Updated: January 12, 2022 9:06:00 pm
S Somanath was Wednesday appointed the tenth chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
He will assume the charge as the Secretary of the Department of Space and the Chairman, Space Commission, upon the superannuation of K Sivan later this week. Sivan has been on a year’s extension since January last year.
Somanath, whose appointment will be for three years, is a seasoned scientist in system engineering of space launch vehicles.
Sivan and Somanath share similar career paths at the space organisation. Like Sivan, Somanath, too, earned his master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and has served as the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) in Thiruvananthapuram before reaching the helm of the ISRO.
The two had served as the project directors of the Geosynchronous Space Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
An alumnus of Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, and TKM College of Engineering in Kollam, Somanath, who hails from Alappuzha in Kerala, joined the VSSC in 1985. During his initial years, he worked on projects dealing with the integration of the Polar Space Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and served as the PSLV’s project manager between 1995 and 2002. In 2003, he took over as the deputy project director of the GSLV Mark III project and was broadly responsible for the mission’s design, including that of the vehicle, its structure and the overall mission.
After being promoted as the director of the LPSC in July 2015, he had been part of many successful GSLV Mark III missions and has played pivotal roles in three GSLV missions involving indigenous cryogenic stages. He is credited with 11 successful PSLV missions with liquid stages. Among other achievements to Somanath’s credit is his leadership of a team that developed a throttleable engine for the Vikram lander that was used in the Chandrayaan 2 mission launched in 2019. This was ISRO’s first moon mission with an orbiter, the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover.
Somanath is the corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronauts and a fellow of the Astronomical Society of India.
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