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India's space agency pauses rocket launches to make coronavirus supplies: report

ISRO prepared a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket to launch an Earth-imaging satellite called GISAT-1; the launch has since been delayed indefinitely.
ISRO prepared a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket to launch an Earth-imaging satellite called GISAT-1; the launch has since been delayed indefinitely.
(Image: © ISRO)

As the coronavirus-borne disease COVID-19 spreads around the world, India's space agency has responded by pausing launches and pivoting resources to develop ventilators and hand sanitizer, according to local media reports.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) oversees the country's launches and spacecraft missions, including its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket and the Chandrayaan-2 mission currently orbiting the moon. As work on forthcoming missions pauses, the agency has redirected its focus to aid the fight against COVID-19.  “We are designing a ventilator and making hand sanitizers and distributing them," S. Somanath, head of agency's Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, told the Times of India.

Related: Stunning photos show Earth from India's spacecraft headed to the moon

As of today (March 30), India has more than 1,000 positive cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Hand sanitizer is a critical ingredient to slow the spread of the virus; ventilators are vital for stabilizing patients who are critically ill with COVID-19. In particular, the ventilator ISRO is working on is meant to be simple to operate, according to the report. 

NASA is discussing similar measures, according to administrator Jim Bridenstine. During a virtual town hall held on March 25, he said that he and other agency leaders are coordinating with other branches of government to figure out how NASA can contribute. Such measures could include producing ventilators and working with existing ventilator manufacturers, NASA officials said. 

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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