakistan) and 13 meetings of ECSRC (headed by the Federal Minister for Finance) were held. The last meeting of ECSRC was held on 09 September 1999. The SRC, in its first-ever meeting held on 24 December 1984, approved the Long-Term Development Programme of Space Science and Technology in Pakistan, submitted by SUPARCO, which contained projects of national importance.
Mr Salim Mehmud retired on 13 April 1989 and Dr M Shafi Ahmed took over as the second Chairman of SUPARCO. On 16 July 1990, Pakistan launched its first experimental satellite BADR-1.
Dr M Shafi Ahmed retired on 16 October 1990 and handed over the charge of the Office to Mr Sikandar Zaman who retired on 19 June 1997. Dr Abdul Majid was appointed Chairman with effect from 20 June 1997.
On 10 December 2000, the Cabinet Division issued an Office Order No. 564, through its Notification No. 5/11/2000-Admin.II., whereby, in pursuance of the order of the Chief Executive of Pakistan, SUPARCO Commission was transferred from Cabinet Division to the National Command Authority (NCA); the Space Research Council and Executive Committee of Space Research Council were dissolved and were replaced with Development Control Committee (DCC) of NCA.
On his retirement on 30 April 2001, Dr Abdul Majid handed over the charge of the Office of Chairman SUPARCO to Mr Raza Hussain.
SUPARCO launched the second experimental satellite BADR-B on 10 Dec 2001 and is continuously working towards developing indigenous capabilities in satellite development.
Mr Raza Hussain retired on 31 August 2010 and handed over the charge to Major General Ahmed Bilal.
On 31 August 2015, Major General (R) Ahmed Bilal handed over the charge to Major General Qaiser Anees Khurrum as Chairman SUPARCO.