The Centre has appointed S. Somanath, a veteran rocket scientist, as the new chairman of ISRO on Wednesday. The statement issued by the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet informed that his new position for a tenure of three years has been approved. Somanath, the present director of VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre), will take over the place of Kailasavadivoo Sivan whose tenure will end on Friday.

Who is S. Somanath?

Born in 1963, Malayali scientist Dr. Somanath completed his graduation in Mechanical Engineering from Kerala University and his Master in aerospace engineering from IISc, Bangalore. His practice includes the areas of launch vehicle systems engineering along with structural dynamics, structural design and pyrotechnics.

A science enthusiast from childhood and gold medalist in his field of study, Somanath joined VSSC in 1985 and worked as a team leader on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). He also directed the project GSLV Mk-III from June 2010 to 2014 and was credited with the Excellence Award-2014 from ISRO. In 2015, Somnath became director of ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) wherein he performed for two and a half years.

Since 2018, Somanath has been serving as the head of VSSC.

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Dr. Somnath’s Vision as ISRO Chief

On Wednesday, the Centre appointed Somanath as the tenth chairman of ISRO and the Secretary of the Department of Space. The current chairman K Sivan who was appointed in 2018 will retire on January 14.

On speaking about his aim as the new chief, Somanath said, “the primary responsibility is to create a space enterprise in the country where all stakeholders come together to expand the space programme in the country on a bigger scale and aligning the overall space programme with the mission of the government.”

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Taking India Higher in Space Economy

From an economic standpoint, Somanath said, “we need to expand it further and reach higher in terms of space economy.” He mentioned the challenges as well in the way of achieving this higher aim: “How to bring in manufacturing and production in industry to bring about cost-effectiveness, how to make it more available to the global market, how to put new applications in space sector which will really bring about changes and new users are all the new challenges before us.” In simple terms, Somanath wants to increase job opportunities and develop the scope of more research in the space sector.

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Kerala CM Congratulates the New ISRO Chief

It is a proud moment for Kerala as Somanath is going to become the fifth Malayali to occupy the chief post in ISRO. The other four Malayalees who headed this space organisation are MGK Menon, K. Kasturirangan, G. Madhavan Nair, and K. Radhakrishnan.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan congratulated Somanath on his appointment as the chairman of ISRO and wished him “a fruitful and innovative tenure”.


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