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Pandemic hits space manned mission, all other projects, says ISRO chief

ISRO had planned 36 missions in the financial year 2020-21, according to a government reply to a Parliament question in March.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Pune |
June 26, 2020 2:13:31 am
Coronavirus, isro, gaganyaan, astronauts training for gaganyaan, ISRO space manned mission, Gaganyaan, India Gaganyaan mission, indian express ISRO chairman K Sivan. (File)

All missions, including the test flight for sending humans into space, planned by the Indian Space Research Organisation over the next two years face delay because of the disruption caused by COVID19 pandemic, ISRO chairman K Sivan has told The Indian Express.

A rescheduled timeline has not been worked out because of continuing uncertainty, he said.

“In our work strategy, many of the design and development activities happen in the private sector. Because of this pandemic, these industries have not been able to operate at their optimum level. As a result, they are not in a position to supply the required subsystems for the missions by ISRO. So this will affect all our targeted missions over the next few months,” Sivan said.

“In addition, there have been travel restrictions in many states because of which our employees have not been able to move around. It has, naturally, affected our work,” he said.

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The missions that would have be rescheduled include Chandrayaan-3, planned for this year end, and the unmanned test flight for Gaganyaan, India’s first attempt at sending humans into space. The main Gaganyaan mission is slated for 2022, and that could also be delayed, although Sivan said there was still some scope for making up on lost time.

“Our in-house development activities, and research and development has been going on. These have not stopped though they too have been affected a bit,” he said.

Sivan said the ongoing training of the selected astronauts for the Gaganyaan mission in Russia, which had been disrupted due to the pandemic, had resumed and was going on “with full steam”.

ISRO had planned 36 missions in the financial year 2020-21, according to a government reply to a Parliament question in March. These included the launches of 10 earth-observation satellites, three communication satellites, and two navigation satellites, besides Chandrayaan-3 and Gaganyaan unmanned test flight.

“We have not yet worked out the new timelines for all these missions. There is no point in deciding now. There is still a lot of uncertainty. So we have to wait for the situation to normalise. Only then we will be able to make a correct assessment and decide on realistic timelines,” he said.

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