In 1985, S Somanath joined ISRO as the Space Agency sought young engineers for the nascent Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle program, and he assumed the chairmanship in 2022.
On July 14, 2023, at 2:35 IST, the first phase of Chandrayaan-3’s mission achieved a successful injection into a 100 km circular polar orbit. It is anticipated that on August 23, 2023, the lander and rover will touch down near the lunar south pole. Many ISRO scientists and engineers contributed their efforts to ensure the mission’s success.
S. Somanath, the ISRO Chairman, is regarded as one of the masterminds behind India’s moon mission. He has also been recognized for his involvement in other missions, including Aditya-L1 (a mission to the sun) and Gaganyaan (a crewed mission). Here’s everything you need to know about him.
Sreedhara Panicker Somanath, an Indian aerospace engineer, was born in Thuravoor, Kerala, in July 1963, to a Malayali family. His parents were Hindi teachers Sreedhara Panicker and Thankamma.
Dr. S. Somanath, originally from the Keralan town of Alappuzha (Alleppey), developed a passion for science during his time at a Malayalam-medium school. Although his father taught Hindi, he encouraged Somanath’s scientific interests by providing him with science literature in both Malayalam and English. Despite facing challenges, Somanath decided to pursue a BTech in Mechanical Engineering and further explored his interest in space science and research.
Somanath attended St. Augustine’s High School in Aroor and obtained his pre-university degree from Maharaja’s College in Ernakulam. He completed his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, focusing on dynamics and control. He then pursued a graduate degree in mechanical engineering from Thangal Kunju Musaliar College of Engineering, Kollam, Kerala University.
Joining ISRO in 1985 at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the main facility for rocket construction, Somanath supervised the early integration of the PSLV rocket. After progressing in his career, he became part of the GSLV MkIII Project in 2003, assuming the role of Deputy Project Director. In this position, he was responsible for the overall design and integration of India’s heaviest and most powerful rocket.
Somanath served as the director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center and ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. He gained recognition for his contributions to the design of launch vehicles, particularly in the fields of structural design, structural dynamics, and pyrotechnics.
Among his accomplishments, Somanath is credited with spearheading the development of the high-thrust semi-cryogenic engine, throttleable engines for the Chandrayaan-2 moon lander, and the successful launch of the GSAT-9 electric propulsion system. Additionally, he received a gold medal during the Masters Program in Aerospace Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
On January 12, 2022, S. Somnath was chosen as the next chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Supporters of ISRO and science enthusiasts eagerly anticipated ISRO’s involvement in more productive research missions under his leadership.
Before assuming the chairmanship of ISRO, Somanath oversaw the ISRO VSSC until January 12, 2022. Dr. S. Somnath has gracefully held the position of ISRO chairperson for the past year. Under his guidance, India successfully launched Chandrayaan-3.