The Centre on Wednesday appointed senior rocket scientist S Somnath as the next chief of the Indian Space & Research Organisation (Isro). He has been instrumental in the development of the GSLV Mk-III launcher and was a team leader for the Integration of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) during the early phases of his career.
He has been appointed as Secretary, Department of Space and Chairman of the Space Commission for a three-year term.
He has been heading the Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) since January 22, 2018. He will succeed K Sivan as the next head of one of the world’s leading space agencies.
Somnath has been part of the development activities of the high thrust semi-cryogenic engine and conceived a fast track hardware realization and test program. The development of throttleable engines for lander craft of Chanradrayaan-2 and the first-time successful flight of an electric propulsion system in GSAT-9 were some of the achievements.
Somnath is an expert in the areas of launch vehicle structural systems, structural dynamics, mechanisms, pyro systems and launch vehicle integration. He has made significant contributions to the mechanical integration designs that made PSLV a highly sought-after launcher for microsatellites from across the world.
He has been instrumental in finalizing the detailed configuration engineering of the GSLV MkIII vehicle after its preliminary definition, which involved simplification of certain systems and adoption of proven technologies leading to minimising the technology risks.
A graduate in mechanical engineering from TKM College of Engineering, Kollam, and a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, he joined VSSC in 1985. He was the Project Director of GSLV Mk-III from June 2010 to 2014. He was the Deputy Director of the ‘Structures’ Entity in VSSC and also the Deputy Director of ‘Propulsion and Space Ordinance Entity’ in VSSC till November 2014.
He also played a key role in three successful missions of GSLV with indigenous cryogenic stages and eleven successful missions of PSLV with the liquid stages realized by LPSC. Fifteen successful satellite missions were also accomplished with the propulsion systems supplied from LPSC.