S. Somnath – Biography, Achievements, and Leadership
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S. Somnath, born in 1963, is the 10th and current Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), assuming office on July 1, 2023. A seasoned senior scientist at ISRO, he has been instrumental in several pivotal projects, notably Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan. His appointment as the 10th Chairman of ISRO was endorsed by the Cabinet’s Posting Committee. Dr. Sivan, who assumed the ISRO chairmanship in 2018, bestowed this position upon Somnath, recognizing his exceptional competence to lead the National Space Agency.
Early Life and Education
S. Somnath, an aerospace engineer and rocket technologist, was born in July 1963 in Aroor Alappuzha district, Kerala, India. He currently stands at around 60 years of age.
He is officially known as Shridhar Padikar Somnath, with S. Somnath being his commonly used designation.
Education and Qualifications
Shridhar Paniker Somnath is a dedicated scholar with a profound interest in science that spans both his past and present. His educational journey includes notable institutions: he attended St. Augustine High School for his schooling, acquired a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering, pursued a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, and subsequently pursued a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Somnath possesses a comprehensive expertise in launching Vehicle Structure Systems, as well as a deep understanding of structural dynamics, launch mechanisms, and vehicle integration.
Family and Personal Life
Somnath’s father, a Hindi language educator, recognized his son’s passion for science and fostered it by providing him with science literature in both English and Malayalam. Somnath is married to Valsala, with whom he shares two children. His wife serves in the GST department under the Ministry of Finance, while both their children have accomplished postgraduate degrees in engineering.
Somnath’s journey within ISRO commenced in 1985, evolving through diverse roles, including Project Manager for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), Deputy Director for Structures Entity/Propulsion & Space Ordnance Entity, and Project Director for the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV Mk-III). His contributions extended to the initial phases of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle project, where he held the position of Deputy Director of the Proposition and Space Ordinance Entity until November 2014.
In June 2015, Somnath took on the role of Director at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center, responsible for designing liquid propulsion systems for launch vehicles and the space program. He also served as the director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, a pivotal center within ISRO responsible for launch vehicle design.
Somnath’s impactful endeavors encompass Chandrayaan-1, India’s maiden lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, the triumphant lunar mission that landed a lander and rover on the moon’s surface, and Gaganyaan, India’s inaugural manned space mission.
Accolades and Awards
Due to his exceptional contributions, Somnath has garnered numerous awards throughout his career, including the Space Gold Medal from the Astronautical Society of India, recognition from the Indian National Academy of Engineering, Performance Excellence Award, and Team Excellence Award in 2014 for GSLV Mk. His noteworthy accolades encompass:
- Padma Shri (2022)
- Shantiswarup Bhatnagar Award (2021)
- DS Kothar Award (2020)
- ISRO Scientist Awards (2019)
Chandrayaan-3 and Recent Achievements
Somnath played a pivotal role in Chandrayaan-3, assuming leadership on January 14, 2022. Under his guidance, Chandrayaan-3 achieved a groundbreaking success, landing on the moon. This triumph earned personal commendation from Prime Minister Modi.
ISRO Leadership and Future Endeavors
Shridhar Somnath is the latest chairperson of ISRO, a position to which he was appointed by the government. In this capacity, he will focus on technology, policy, and industry expansion within the space ecosystem. He concurrently holds roles as the Secretary of the Department of Space and Chairman of the Space Commission. Formerly the Director at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, his ascendancy to the ISRO chairmanship is expected to invigorate missions like Surya Mission and Gaganyaan.
S. Somnath is a remarkable scientist and a skilled administrator. His tenure as Chairman of ISRO promises further milestones and achievements as he guides the organization through ambitious projects and groundbreaking missions, solidifying his place as a visionary leader within the realm of space exploration.