(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times by Anonna Dutt)
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro) big-ticket launches planned towards the end of this year are likely to be delayed after the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the timeline, people aware of the matter said on Wednesday. After the first wave of the pandemic last year, a committee of the space agency reviewed all pending missions to reschedule them. Isro was to carry out the first unmanned flight of the human-rated GSLV Mk III and the country’s first solar mission, Aditya L1, in December, according to the revised schedule.
“The decision on the new timelines for the missions is awaited,” an official from the agency said on condition of anonymity. Another official said the missions were likely to be delayed beyond their schedule. Last year, the space missions were impacted by the inability to move equipment and parts from across the country during the lockdown necessitated by the pandemic.
The third lunar mission, carrying aboard only a lander and rover, was initially slated for the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021, but has since been pushed to 2022. The government green-lit the third mission soon after the lander-rover of the Chandrayaan 2 mission crashed and lost communication just 2.1km from the surface.
The first unmanned Gaganyaan flight was initially planned for December 2020, the second for July 2021, and the first manned spaceflight was to happen by December 2021 ahead of the Prime Minister’s deadline of Independence Day 2022.
Only three PSLV missions have been carried out since the pandemic began last year – the EOS-1 earth observation satellite mission in November, the CMS-1 communication satellite mission in December, and a mission carrying the Brazilian earth observation satellite as the main payload in February. The launch of GISAT 1, an earth imaging satellite, was postponed in March last year after technical issues following which it was scheduled for March this year but is yet to happen.