S Somanath has been appointed the chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and will be the 10th chairman of India’s space agency. He will replace K Sivan and will hold dual posts of Space Secretary and Space Commission Chief (usually held by the same person).
Here are a few things you should know about him.
- Somanath was born in Valamangalam in Alappuzha district to Thuravoor Vedamparambil Sreedhara Panikkar, a Hindi teacher, and Thankamma.
- He studied in St. Augustine’s School in Aroor and spend his school days at his mother’s house in Palliyarakkavu.
- He did his pre-degree in Maharaja’s College Ernakulam.
- He was the college topper of the 1985 Mechanical Engineering branch in TKM Engineering College, Kollam.
- Somanath acquired a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, with specialisation in structures, dynamics, and control. He was a gold medalist.
- Somanath joined Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in 1985 and was associated with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project.
- In 2010, he became the Associate Director (Projects) of the VSSC and Project Direct of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mk-III launch vehicle.
- He went on to become the Deputy Director of Propulsion and Space Ordinance Entity in 2014, and Director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre at Valiamala in 2015.
- In 2018, he became the Director of VSSC.
- Somanath is the (first) convenor of the Industry Innovation Council of KTU.
- His wife Valsala is an office superintendent in Thiruvananthapuram Central Excise and Customs. He has two children – Malika and Madhav – who are engineers.
S Somanath is not the first ISRO chief from Kerala. He is, in fact, the fifth Malayali to hold the position. MGK Menon was the ISRO chief from Jan 1972 to Sept 1972, K Kasturirangan from 1994 to 2003, G Madhavan Nair from 2003 to 2009, and K Radhakrishnan from 2009 to 2014.