Artist's concept of NISAR satellite flying overhead Earth in Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) is likely to face a seven-month delay in being launch ready according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) audit of COVID-19’s impact.

The audit also pegged the monetary impact at $10.4 million in 2020 so far with the cost expected to balloon by $36 million in the long run.

The NISAR project between NASA and ISRO is expected to be the first of its kind to deliver high-resolution images on the Earth’s surface to track local changes and measure regional trends. The landmark satellite project of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to capture the first-ever high-resolution images of the planet is set to face a seven-month delay.

The launch was initially scheduled for January 2023 abroad ISRO's GSLV MK-II launch vehicle.

NASA’s most recent audit of its budget and impact of the pandemic shows that the cost of the project dubbed NISAR has already ballooned by $10.4 million in 2020. As the shadow of the pandemic continues to loom, the programme is estimated to get more expensive by a whopping $36 million.

NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) is among NASA’s projects to be the most significantly impacted. NASA’s audit reveals that a few activities continued unhindered, a moderate amount proceeded at a reduced level because of limited access to facilities and significant number of activities were essentially suspended with NASA shutting 12 of its 18 major facilities.

What Is NISAR?

NISAR’s high resolution images will be used to track local changes and measure regional trends.

The data will provide scientists with a better understanding of the causes and consequences of changes on the surface of land. NASA and ISRO hope that scientists will use this information to figure out how resources can be better managed as well as address the burgeoning problem of global warming.

Members of the NISAR mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California received the S-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR) from their partner in India on 20 March 2021

What Is Causing Delays For NISAR?

All activities around NISAR were forced to come to a stop in mid-March 2020, according to NASA. Limited activities focused on the project’s hardware were resumed later during the same month.

However, the remaining hardware activities did not come back full throttle until early June 2020.

The project was also subject to delays from domestic and international partners. For instance, Boeing’s manufacturing operation underwent an initial two-month-long delay in March 2020. It faced another five-week long delay in August 2020 due to COVID-19 exposure. As of September 2020, teams working on the NISAR project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) were at near-normal levels.