Sreedhara Panicker Somanath also known as S. Somanath is currently 60 years of age (as of Sep’23).
Sreedhara was born in July 1963 in Thuravoor, Alappuzha district of Kerala.
Today, we will go through S. Somanath biography, which will include details on his education, family, career, salary, achievements, etc.
But, just before that, let’s take a look at this picture from 1963.
From the days of carrying satellites on a bullock cart to now sending foreign satellites, launching SLV, PSLV, Mangalyaan, Chandrayaan, etc. ISRO has travelled a great distance.
A lot of credit for this success goes to scholars like Vikram Sarabhai, APJ Abdul Kalam, Nambi Narayanan and the latest name on this list is S. Somanath.
Four years ago in 2019, Chandrayaan-2 failed in the final stages, and with that, a lot of hearts and dreams shattered. At that time, it was necessary to understand the mistakes, what went wrong, create an action plan and try the mission again.
To achieve all this, the need of the hour was visionary and innovative leadership, which is when, S. Somanath was appointed as chairman of ISRO on January 14, 2022.
In only 18 months from his appointment, on Aug 23, 2023, the moment finally arrived when Chandrayaan-3 landed near the lunar south pole.
This huge achievement made India only the fourth nation in history to achieve a lunar landing, after the U.S, Russia and China, and the first country to successfully land at the lunar south pole.
The more astonishing fact is S. Somanath and his team were able to execute this mission for way less than the entire budget of the movie Interstellar.
S. Somanath Biography
|Name||Sreedhara Panicker Somanath|
|Place of Birth||Thuravoor, Alappuzha, Kerela|
|Height||5 feet 8 inches or 1.72 mt|
|School||St. Augustine’s High School, Kochi|
|College||Maharaja College, TKM College of Engineering, IIS – Bangalore, IIT – Madras|
|Parents||Father – V. Sreedhara Panicker, Mother – Thankamma|
|Children||Son – Madhav Somanath, Daughter – Malika Somanath|
|Career||Multiple positions at VSSC & ISRO|
|Salary||Approx. 2.5 lakhs a month|
|Achievements||Space Gold Medal, Fellow of the Indian National Academy of Engineering, etc.|
S. Somanath Native Place, Parents, Religion
S. Somanath was born in Thuravoor, which is a gram panchayat in the Pattanakkad Block of the Alappuzha district of Kerala.
Kerala’s contribution to the Indian space research programme has been instrumental. The state has given a lot of top-notch scientists including S. Somanath to ISRO.
Somanath was born in a Hindu Malayali family to V. Sreedhara Panicker and Thankamma.
His father was a Hindi teacher and he always motivated Somanath to pursue his quest for science and space, since he was himself a science enthusiast. Moreover, his father used to give him science books in both English and Malayalam to elevate his learning.
S. Somanath Education
S. Somanath was born in an educated family and always had a will to learn. Even during his school and college days, he was ahead of his peers.
Somanath completed his schooling from St. Augustine’s High School, Aroor, Kochi. After his schooling, Somanath pursued a pre-degree programme from Maharaja’s college, Ernakulam from 1978-80.
It was Somanath’s years spent at TKM College of Engineering in Kollam from 1980-85, that exponentially increased his fascination towards space science.
Even though soon after his engineering, Somanath started working with Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), that did not stop him from pursuing higher education, and he then completed a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in 1995.
Now, the only thing that was left for S. Somanath was to be Dr Somanath, so he completed his PhD programme in Mechanical Engineering in 2008 from Indian Institute of Technology Madras.
S. Somanath Career Timeline
S. Somanath developed a lot of fascination for space when he went to the engineering college. Luckily for him, during his final year of engineering in 1985, ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) started hiring for the PSLV programme.
After the launch of Aryabhata in 1975, India’s first satellite, which was launched from Kapustin Yar, a Soviet rocket launch and development site, India’s space research programme was on a high.
The plan to launch PSLV by ISRO was an excellent opportunity for Somanath to be able to work with the best scientists of India.
Due to his excellent performance in the previous semesters, Somanath was hired immediately by ISRO, and this was just the start of a bright career for S. Somanath.
He soon started working on the early development phase of the PSLV project.
This later became a game changer in Indian space history as that allowed India to launch earth observation satellites, remote sensing satellites, etc.
In 1993, the first attempt to launch a PSLV failed, however, it took the genius mind of S. Somanath to ensure India does not fail again in its attempt.
When India tried the launch of PSLV in 1994, they once again faced a major hurdle in the final stages of the launch with nearly 200 tonnes of hazardous fuels and chemical cocktails loaded in the rocket.
That was the time when S. Somanath worked with his 2 seniors to ensure India sends their first PSLV into orbit.
Due to his determination and hard work, S. Somanath rose up the ranks and he joined GSLV MkIII project in 2003 as the Deputy project director.
In this role, he was responsible for the overall design and integration of India’s heaviest and most powerful rocket.
From deputy project director in 2003, he was the project director of GSLV Mk-III from June 2010 to 2014.
In 2014, S. Somanath was appointed as Deputy Director of Propulsion and Space Ordinance Entity and only next year in 2015, he became the Director of the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Valiamala.
3 years later in 2018, S. Somanath took the position of Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.
In Jan 2022, he became the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Secretary of the Department of Space, and Chairman of the Space Commission.
S. Somanath Family
The credit of S. Somanath’s success very well comes from the support he has received from his family, parents, and his wife.
S. Somnath is married to Valsala, who comes from Poochakkal in Alappuzha. She works as an office superintendent in the Thiruvananthapuram Central Excise and Customs department under the Ministry of Finance.
S. Somnath’s kids Madhav and Malika took advantage of their parents’ educational background and they have both successfully completed their engineering.
S. Somanath Notable Awards List and Achievements
- Won a gold medal while pursuing Masters programme
- Contribution to the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) project during its initial phases and its launch in 1994.
- Received performance excellence award from ISRO in 2009
- Led the launch of vehicle design and implementation as Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC)
- In 2018, he received honorary doctorate by Satyabama University, Chennai
- Won National Aeronautics prize from Aeronautical Society of India in 2019
- Received honorary doctorate in 2020 from Centurion University, Bhubaneswar
- Won team excellence award for GSLV MkIII project
- Won Space Gold Medal from Astronautical Society of India
- Has published papers in journals and seminars in structural dynamics and control
- Conducted Ted-X speeches
- Has a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay
- Flawless launch of GISAT-1 (April 23)
- Leading Aditya L1 mission, the spacecraft is currently travelling to the Sun-Earth L1 point
- Last, but not the least, responsible for successful soft-landing of the Chandrayaan-3 mission on the Moon on August 23