I know almost nothing about Soft Machine From what little I know of Hawkwind I doubt they're my cup of tea
Soft Machine's second album is my favorite of all time. Robert Wyatt is a unique story, Kevin Ayers also started in the SM, but they went from the early psych era, to more of a prog-jazz sound by their 3rd album and beyond.
Hawkwind is one of my Top 5 bands of all time. But, just like Soft Machine, went through a lot of changes over the years, my favorite was the early years through 1975. They were the ultimate 'space rock' band of the early years, but later took on other directions through the years, the mainstay of course, was Dave Brock. There were several other associates bands and offshoots, like Nik Turner, The Hawklords (space punk?) and of course, Lemmy was their bass player for a short time.