Dr. Sarabhai is considered as the Father of the Indian space program; He was a great institution builder and established or helped to establish a large number of institutions in diverse fields. He was instrumental in establishing the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad : after returning from Cambridge to an independent India in 1947, he persuaded charitable trusts controlled by his family and friends to endow a research institution near home in Ahmedabad. Thus, Vikram Sarabhai founded the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad on November 11, 1947. He was only 28 at that time. Sarabhai was a creator and cultivator of institutions and PRL was the first step in that direction. Vikram Sarabhai served of PRL from 1966-1971. He was also Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
He along with other Ahmedabad-based industrialists played a major role in the creation of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Some of the most well-known institutions established by Dr. Sarabhai are:
1. Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad
2. Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad
3. Community Science Centre, Ahmedabad
4. Darpan Academy for Performing Arts, Ahmedabad (along with his wife)
5. Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuramm
6. Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad (This institution came into existence after merging six institutions/centres established by Sarabhai)
7. Faster Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR), Kalpakkam
8. Varaiable Energy Cyclotron Project, Calcutta
9. Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Hyderabad
10. Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), Jaduguda, Bihar Indian Space Program The establishment of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was one of his greatest achievements.
He successfully convinced the government of the importance of a space programme for a developing country like India after the Russian Sputnik launch. Dr. Sarabhai emphasized the importance of a space program in his quote:
"There are some who question the relevance of space activities in a developing nation. To us, there is no ambiguity of purpose. We do not have the fantasy of competing with the economically advanced nations in the exploration of the moon or the planets or manned space-flight. But we are convinced that if we are to play a meaningful role nationally, and in the community of nations, we must be second to none in the application of advanced technologies to the real problems of man and society."
Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha, widely regarded as the father of India's nuclear science program, supported Dr. Sarabhai in setting up the first rocket launching station in India. This center was established at Thumba near Thiruvananthapuram on the coast of the Arabian Sea, primarily because of its proximity to the equator. After a remarkable effort in setting up the infrastructure, personnel, communication links, and launch pads, the inaugural flight was launched on November 21, 1963 with a sodium vapour payload.
As a result of Dr. Sarabhai's dialogue with NASA in 1966, the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was launched during July 1975 - July 1976 (when Dr.Sarabhai was no more).
Dr. Sarabhai started a project for the fabrication and launch of an Indian Satellite. As a result, the first Indian satellite, Aryabhata, was put in orbit in 1975 from a Russian Cosmodrome.
Dr. Sarabhai was very interested in science education and founded a Community Science Centre at Ahmedabad in 1966. Today, the Centre is called the Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre
- Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Award (1962)
- Padma Bhushan (1966)
- Padma Vibhushan, posthumous (after-death) (1972)
- President of the Physics section, Indian Science Congress (1962)
- President of the General Conference of the I.A.E.A., Verína (1970)
- Vice-President, Fourth U.N. Conference on 'Peaceful uses of Atomic Energy' (1971)
- The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, (VSSC), a research institute specialising in solid and liquid propellants for rockets located in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), capital of Kerala state, is named in his memory.
- In 1974, the International Astronomical Union at Sydney decided that a Moon Crater BESSEL in the Sea of Serenity will be known as the Sarabhai Crater.