The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that it would be indefinitely postponing the launch of its GISAT-1 Earth Observation (EO) weather satellite. The launch, which was originally scheduled for 5 March 2020 has now been indefinitely postponed by the ISRO.
Although the ISRO did state the precise technical reasons behind the postponement, in addition, one possible development preventing the scheduled launch was due to the outbreak and spread of the Covid19 pandemic. Regardless, the spread of the disease has potentially and conceivably induced a precautionary delay.
Beyond the uncertain reschedule, we need to survey why ISRO has decided to launch a Meteorological Satellite (METSAT) or Earth Observation into Geostationary Orbit (GEO). Compared to other countries, where does India stand in the launch of this category of satellites? If the launch is successful, India will join an exclusive club.
The first country to launch a MET EO satellite into GEO was the United States (US). The latter launched the world’s first METSAT in 1974, dubbed the Synchronous Meteorological Satellite 1, followed by Japan’s Himawari satellite and Europe’ Meteosat in 1977. Russia followed seventeen years later in 1994 with the launch of its METSAT or EO satellite Elektro. China became the sixth country to launch this type of satellite in 2004 called the Feng Yun 2 (FY-2) in 2004.
In the event ISRO is successful, India will thus become only the seventh country to launch and operate a satellite of this kind. The ISRO otherwise has generally operated weather satellites in polar orbits. Nevertheless, among all these states, let us compare where India stands vis-à-vis China.
Beijing’s geostationary meteorological satellite programme started in the 1980s. Before the launch of dedicated operational METSATs as part of the Feng Yun (“winds and clouds” in Chinese Mandarin) series