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December 2019 - Science and Technology

  • New laser-based system to spot space junk. Researchers in China have improved the accuracy of detecting space junk in the Earth's orbit, providing a more effective way to plot safe routes for spacecraft. They have developed space junk identification systems. A unique set of algorithms for laser ranging telescopes, described in the Journal of Laser Applications, has significantly improved the success rate of space debris detection.

  • NTPC is planning to add 10GW of solar energy generation capacity by 2022, which entails an investment of around Rs 50,000 crore. At present, NTPC has installed renewable energy capacity of 920 MW, which includes mainly solar energy. It has formulated a long term plan to become a 130 GW company by 2032 with 30 per cent non- fossil fuel or renewable energy capacity.

  • Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), France on 17th December 2019. The aim of the MoU is to establish a framework for cooperation between India and France towards promotion and support of scientific and technological research. CSIR and CNRS plan to strengthen their cooperation to foster joint innovation and transfer of technologies applicable to India or/and France and to other nations.

    It aims to benefit potentially and increase synergistic cooperation possibilities for translating science into technology. The cooperation includes promoting technology transfer, sharing good practices, and enhancing industry-academia cooperation. The research areas of mutual interest include biotechnology including plant and marine biotechnology, environment and climate change studies, engineering science and technology, energy science and technology, health research, material science and technology, and water research.

  • DRDO successfully test-fired a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on test-fired a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile off the coast of Odisha successfully on 17th December 2019. The target of the missile was a ship. The land-attack version of the missile was test-fired from a mobile autonomous launcher at Launch Complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur near Balasore, Odisha.

    The BrahMos missile is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile capable of being launched from submarines, ships, fighter jets or land. BrahMos was described as the world's fastest supersonic cruise missile with a high rate of precision and accuracy. It can be fired from land, sea, and air.

    BrahMos is a joint venture between the DRDO and the NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPOM) of Russia. The speed at which the BrahMos cruise missile travels is Mach 2.8, nearly three times that of sound. It has the ability 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.

  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has accepted to name a white-yellow star in Sextans constellation and its Jupiter-like exoplanets. Until now, the stars were called HD 86081 and 86081b. The star will be named Bibha and the orbiting exoplanet will be named Santamasa, a Sanskrit term for clouded. The move by IAU is aimed to bring the attention of the global countries to exoplanet research.

  • Upgraded version of Pinaka guided rocket system, QR-SAM successfully test fired. India had successfully test-fired two missiles from Chandipur in Odisha. The upgraded version of Pinaka guided rocket system was test-fired from the DRDO’s Proof and Experimental Establishment firing test range while the all-weather tracked-chassis Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QR-SAM) tested from a mobile launcher at a launch complex of the Integrated Test Range.

    The indigenously developed Pinaka and QR-SAM weapon system test achieved the desired accuracy by hitting the intended target with a high degree of precision and met all mission objectives. Pinaka system has a maximum range of 75 km for Mark-II variant and can fire a salvo of 12 rockets in less than 45 seconds.

    QR-SAM system can also engage multiple targets within a range of around 25 to 30 km with two vehicle configurations for area air defence. The specificity of QR-SAM missile is that it intended to defend Army formations operating in plains and semi-desert areas, including those enemy missiles that suddenly appear at close range. The successful test of missiles will boost India to strengthen its security position.

  • Ethiopia launched its first satellite on 20th December, 2019, a landmark achievement for the country's space program that caps a banner year for the African space industry. The launch of the Ethiopian Remote Sensing Satellite (ETRSS) took place at a space station in China. The live broadcast was watched by a group of Ethiopian and Chinese officials and scientists who had gathered at the Entoto Observatory and Research Centre outside the capital, Addis Ababa.

    According to Temidayo Oniosun, managing director of Space in Africa, a Nigeria-based firm that tracks African space programs, this was the eighth launch of an African satellite this year, topping the previous record of seven in 2017. The launch makes Ethiopia the eleventh African country to put a satellite into space. Egypt was the first in 1998. Data provided by Ethiopia's satellite is expected to paint a fuller picture of the country's agriculture, forestry and mining resources and improve responses to flooding and other disasters.

  • ISRO to set up third rocket launchpad. ISRO has begun preparatory works for setting up a 3rd rocket launchpad in Kulashekhrapattinam in the Thuthukudi district of Tamil Nadu. At present, ISRO has two launch pads at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The demand for additional launch pads arose as a result of the increase in the number of satellite launches from India, both for domestic and international customers.

  • ISRO to set up space technology cells. ISRO announced the setting up of five space technology cells (STCs) at India’s premier engineering and science colleges. This would be done to conduct space research, build new applications and high-end technology. STCs have been installed at IIT- Bombay, Kanpur, Madras and Kharagpur, Bengaluru’s IISc and atthe Joint Research Programme with Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).

  • The “Duchifat-3”, a satellite made by Israeli students will be launched on 11 Dec 2019 from ISRO's Sriharikota launch site. “Duchifat-3” is a satellite jointly built by Herzliya Science Center and Sha’ar Hanegev High School students of Israel. It is the 3rd in the series of Israeli student-made satellites. It is a photo satellite to be used for ecological research of Earth from space.

  • RISAT-2BR1 to be launched on 11th December marking 50th PSLV flight. The countdown is on for the launch of India’s radar imaging earth observation satellite RISAT-2BR1 on board PLSV-C48 from its spaceport of Sriharikota. The workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, on its 50th mission, PSLV-C48, is scheduled to lift off from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota, about 130 km from here at 3.25 p.m. on December 11.

  • Worlds first fully electric commercial aircraft successfully tested in Canada. The Australian company, Harbour Air and magniX flight-tested an all-electric powered seaplane. It has taken flight in Vancouver, Canada. The company aims to electrify its entire fleet by 2022. It was described as the world's first for the aviation industry. The test involved a six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver with a 750-horsepower (560 kW) magni500 propulsion system.

    The invention is aimed to boost the electric which will help to reduce the carbon emissions in the high-polluting aviation sector. The aim to provide a clean and efficient way to power airplanes. The new technology will mean significant cost savings and zero emissions for airlines.

  • North Korea conducted another crucial test at its Sohae satellite launch site. The research successes will be applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent of the country. Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain deadlocked with a deadline approaching.

  • India will host the 36th International Geological Congress (IGC) in the Delhi in March, 2020. The theme of the forthcoming conference is ‘Geosciences: The Basic Science for a Sustainable Development’. The IGCs are a prestigious global geoscientific events held once in four years and participated by around 5000-6000 geoscientists from all over the world.

  • NASA has finally selected a sample collection site on asteroid Bennu after the arrival of OSIRIS-REx spacecraft in December 2018. The OSIRIS-Rex mission team has selected the site designated Nightingale, which is located in a crater high in Bennu's northern hemisphere. The team has also selected site Osprey of Bennu as a backup sample collection site.

    OSIRIS-REx spacecraft mapped the entire asteroid in order to identify the safest and most accessible spots for the spacecraft to collect a sample so far. Site Nightingale is located in a northern crater 460 feet wide of the asteroid. As the site is located so far north, the temperatures in the region are lower than elsewhere on the asteroid and the surface material is well-preserved. OSIRIS-REx sample collection has been scheduled for the latter half of 2020. The spacecraft is expected to return the asteroid samples to Earth on 24 September 2023.

  • ISRO to launch RISAT 2BR1 on 11 December. ISRO has planned to launch sharp-eyed surveillance satellite RISAT-2BR1 (Radar Imaging Satellite-2) with Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) on 11 December 2019.
    • RISAT-2BR1 is a radar imaging satellite.
    • It is dubbed as a spy satellite.
    • It can take pictures of the earth during day and night even under cloudy conditions.
    • The satellites will help 24/7 border surveillance along with checking infiltration.
    • It will keep an eye on terror or anti-national activities across the borders.
    • ISRO also plans to launch radar imaging satellite 2BR2 with synthetic aperture radar after the launch.

  • India successfully test fired Prithvi II missile. India successfully conducted a night test-trial of the indigenously developed nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile off complex-3 of Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha coast. The test of the short-range ballistic missile was conducted by the Strategic Forces Command.
    Prithvi-II missile:
    • The surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile has a strike range of 350 km.
    • It is capable of carrying 500 to 1,000 kg of warheads. It is powered by liquid propulsion twin engines.
    • The missile was inducted into the Indian defence forces in 2003.
    • The missile was developed by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) of the Ministry of Defence.

  • Punjab partnered with WEF to promote electric mobility. Punjab State government partnered with the World Economic Forum (WEF) to design a Public-Private pilot on shared, clean and electric mobility. The move aims to combat the growing problem of environmental pollution in the state.
    WEF Partnership:
    • The state is preparing its own EV policy to support the adoption of e-vehicles.
    • WEF chose Punjab, as it is well-positioned for shared EV transition.
    • WEF has already housed an existing auto component manufacturing base, besides having skilled labour and being a power surplus.
    • The public-Private pilot will examine how Public and Private sectors can interplay to offer the most robust and successful EV ecosystem. It is a part of the collaboration to be formulated at the WEF annual meeting in Davos in January 2020.

  • Russia has deployed the first hypersonic missile Avangard. Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has informed President Vladimir Putin about the deployment of Avangard. This information was released in the official statement. According to the media reports, the direction of this missile can be changed even in the air. It caught the speed of Mach 27, which is equivalent to about 33,000 kilometers per hour, during the test. This is the first of its kind missile in the world. This missile can’t be caught by any radar. According to Russian news agencies, the first regiment of the Avangard hypersonic missile was deployed at the military base in the Orenburg area of Urals. Earlier, in 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about Avangard and other prospective weapons systems during his nation-address.

  • Agni-III, a long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, has failed its first night test. The test was carried out at the Integrated Test Range at APJ Abdul Kalam Island near Odisha coast. The Agni-III missile fell into the ocean after the first stage split. In the initial flight, the missile covered a distance of 115 km, but soon it deviated from its path. According to preliminary investigations, the missile lost its way due to a construction flaw. The test was conducted as a user trial for the Indian Army. The trajectory for this missile test was fixed at 2800 km.

  • Tripura is all set to get its first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) has issued a notification for the same on December 16, 2019. Tripura’s first SEZ will be established at Jalefa, Sabroom, South Tripura District. Sarbroom is about 130 km away from Agartala. This SEZ will be an agro-based food processing sector specified economic zone. This project will help hundreds of native people to get employment and provide an opportunity to learn new technologies in the agro-based food processing sector.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) allowed the commercial use of Samsung Bioepis', a biosimilar drug of Trastuzumab, to treat breast cancer. This drug was included in the list of essential medicines by the WHO in 2015. Biosimilars are also cheaper adaptations of basic bio-therapeutic drugs like generic medicine while their effectiveness is similar. They are manufactured by companies when the patent of the original product has expired. Biotherapeutic medicines are those drugs that are manufactured from biological and living sources like cells, blood, blood cells, tissue, and other substances rather than synthesized chemicals.

  • MiG-27 fighter jet is known as the Kargil war hero that decommissioned with its last flight. It was an Indian Air Force’s lethal fighter aircraft which became the main attacker during 1999 Kargil war. The last fighter aircraft of the squadron took a flight from Jodhpur airbase. The squadron will be number plated on 31 March 2020 which means it will no more in the service. The MiG-27's squadron in Jodhpur is the last batch of aircraft. However, this squadron was known as one of the IAF’s best team.
    • The MiG-class aircraft was purchased from Soviet Russia while it was first inducted into the Indian Air Force in 1981.
    • This fighter jet, which has been in service for more than 38 years, is considered the best air-to-ground attack aircraft.
    • HAL manufactured a total of 165 MiG-27s based on licenses from Russia. Later, 86 of these aircraft were upgraded.
    • Each aircraft can carry 4,000 kilograms of weapons while flying at a maximum speed of 1700 kilometers per hour.
    • The squadron was established on 10 March 1958 at the Air Force Station Halwara by Ouragan (Toofani) aircraft.

  • Russia has deployed the first hypersonic missile Avangard. Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has informed President Vladimir Putin about the deployment of Avangard. The direction of this missile can be changed even in the air. It caught the speed of Mach 27, which is equivalent to about 33,000 kilometers per hour, during the test. This is the first of its kind missile in the world. This missile can’t be caught by any radar. The first regiment of the Avangard hypersonic missile was deployed at the military base in the Orenburg area of Urals. Earlier, in 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked about Avangard and other prospective weapons systems during his nation-address.

    Hypersonic missiles are actually hypersonic glided missiles. It includes features of both cruise and ballistic missiles. It goes out of the Earth's atmosphere into a parabolic path and enters the Earth's atmosphere again. It flies low in the atmosphere and almost unable to intercept. At present, Russia, USA and China have the capacity of hypersonic missiles.

  • ISRO is planning to launch its first Sun Mission Aditya L1. It is an ambitious plan of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The concept of the Aditya-1 mission was to carry 400 kg of the payload called Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC). Earlier, this mission was planned to launch in an 800 km low earth orbit. But, it was found that a satellite placed in a halo orbit around the Lagrangian Point 1 (L1) can give a big advantage of viewing Sun. Thus, this mission was renamed Aditya L-1 Mission.

    The Aditya L1 mission will be the country's first solar mission. This will help scientists to study the sun's Corona. There will be six scientific payloads on this 400 kg satellite. It will be placed in the halo orbit near the L1 point of the Sun-Earth system. The Aditya-L1 can now provide observations of the Sun's photosphere (soft and solid X-rays), chromosphere (UV) and the corona (visual and NIR) along with additional experiments.

  • The Indian Navy has banned the use of facebook by the naval personnel. The use of messaging apps, networking and blogging apps, content sharing, hosting and e-commerce sites has also been banned. The Indian Navy has also banned the use of smartphones at naval bases, dockyards and aboard warships. The harsh step was taken by the Indian Navy following an incident in which seven naval personnel were caught leaking confidential information to enemy intelligence agencies using social media platforms. The key aim behind banning the use of facebook by Indian naval personnel is to ensure the security of sensitive and confidential information. According to naval sources, the decision was taken after the information leak incident involving the seven naval personnel.

  • Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on December 30, 2019, that the government has decided to give spectrum to all telecom companies for trails on the 5G network. This will also include operators who want to work with China's well-known network equipment company Huawei. Many countries have allowed telecom service providers to use Chinese equipment. Now, the Indian Government has also indicated that it will not restrict any company out of 5G trials. Huawei has banned in the United States. The government is planning to auction 5G spectrum soon to bring India on par with the world's high-speed broadband. It means that all operators, regardless of the equipment vendor, will be able to participate in the 5G trials.

    5G services will provide high-speed internet and connectivity. For example, a 3-hour movie can be downloaded within a few seconds. It is believed that video buffering will not be there because Data Transfer will be very fast. As per the media reports, the 5G network will deliver data in one millisecond that takes about 70 milliseconds in 4G services. It is also believed that 5G network will work on 3500 MHz band.



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