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Rocket scientist Dr S Somanath the new ISRO chief; all you need to know about him

Rocket scientist Dr S Somanath the new ISRO chief; all you need to know about him

Rocket scientist Dr S Somanath the new ISRO chief; all you need to know about him
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By CNBCTV18.com Jan 13, 2022 12:16:09 PM IST (Updated)

Somanath will serve as the ISRO chief for a combined tenure of three years from the date of joining of the post, inclusive of an extension in tenure beyond the age of superannuation in the public interest.

Dr S Somanath, the director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), has been appointed as the 10th chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Dr Somanath has also been made the secretary of the department of space (DoS). He will assume his new office on January 14 when Kailasavadivoo Sivan, the current ISRO chief, completes his term, which includes a one-year extension.

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An order by the Ministry of Personnel read that Somanath will serve as the ISRO chief for a combined tenure of three years from the date of joining of the post, inclusive of an extension in tenure beyond the age of superannuation in the public interest.
Dr Somanath will be the fourth person from Kerala to occupy the topmost post in the Indian space sector. Earlier, K. Kasturirangan, G. Madhavan Nair, and K. Radhakrishnan from the southern state held the post. Dr Somanath's name was cleared for the top office in 2019 by virtue of his seniority in the ISRO hierarchy.
After his appointment, Dr Somanath said his primary responsibility would be to expand the space programme. He plans to engage all stakeholders, including DoS, ISRO, IN-SPACe, and start-ups working in this space. He also aims to "align the overall space programme with the vision of the government".
Who is Dr Somanath?
Born in July 1963, Dr Somanath comes from a humble background. He has pursued Mechanical Engineering from the Thangal Kunju Musaliar (TKM) College of Engineering in Kollam (Kerala). The rocket scientist continues to cherish his experience at the college. In fact, Dr Somanath was given the first TKM Lifetime Achievement award. In his acceptance speech, he said that the institution has shaped him in his journey. He fondly remembers receiving books on thermodynamics by a late professor of the college.
Dr Somanath even donates to the alumni scholarship programme of the TKM College. People close to Dr Somanath say that he still attends the college meetings whenever he is called and he is always punctual.
After completing his course at the TKM College in 1985, he pursued his Master's in aerospace engineering from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. Dr Somanath was awarded a gold medal by the IISc for academic excellence. He specialised in "structures, dynamics and control".
Professional feats
Dr Somanath joined VSSC in 1985. He was a team leader for the integration of PSLV during the early phases. As the project manager at PSLV, Somanath handled several tasks -- including mechanisms, pyro systems, integration, and satellite launch service management.
In 2003, Dr Somanath joined the GSLV MkIII Project. Being the deputy project director, he was given the responsibility of the overall design of the vehicle, mission design, structural design, and integration. Later, in 2010, he was made the project director of GSLV Mk-III. He continued at the post till 2014. The first experimental flight of the CARE mission was successfully accomplished on December 18, 2014, under his stewardship.
Prior to being made the VSSC director on January 22, 2018, Dr Somanath worked at the same post at Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) in Valiamala (Thiruvananthapuram) for two-and-a-half years.
During the course of his illustrious career, Dr Somanath has been credited with the development of throttleable engines for the lander of Chandrayaan-2, successful flight of an electric propulsion system in GSAT-9, and energising development activities of the high thrust semi-cryogenic engine, among others.
Dr Somanath has been conferred with the Space Gold Medal from the Astronautical Society of India (ASI), Performance Excellence Award-2014 and Team Excellence Award-2014 for GSLV Mk-III realisation, from ISRO.
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