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July 2019 - Science & Technology



  • India's first space tech park in Kerala. The Kerala government will set up India’s first space tech park at Thiruvananthapuram's Knowledge City. The move is aimed at making the city a manufacturing hub for space-related technology. A space museum named after former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam will also be a part of the infrastructure. The entire investment in the park will be made by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.


  • Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the Indian Space agency, has launched Chandrayaan-2 successfully into the elliptical Earth orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on 22 July.

    The spacecraft was carried by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1. It was India’s most challenging and ambitious mission. It is expected that Spacecraft will try to land a rover near the Southpole of the Moon on 7 September 2019, in 48 days. If the spacecraft lands softly on the Moon, India will be the fourth country to successfully carry out such mission. The three countries that have launched the spacecraft successfully are US, Russia and China.

    The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft weighs around 3.8 tonnes. The total estimated cost for the mission was Rs.978 crore that is Rs.603 crore for the space segment and Rs.375 crore for the launch. The space segment of Chandrayaan-2 includes :
    1. an orbiter,
    2. a lander named Vikram
    3. a rover named Pragyan.
    The orbiter is expected to seperate Vikram, the lander, on 7 September. After making a successful touchdown on the lunar surface it will begin its quest for water.

    For the first time ever, an Indian space mission is being led by women scientists. Muthayya Vanitha, as a project director, has led the mission from the start. ISRO's GSLV Mk III is a three-stage launch vehicle. The vehicle consist of two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage. The vehicle was designed, so that it can carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or about 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO).


  • NASA prepares to send first woman and next man on Moon in 2024. NASA marked the 50th anniversary of the historic first Moon landing. The US space agency is preparing to take its next giant leap with the ambitious Artemis program is named after the twin sister of Apollo. She is the Goddess of the Moon and the hunt. The program to return astronauts to the lunar surface is planned to launch by 2024.

    NASA plans to explore regions of the Moon visited the mysteries of the universe and test the technology that will extend the bounds of humanity farther into the Solar System. On the lunar surface water ice and other natural resources will further enable deep space travel.


  • The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) received a state-of-the-art facility for its genomic studies division which was inaugurated by Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan on July 20. The minister also laid the foundation stone for a new skill training and lecture hall complex on the occasion. The NGS Facility promises to sequence up to 30 human genomes in a day and help researchers to individually tag genomes of up to 80,000 cells in eight minutes.

    NGS would include technology for high genome sequencing and also diagnostic sequencing of clinical samples. It is 4th such facility in the country. It is a state-of-the-art genome sequencing facility that can sequence 18,000 samples in. It is acquired at a cost of Rs.8 crore. It can sequence 30 human genomes a day, It would costs around Rs.1 lakh to sequence one genome using this facility. There is a need to develop Scientific Social Responsibility (SSR) and ensure that research is transferred to industry, and public at large.

    NSG facility would help in generating large-scale genomic data from Indian populations, which was critical for genetic diagnosis and therapy. NGS would help prenatal genetic screening and counseling, thus generating large scale genomic data critical for diagnosis and therapy. It would especially help patients suffering from rare genetic disorders. It would help in finding drugs for rare genetic diseases, which drug industry does not manufacture because of high costs involved. By using NSG facility, scientists hope to find the tic cause of rare diseases.


  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) delivered a Chetak helicopter. That helicopter is scheduled to the Indian Navy. It is used for the supply of eight Chetak helicopters with the delivery schedule of the first two in August 2019 and the rest in August 2020. The helicopters are fitted with the latest communication and navigation systems The Company is committed to providing continuous support to the Chetak fleet.HAL and the Indian Navy have shared a long fruitful relationship. HAL produced the Chetak helicopters for the last five decades. It is under licence from Eurocopter, France (now Airbus Helicopters). The first Chetak helicopter to the Indian Navy delivered way back in February of 1966.

    These helicopters are used by the Navy for communication duties (passenger transport), cargo/ material transport, casualty evacuation, search and rescue, emergency medical services, electronic news gathering, anti-hijacking, offshore operation, and under-slung operation. HAL produced more than 350 Chetak helicopters and delivered around 80 to the Indian Navy. Presently, 51 helicopters are flying with the Navy.


  • Milky Way’s violent birth decoded. It was shaped as a result of collision with another smaller galaxy 10 billion years ago. The Milky Way, home to our sun and billions of other stars, merged with another smaller galaxy in a colossal cosmic collision roughly 10 billion years ago, scientists said on 22July, 2019 based on data from the Gaia space observatory.

    The union of the Milky Way and the so-called dwarf galaxy Gaia-Enceladus increased our galaxy’s mass by about a quarter and triggered a period of accelerated star formation lasting about 2 to 4 billion years. Galaxies of all types, including the Milky Way, began to form relatively soon after the Big Bang explosion that marked the beginning of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago, but were generally smaller than those seen and were forming stars at a rapid rate. Subsequent galactic mergers were instrumental in configuring galaxies existing now.

    High-precision measurements of the position, brightness and distance of around a million stars within 6,500 light years of the sun, obtained by the Gaia space telescope, helped pinpoint stars present before the merger and those that formed afterward. Certain stars with higher content of elements other than hydrogen or helium arose in the Milky Way, they found, and others with lower such content originated in Gaia-Enceladus, owing to its smaller mass. While the merger was dramatic and helped shape the Milky Way, it was not a star-destroying calamity.


  • The celestial object has landed in a village of Madhubani, Bihar. The object weighs more than 10 kilograms. It has magnetic properties. The object looks like a piece of rock. It glitters much more than that of an unpolished stone. A meteorite is a piece of rock or iron from a meteoroid or asteroid. As it passes through Earth's atmosphere it survives impact with the ground. Most meteorites originate from larger asteroid bodies which resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.


  • India shares the satellite data and coordinates for rapid response to major disaster situations as per the charter set up under the UN-SPIDER. The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) represents Indian Space Research Organization as a member of the International Charter Space and Major Disasters.

    By combining Earth observation assets from different space agencies, the Charter allows resources and expertise to be coordinated for rapid response to major disaster situations. Whenever there is a natural disaster, NRSC and member space agencies of other 32 countries which are a part of Charter can activate the Charter and then it seeks the information pertaining to disaster-hit area available with all the 33 member space agencies.

    Due to the heavy floods in India, the Charter was activated on 17th July last by NRSC. Under the Charter, so far data has been received from eight countries, including USGS, CNES, ESA, ROSCOSMOS, Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) and three others. ISRO has also provided information to other Space Agencies in response to similar requests.


  • Iran has test-launched a medium-range ballistic missile inside its borders. The missile, a Shahab-3, is a liquid-fuelled, medium-range ballistic weapon capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. It is derived from a North Korean missile called the Nodong-A and can fly up to 2000 kilometres.


  • India made huge achievements in the nuclear power sector during the last 3 years. It includes setting of World Record in the continuous operation of 962 days by Unit-1 of Kaiga Generating Station among nuclear power plants of all technologies. Completion of 50 years of safe operation of Units 1&2 of Tarapur Power Station, which are currently the oldest reactors in operation in the world.


  • Russia launched a space telescope, Spektr-RG, from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan on 13 July 2019. The Spektr-RG, developed with Germany, is a space observatory intended to replace the Spektr-R, known as the 'Russian Hubble'. Spektr-R was launched in 2011 to observe black holes, neutron stars and magnetic fields.


  • Japanese scientists have successfully landed an unmanned spacecraft, Hayabusa 2, on the distant asteroid Ryugu for the second time as part of an ongoing mission to help explore the origins of the solar system. The spacecraft first arrived at the asteroid in June 2018 to carry out experiments. Hayabusa 2 will depart Ryugu in December 2019 and return to Earth by the end of 2020.


  • Google India's 'Internet Saathi' programme is aimed at empowering rural women on how to use the Internet. It has now added two more states -- Punjab and Odisha. With this, the programme has now reached 2.6 lakh villages in 20 states. These women, in turn, impart training to other women in their community and neighbouring villages. It was launched as a pilot project in 2015.


  • The chart-topping Russian-made FaceApp, which allows users to see how they will look as they age, is in the eye of a political storm in the U.S., with one senator urging an FBI investigation into its “national security and privacy risks”. A celebrity favourite, the app deploys artificial intelligence to modify users’ photos, adding wrinkles or subtracting years from their faces. U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sounded the alarm over FaceApp’s Russian developer, calling for the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to “look into the national security & privacy risks” connected to the application.


  • NASA carried out a successful test of a 'launch-abort system' for the Orion capsule designed to take U.S. astronauts to the Moon. It aimed to test in almost real-life conditions the evacuation of astronauts from the capsule in the event of an explosion or rocket booster failure. In the test, an unmanned Orion capsule was launched by a mini-rocket.


  • The Indian Space Research Organisation has signed a contract with a Russian company Glavkosmos on 2 July 2019. The contract has been signed for selection support, medical examination and space training of Indian astronauts for the country’s proposed maiden manned space mission ‘Gaganyaan’. Glavkosmos is a Russian launch service provider and a subsidiary of the state corporation Roscosmos.


  • World’s First Interactive Browser “Popshot” Launched. Popshot, the world’s first ever interactive browser built for smartphones, launches in India. Popshot is a smart app that changes the way people explore, share, and save the web through first-of-its-kind interactive screenshot feature. This promises to redefine the users’ digital capabilities in exploring, bookmarking and sharing content by making it more visual, organized and direct.


  • DRDO carried out three successful test firings of the Nag missiles in the Pokhran firing ranges. The Defence Acquisition Council has last year (2018) approved the procurement of DRDO’s designed and developed NAG Missile System (NAMIS). The system includes a third generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile, the NAG, along with the NAMICA. The NAG missile is a third generation anti-tank guided missile.


  • India has successfully tested the vertical steep dive version of the Brahmos supersonic cruisemissile that changes the dynamics of conventional war fare. The CEO of Bramhos Aerospace Dr. Sudhir Mishra said that the 'Made in India' Brahmos Aerospace is also ready with a longer 500 km range version of the Brahmos missile. It can be fired from Sukhoi 30 fighter jets.


  • Russia successfully launched Soyuz-2.1 a carrier rocket with a hydrometeorological satellite and 32 small satellites. The satellite will provide images of clouds, the surface of the Earth, ice and snow covers in the visible, infrared and microwave ranges. The ride-share mission lifted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in eastern Russia.


  • Japan's Hayabusa2 probe touches down on asteroid. A Japanese spacecraft has successfully landed on a distant asteroid where it hopes to collect samples that could shed light on the evolution of the solar system.

    Scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) observing the landing from a control room on the southern island of Tanegashima applauded and made “V” for victory signs after the Hayabusa2 probe landed on the asteroid. The touchdown is successful. The probe had been working normally above Ryugu asteroid, some 300m km (185m miles) from Earth. Its landing is the second time the probe has touched down on the desolate asteroid as part of a complex mission that has also involved sending rovers and robots.


  • The sighting of new menhirs, perhaps the largest-ever recorded in Kerala, on the Pothamala hills in Udumbanchola taluk on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, has thrown light on the possible existence of a major prehistoric necropolis there. The menhirs were identified by a team of historians led by Rajeev Puliyoor, assistant professor at the Government Teachers’ Training College, Elanthoor, near here, during a visit to Shanthanpara village.

    The Pothamala hills housed hundreds of cobbled stone structures, pointing to the existence of a structured graveyard of a prehistoric civilisation. The largest menhir found was 20 ft tall and 6 ft wide with a thickness of 5 ft.


  • NASA awarded Imaging Xray polarimetry explorer (IXPE) mission to SpaceX. NASA has awarded a contract to SpaceX to launch NASA’s Imaging Xray polarimetry explorer (IXPE) mission, a groundbreaking astrophysics mission.

    The mission aims to uncover the mysteries behind black holes and neutron stars. The cost estimated for the mission is $50.3 million. The mission plans to launch three space telescopes. These telescopes will be capable of analyzing the polarization of cosmic X-rays. The IXPE mission is expected to be launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in April 2021.

    The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) will get information regarding the polarization state of light from astrophysical sources. This will provide insight into the X-ray production in objects such as neutron stars and pulsar wind nebulae, as well as stellar and super massive black holes. The launch mass of IXPE is 320 kilograms. IXPE will be launched over SpaceX FALCON 9 which is capable of launching 22,800 kilograms to low Earth orbit (LEO). There will also be excess payload capacity at launch.


  • Indian scientist to be Co-I for NASA’s PUNCH mission. NASA has selected Texas-based Southwest Research Institute to lead its PUNCH mission which will image the Sun. This is a landmark mission that will image regions beyond the Sun’s outer corona. Dipankar Banerjee, solar physicist from Indian Institute of Astrophysics is also a Co-Investigator of the PUNCH mission.

    PUNCH, which stands for “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere,” is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space. The Sun and the solar wind are one interconnected system, but [these] have until recently been studied using entirely different technologies and scientific approaches.


  • TESS discovered its smallest exoplanet.  TESS’ (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) most recent discoveries include a 3-planet system that orbits a star located 35 light-years from Earth. One of the planets, L 98-59b, is between the sizes of Earth and Mars – effectively making it the smallest exoplanet discovered by TESS to date. The discovery also highlights the sophistication of TESS and doubles the number of small exoplanets.


  • NASA, UN Space Agency, has successfully carried out Ascent Abort-2, a test of a launch-abort system, for the Orion capsule designed to take U.S. astronauts to the Moon. The three-minute test exercise was carried out at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Ascent Abort-2 was aimed to test in almost real-life conditions the evacuation of astronauts from the capsule in the event of an explosion or rocket booster failure.

    In the test, an unmanned Orion capsule was launched by a mini-rocket, a re-purposed first stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile. After 55 seconds of the launch, a rocket-powered tower on top of the crew module ignited its engines to quickly pull the Orion away from a hypothetical rocket experiencing problems. It was tested at an altitude of 9,500 m. The capsule gained two miles of altitude in just 15 seconds.


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