‘With industries not restarting production, ISRO projects affected’

As supply chains are yet to resume, planned launches and satellite activities have been delayed, says Chairman K. Sivan

On January 1, 2020, the Indian Space Research Organisation set out an ambitious target of 25 satellite and launch missions for the year. With three months now lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the space agency without a single home launch yet, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space K. Sivan said though supply of hardware from industries has been affected, work at each centre is on track.

In the last three months how have ISRO and its centres been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Definitely there has been some impact on our programme because of the lockdown. But we are not able to assess it now. We are yet to get stabilised output. We have two kinds of activities. One is in-house research and development. The other one is project or mission related, done outside in industry. ISRO’s own activities are not affected. What is affected is the supply of hardware from industries.

Most of our work is done outside in the industry and we are waiting for the industry to start functioning fully. Only then, after some time, can we review and make some assessments.

At the same time ISRO is not keeping quiet. Each centre has its in-house facilities and is carrying out many developmental activities in full steam.

When do you think you can resume launching satellites?

Because of the widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic, project activities and mission work can be decided only later, when we can rightly assess the situation.

By hardware do you mean satellites, launch vehicles, rocket tanks and systems, etc? Could you please elaborate how hardware issues have impacted your projects?

Yes. Hardware for all our programmes is affected. Most of our hardware comes from Mumbai and other cities but our vendor industry is not yet fully functional. Project work is affected because industry is not fully geared up for production; inter-state movement [of supplies] is affected and also because employees` movements are not normal.

Around 500 small, medium and large industries contribute to the space programme ... The virus and its effect are spread across the country. Even if hardware is made, transporting it [to the respective centres] is the problem. We cannot move the rakes, vehicles or the trailers. For example, if they go from Thiruvananthapuram to Bengaluru or from Thiruvananthapuram to Sriharikota, they must pass through Tamil Nadu and will have to get quarantined.

To what extent do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has hit your annual plan of missions? Sometime in March, GISAT-1 was to have been the first domestic launch of 2020 but it got deferred.

As I said before, all projects which require industry support are affected. Activities like satellite launch and making rockets available are affected. Not only for the SSLV, it could be Gaganyaan, Chandrayaan[-3] or every project. It is all interlinked. For a launch to take place, launchpad related activities at Sriharikota are done, not by the personnel there but by people from Thiruvananthapuram. Those teams are not able to travel. However, whether it’s SSLV, Gaganyaan or Chandrayaan[-3,] every in-house activity is going on without a problem

Even if hardware is made, transporting it [to the respective centres] is the problem

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