Sri.S. Somanath took over as the Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in January 2018. He was the Director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) since July 2015. Till June 2015, he was the Associate Director (Projects) of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and also the Project Director of GSLV Mk-III Launch vehicle. Under his leadership as the Project Director, the first Experimental flight of LVM3-X/CARE mission was successfully accomplished on 18th December, 2014.
He joined ISRO in 1985 and was a team leader for Integration of PSLV during its early development phase and during the first flight of PSLV and the successful second flight PSLV-D2. As Project Manager he handled areas of mechanisms, pyro-technique systems and satellite launch service management. He conceived and executed the first time launches of commercial mini satellites and developed small satellite mounting and separation systems which have successfully deployed many commercial satellites.
He joined GSLV MkIII Project during 2003 and was the Deputy Project Director responsible for Ooverall design of the vehicle, Mission design, Structural design and Integration. He has been 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. Shri Somanath is an expert in the area of system engineering of Launch vehicles. He made contributions in PSLV and GSLV MkIII in their overall architecture, propulsion systems, structural and structural dynamics, separation systems, vehicle integration and integration procedures development.
As Director, LPSC he led the team to successfully complete the development of 20 ton thrust C25 cryogenic engine and stage and realised the flight stage for the successful GSLV Mk-III-D1 mission. Impetus given for development of 200 ton Semicryo engine for future Launch vehicles, qualification of throttleable engines for Vikram lander of Chanradrayaan-2 and successful fight test of electric propulsion in GSAT-9 and realisation of 300 mN high thrust electric propulsion thrusters are his major achievements in LPSC.
As Director, VSSC he mentored the team to develop the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) with innovations for cost reduction and production easiness, Human rated Launch Vehicle version of GSLV MkIII, Crew Escape System (CES) and Test Vehicle for Gaganyaan. Some of the significant tests accomplished are the Pad Abort Test (PAT-01) for Gaganyaan, the successful flight test of ATVP with TMA release. The successful first operational mission GSLV MkIII-M1 for Chandrayaan-2 with payload enhancement was a significant event. Nine operational missions of PSLV-C40 to C48 (50th PSLV Mission) and GSLV-F09 were successful in this time frame. Critical development tests of RLV-LEX mission have been completed. He has initiated various new R&D developments as well as facility upgradation initiatives in VSSC which include 2 petaflop computation facility, Trisonic wind tunnel, pyro production augmentation facilities, industry operated production hubs for critical systems in many areas.
Shri Somanath took his B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering from TKM College of Engineering, Kollam, Kerala University with a Second Rank and Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with specialization in Structures, Dynamics and Control with Gold Medal.
He received the ‘Merit Award’, ‘Performance Excellence award’ and Outstanding Achievement award” from ISRO and a ‘Team excellence award’ for GSLV Mk-III development. He received, the “Janasewa Award 2018” instituted by Sivaparvathy Cultural Society, “Marthoma Educational Technical Training & Research Centre Award-2018” instituted by Marthoma college of Science & Technology, “Lifetime achievement Award instituted by TKM College Trust, Kollam and “Platinum Jubilee Award” from Aerospace Department of IISc Bangalore. He is the recipient of the ‘Space Gold Medal’ from Astronautical Society of India. He is the recipient of the “National Aeronautics Prize” by The Aeronautical Society of India for the year 2018. He was awarded Doctor of Philosophy, Honoris Causa by Sathyabama Institute of Science & Technology, Chennai.
He is a Fellow of Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), Fellow of Aeronautical Society of India (AeSI), Astronautical Society of India (ASI) and a Member of International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). He is the Vice President of International Astronautical Federation (IAF) in charge of the technical activities. Shri Somanath has widely travelled as delegate and representative of India in UN-COPOUS at Vienna, many space agencies and establishments across the world and International Astronautical Federation (IAF)’s International Programs in various countries.
He has published papers in journals & seminars in the area of structural dynamics and control, dynamic analysis of separation mechanisms, vibration & acoustic testing, launch vehicle design and launch services management.