Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), whose activities had come to a near standstill because of lockdown restrictions, has prioritised the launch of Geo Imaging Satellite (Gisat-1) and vaccination of all its employees to ensure a safe work environment.

Work on the first uncrewed Gaganyaan mission is expected to further pick up pace.

Isro chairman K Sivan said: “First, we are looking at vaccinating all our staff. We are aiming at inoculating around 80% of them by the month-end. And not just Gaganyaan, the first priority would be to launch the GSLV (which will carry Gisat-1) that has been sitting on the launch pad for a while now.” He didn’t, however, elaborate on what percentage of the over 1,700 employees at Isro have so far been vaccinated.

This would be Isro’s third attempt at launching Gisat-1. The launch of the first-of-itskind earth observation (EO) satellite was scheduled for March 5, 2020, but was scrubbed minutes before the 26-hour countdown was to begin on March 4, 2020.

Earlier this year, Isro had said it was confident of launching the satellite by the end of March or first week of April. However, as reported first by TOI, it got delayed owing to a voltage issue that scientists described as a “minor power problem”.

Once launched on the GSLV, Gisat-1 will be placed in the geostationary or geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO) before being positioned in a geostationary orbit, about 36,000km above Earth’s equator.

Designed to provide near real-time images of large areas of region of interest at frequent intervals, the satellite will hold the potential of even aiding the country’s armed forces to plan operations.

Weighing 2,268 kg, the satellite will provide spectral signatures for agriculture, forestry, mineralogy, disaster warning, cloud properties, snow, glaciers and oceanography.

It will be equipped with six-band multispectral visible and near-InfraRed imaging sensor with 42m resolution, 158-band hyper-spectral visible and near-InfraRed sensor with 318m resolution and 256-band hyper-spectral short wave-InfraRed sensor with 191m resolution.

Scientists associated with Gaganyaan said there has been progress made on the human rating of the systems and that the agency is still looking at launching the first uncrewed mission by December 2020 as announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the 2021 budget.

Meeting this target, however, would depend on local industries’ ability to turn around quickly and start their supplies to the space agency. Sivan had told TOI last month that if the industries are able to meet Isro’s demand, the agency would be able to meet the December deadline.

Isro is yet to officially review the timeline and some insiders indicated there could be a delay as several crucial weeks have been lost. “If there are more restrictions owing to a third wave, there could certainly be a delay,” one of them said.

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