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May 2019 - Science & Technology

  • ISRO Chairman K Sivan flagged off the shipment of India's largest liquid hydrogen storage tank at the VRV Asia Pacific's manufacturing plant at Sri City in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. VRV Asia Pacific manufactured the storage tank with a Liquid Nitrogen shield, in a collaborative effort with Satish Dhawan Space Centre. Liquid hydrogen is used as fuel for satellite launch vehicles.

  • NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was officially inaugurated in Bengaluru on 23 May 2019. NSIL's main objective is to scale up industry participation in Indian space programmes. NSIL will act as an aggregator for all space-related activities in industry and develop private entrepreneurship in space-related technologies.

  • NASA unveiled the schedule for the 'Artemis' program that will return astronauts to the Moon, including eight scheduled launches and a mini-station in lunar orbit by 2024. Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed mission around the Moon planned for 2020. Artemis 2 will orbit the moon with a crew around 2022; followed finally by Artemis 3 that will put astronauts on lunar soil in 2024.

  • Defence Research and Defence Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight tested a 500 kg class Inertial Guided Bomb from a Su-30 MKI aircraft at the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan. The indigenously-developed guided bomb achieved the desired range and hit the target at a distance of 30 km away with high precision. All the mission objectives have been met. The weapon system is capable of carrying different warheads.

    India has carried out several such trials in 2019. DRDO is engaged in developing defence technologies covering various disciplines. The test firing of the guided bomb comes two days after the Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully test fired the aerial version of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile from a Sukhoi jet at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The 2.5-tonne air-to-surface missile has a range of around 300 km, and it will significantly enhance the IAF's combat capability.

  • Two Russian space agency Roscosmos' cosmonauts have successfully carried out the 217th spacewalk for International Space Station's support, maintenance and upgrade. The spacewalk, fourth for 2019, was done by Expedition 59 Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin and lasted six hours and one minute. This was Commander Kononenko's fifth spacewalk and the first-ever for Ovchinin. The cosmonauts retrieved science experiments, install handrails on the Russian segment of the complex, and conduct maintenance on the orbiting laboratory.

  • NASA has chosen Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond to send equipment to the Moon. Each company has developed lunar landers of different sizes and shapes: one is tall, and the other two are more compact.

  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) has signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for crew selection and training for the prestigious Gaganyaan, the country's maiden manned mission. Under the programme, a three-member crew will spend a minimum of seven days in space. A human-rated GSLV Mk-lll will be used to carry the orbital module, which will have necessary provisions for sustaining a three-member crew for the duration of the mission.

    The Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) will lead the selection and training of astronauts on behalf of IAF. The necessary infrastructure for crew training, a realization of flight systems and ground infrastructure will be established to support the program. The ISRO will collaborate extensively with national agencies, laboratories, academia, and industry to accomplish the objectives of the prestigious mission.

  • RISAT-2B, the satellite to be launched before dawn on May 22 from Sriharikota, will mark the resumption of a vital ring of Indian all-seeing radar imaging satellites after seven years. At least a half-dozen could be foreseen in the near future, mainly to add to the reconnaissance capability from about 500 km in space. A constellation of such space-based radars means a comprehensive vigil over the country. Many RISATs were planned. RISAT-2B is to be followed by RISAT-2BR1, 2BR2, RISAT-1A, 1B, 2A and so on. If ISRO orbited its first two radar satellites in 2009 and 2012, it plans to deploy four or five of them in 2019 alone.

    When it is cloudy or dark, ‘regular’ remote-sensing or optical imaging satellites — which work like a light-dependent camera — cannot perceive hidden or surreptitious objects on the ground. Satellites that are equipped with an active sensor, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR), can sense or ‘observe’ Earth in a special way from space day and night, rain or cloud. This all-weather seeing feature is what makes them special for security forces and disaster relief agencies.

  • Astrobee, a free-flying robot system has had its first hardware checks on the International Space Station. The system is actually a trio of robots, named Honey, Queen, and Bumble, which are propelledby electric fans. They can return to their docking station to recharge their batteries.

  • NASA has found evidence for a unique mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface-the farthest world ever explored by mankind. Researchers are also investigating a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits.

  • ISRO has announced to conduct 7 Mega Missions for the upcoming 10 years and also prepared a roadmap for the next 30 years. The 7 Mega Missions includes India’s second moon mission Chandrayaan-2, XPoSaT and Aditya L-1. ISRO categorized its six Mega Missions (excluding Chandrayaan-2) in two broad categories - Defined Missions and Undefined Missions.

  • Indian Air Force successfully fired the BrahMos air version missile from its frontline Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. The launch from the aircraft was smooth and the missile followed the desired trajectory before directly hitting the land target. The air launched BrahMos missile is a 2.5 ton supersonic air to surface cruise missile.

    The Inidan Air Force became the first Air Force in the world to have successfully fired an air launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category on a sea target on Novemebr 2017. It was the second such live launch of the weapon. The BrahMos missile provides Indian Air Force a much desired capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target at sea or on land with pinpoint accuracy by day or night and in all weather conditions.

  • A cosmic body that hit the Earth and led to the formation of the Moon about 4.4 billion years ago may have also delivered large quantities of water to our home planet, scientists have found. The Earth is the only terrestrial planet with a large amount of water and a relatively large moon, which stabilises the Earth's axis. Both were essential for Earth to develop life.

  • SpaceX launches first satellites for Musk’s Starlink internet service. High-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX Company launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida on 23 May, 2019 on a mission to carry the first batch of five dozen small satellites into low-Earth orbit for his new Starlink internet service. The rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Friday), marking a milestone in a global enterprise aimed at generating cash for Mr. Musk's larger ambitions in space.

    The Falcon 9 was due to release its cargo of 60 satellites into orbit about an hour after 23 May, 2019 launch. Each one weighs 500 pounds (227 kg), making it the heaviest payload for any SpaceX rocket to date. Those satellites are designed to form the initial phase a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed internet service from space to paying customers around the globe. SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year. As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, with the ultimate objective of placing up to 12,000 into orbit.

  • German scientists have discovered 18 Earth-sized planets beyond solar system. Scientists re-analysed part of NASA's Kepler Telescope data using new method developed by them. They estimate the method may lead to over 100 more exoplanet discoveries from entire Kepler data set.

  • International researchers have broken the record for superconductivity at the highest temperature recorded to date at around -23°C. They created a new material, called lanthanum super hydrides, to achieve the same. The material was, however, placed under extremely high pressure ranging between 150-170 giga pascals to reach the new record.

  • IAF’s AN-32 aircraft was formally fleet certified to fly on blended aviation fuel containing up to 10% of indigenous bio-jet fuel. The approval certificate was received at the aero-engine test facilities at Chandigarh by Air Commodore Sanjiv Ghuratia. This will promote the ‘Make in India’ mission as this bio-fuel would be produced from Tree Borne Oils sourced from tribal areas and farmers.

  • Jeff Bezos unveiled a mockup of a lunar lander being built by his Blue Origin rocket company. The lander will be able to deliver payloads to the lunar surface, deploy up to four smaller rovers and shoot out satellites to orbit the moon. Bezos unveiled a model of roughly the size of a golf cart, and presented a new rocket engine called BE-7, which can blast 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) of thrust.

  • Mission Artemis will likely carry the first woman astronaut to the Moon. The mission has been named after the Greek Moon goddess who was also the twin sister of the Apollo. The first men to walk on the Moon did so under the Apollo missions between 1960 and 1972. Now, 50 years later, NASA has planned to send the first woman to the Moon in a manned lunar mission in 2024.
    • The Moon is steadily shrinking, causing wrinkling on its surface and quakes, according to an analysis of imagery captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
    • A survey of more than 12,000 images revealed that lunar basin Mare Frigoris near the Moon’s north pole has been cracking and shifting.
    • Since the moon’s crust is brittle, these forces cause its surface to break.

  • Japan's MOMO-3 rocket reaches outer space.nA Japanese aerospace startup funded by a former internet maverick has successfully launched a small rocket into space. Interstellar Technology Inc. says the unmanned MOMO-3 rocket has exceeded 100 kilometers (60 miles) in altitude before falling into the Pacific Ocean. The rocket, about 10 meters (32 feet) long and 50 centimeters (1.5 feet) in diameter, weighs about 1 ton.

  • The Defence Ministry approved Indian Navy's proposal to acquire 10 Kamov-31 choppers from Russia at a cost of around Rs 3,600 crore. It will strengthen its capability against aerial threats to its aircraft carriers and large warships. The Navy already has a fleet of 12 of these Kamov-31 choppers which sanitize the air space around the aircraft carriers and destroyers operating in open seas.

  • Navy launches 4th Scorpene class submarine. The fourth of Indian Navy’s stealth Scorpene clas Submarines of Project 75 was launched at the Kanhoji Angre Wet Basin of Mazagon Dock Limited at Mumbai in Maharashtra. The submarine has been named ‘Vela’ after an earlier submarine, which was the lead submarine, of the erstwhile Vela class. The submarine has completed joining of all its sections.

  • For the very first-time scientists carried out a genetic study on people of Lakshadweep Islands. It was conducted by a team of researchers at CSIR's (Council of Scientific & Industrial Research) Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). It found the close genetic link of Lakshadweep islanders with people from the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and India.

  • In a first, NASA will launch a spacecraft that will collide with an asteroid in 2022 to demonstrate a planetary defense technique. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will get one chance to hit its target, a small moonlet in the binary asteroid system Didymos. The asteroid poses no threat to Earth.

  • The government of India has revamped its high-level anti-hijack panel to include top officials of the Prime Minister’s Office, especially National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. He will be empowered to coordinate any immediate military response. The panel will be called the Committee of Secretaries on Aircraft Hijack (COSAH). The panel will be headed by Cabinet Secretary P.K .Sinha.

  • BuyUcoin, the second oldest Cryptocurrency Exchange in India, has announced the launch of a new and unique platform for wholesale cryptocurrency trading. The platform allows its users to trade on a large scale with low price fluctuations. It currently works on free trading model i.e. charges zero fees on any trade. The platform is aptly described and known as OTC (Over-the-counter) desk.

  • A floating nuclear power plant that is also known as 'Chernobyl on ice' is ready to begin supplying the electricity in Russia. The Akademik Lomonosov is reportedly destined to provide power for a region in Russia’s far-east. The ship’s 70-megawatt reactors could power a city of 200,000 people. China is constructing a similar floating power station.

  • Indian Space Research Organization is planning to send a probe to study the sun early next year (2020). Currently scientists are exploring possibilities to study more about Sun and the probe named Aditya-L1 will be sent to observe the solar corona, the outer layers of the Sun. The satellite would be ed in a halo orbit around the L1 (Lagrangian point 1) of the Sun-Earth system so that it has the advantage of continuously viewing the Sun without any occultation or eclipses.

    The L1 is 1.5 million kms from the Earth. Mr Sivan said, the mission to send Indian astronauts to space by 2022 is well on stream. About tracking cyclone Fani with the details provided by ISRO, officials were able to forecast the landfall area and this helped in taking precautionary measures in advance. It may be recalled that ISRO is making all-out efforts to launch Chandrayaan-2 in the launch window between July 9 and 16, with the aim of its lander soft landing near the south pole of the moon by September 6th.



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