Somanath joined Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in 1985 and was a team leader for the integration of PSLV during the early phases. He took charge as the VSSC's head on January 22, 2018, after a two and a half years stint as the Director of Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) at Valiamala in Thiruvananathapuram.
Previously, he served as the Associate Director (Projects) of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and also as the Project Director of GSLV Mk-III launch vehicle.
Under his leadership, the first experimental flight of the LVM3-X/CARE mission was accomplished on December 18, 2014.
He is an expert in the area of system engineering of launch vehicles.
Somanath, an Alappuzha Thuravoor native, completed his school education in Aroor and pre-degree in Ernakulam Maharajas College. His father Sreedhara Panicker, a school teacher and his mother Thankamma ensured good education for him. He had secured a scholarship for his education.
Somanath did his B Tech in Mechanical Engineering from TKM college of engineering, Kollam, and Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, with specialisation in structures, dynamics and control. He was a gold medalist.
His children also have followed his footsteps by excelling academically. His daughter Malika is doing her PhD at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore after completing her MTech degree. His son Madhav, an engineering graduate is working in Ernakulam. Valsalakumari is his wife.
He has won many awards, including an award from ISRO. He was a member of the International Academy of Astronauts and the vice-president of the International astronautical federation.
(With inputs from PTI)