S. Somanath is an Indian Aerospace Engineer and Rocket Technologist who is known for being appointed as the tenth chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in January 2022.
Somanath Sreedhara Panicker was born in July 1963 (age 59 years; as of 2022) in Aroor, Alappuzha district, Kerala. He attended the St Augustine’s School, Aroor. He pursued a pre-degree program at Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam from 1978 to 1980. From 1980 to 1985, he pursued graduation in Mechanical Engineering at TKM College of Engineering, Kollam, Kerala University. Later, he pursued a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering (specialization in Dynamics and Control) at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore from 1994 to 1995, and in 2008, he attended the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras to pursue PhD in Mechanical Engineering.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Somanath’s father’s name is Sreedhara Panicker who worked as a teacher. His mother’s name is Thankamma.
Wife & Children
Somanath is married to Valsala Somanath who works at the Goods and Services Tax department. They have two children, a son, Madhav, and a daughter Malika.
He is a Malayali.
M-13, Murali Nagar, Thiruvananthapuram-695022 Ambalamukku, Peroorkada, Kerala, India, PO, Trivandrum-695 005, Kerala
Chairman of ISRO
After graduating from college, Somanath joined ISRO in 1985. He joined the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, and the first project he worked on was the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project. In 2010, he became an associate director (projects) of VSSC and the project director of the GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle. In 2014, he became the deputy director of the Propulsion and Space Ordinance Entity. In 2018, he was appointed as the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), and in 2015, he became the director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC). In January 2022, he was appointed as the tenth chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for a three-year term.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 2009, he also received the Performance Excellence award from ISRO.
- In July 2018, he received the honorary doctorate from Satyabhama University Chennai.
- In October 2019, he won the National Aeronautics Prize from the Aeronautical Society of India.
- In October 2020, he received the honorary doctorate from Centurion University Bhubaneswar.
- He won a Gold Medal while pursuing the Master’s Programme.
- He received the Space Gold Medal from the Astronautical Society of India.
- He also won the Team excellence award for GSLV Mk-III realisation.
His salary as of 2019 was Rs. 2.25 lakh under Level-17 of the Apex Scale.
- Somanath was the fourth South Indian after K Kasturirangan, G Madhavan Nair, and K Radhakrishnan, who achieved the post of chairman in 2022.
- He was specialised to work for vehicle design, engineering, structural design, structural dynamics, and pyrotechnics.
- Somanath succeeded K. Sivan for the position of chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
- During his graduation, he achieved second rank in his class. Somanath joined his seniors at ISRO for a project, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in 1994. The satellite was stopped from launching because of some problem which was resolved by Somanath in a few minutes and the rocket was launched.
- In an interview, he said that when he was young, he was fascinated with rockets, the sun, and stars. He further added that his father used to teach the subject Hindi, but still he would buy him science books in both English and Malayalam languages.
- While he was studying engineering, he told one of his teachers to teach him, propulsion, a rocketry subject that was not a part of his subjects.
- He joined a film society in Thiruvananthapuram as he was an ardent fan of cinema.
- He was also part of other groups that include the Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), the Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), the Astronautical Society of India (ASI), and a corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).
- He has delivered various speeches at TED Talks.
- After becoming the chairman of ISRO, in an interview, he said,
It’s a really proud moment for me and for all those who are associated with me. I am really humbled by this assignment and look forward to the challenging times ahead. I would like to bring the benefit of space programme to everybody and also meet the national needs. Apart from this, we need to expand it further and reach higher in terms of space economy.”
- In an interview, he also talked about the strategy that would be used during his term and said,
Areas of focus will be technology, policy, implementation and areas where stakeholders need to be taken care of. There are different segments that we need to concentrate on. Looking at the technology side we are the powerhouse of technology various disciplines. We need to bring new approach methods so that available can be best utilized. There are many new technologies too. We need to bring in newer approaches; have to work with various capacity builders like tech companies.”
- The Chief Minister of Kerala, Shri. Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted and congratulated him for his appointment as the chairman.
Chief Minister @vijayanpinarayi congratulated VSSC Director, S Somanath, on being appointed as Chairman, @ISRO and DoS Secretary, and wished him a fruitful and innovative tenure. CM said he is proud that Kerala has contributed yet another leader of India's space programme. pic.twitter.com/FcN0ljNBCn
— CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) January 12, 2022