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Even though the year 2020 would be known as Covid-19 year, it could also be termed as the defining year for the Indian space sector to put it in a different orbit with the private sector as a co-traveler of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). As a part of that, the Department of Space (DoS) recently signed an agreement with Chennai based small rocket company Agnikul Cosmos Pvt Ltd to access the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centers.
According to DoS, this is the first of its kind agreement to be signed after the establishment of the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), the authorization and regulatory body for enabling private players to undertake space activities in India. Under the agreement, Agnikul Cosmos will be provided access to the facilities and technical expertise available in ISRO centers to proceed with their launch vehicle/rocket development program.
A couple of days later, Syzygy Space Technologies Pvt Ltd, commonly known as Pixxel, signed up with NewSpace India Ltd – DoS’ commercial arm – to launch its first satellite using ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket in early 2021. Pixel plans to have its Firefly constellation consisting of 30 small earth observation satellites by the end of 2022.
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The DoS has also come out with three draft policies – Draft Space-Based Communication Policy of India 2020 (Spacecom Policy-2020), Draft Space-Based Remote Sensing Policy, and Revised Technology Transfer Policy Guidelines – to enable the private sector play a greater role in the space field.
The DoS Secretary and ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said a policy for launch vehicles and rockets, space exploration, and also a comprehensive Space Act will also be announced. In effect, after the insipid first half, the year 2020 turned a bit interesting after the Central government decided to open up the sector for private players.
During the start of 2020, Sivan had said that ISRO had planned to have 25 launches, including Aditya-L1 satellite, Geo Imaging Satellite (GISAT-1), the realization of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) or small rocket (carrying capacity 500 kg), navigation satellite with indigenous atomic clocks and Indian Data Relay Satellite System (IDRSS), and GSAT-20 satellite with electric propulsion.
Sivan also said that India will embark on its third moon mission — ‘Chandrayaan-3’ — and attempt to land a lander on the lunar surface sometime in 2020-21. The year began well for ISRO with the launch of the 3,357 kg communication satellite GSAT-30 by the European space agency Arianespace rocket Ariane 5 on January 17.
ISRO also showcased its robot/half-humanoid — Vyommitra — which was part of its human space mission program ‘Gaganyaan’. The first setback of the year for ISRO came on March 4, when it had to call off the launch of GISAT-1, a day before its actual launch, owing to technical reasons.
The ISRO did not share any detail about the technical reasons, or the glitch, and its rectification since then. It is also not known when the satellite with a very good camera would be launched.
Then came the Covid-19 lockdown within and outside India that had its cascading impact on ISRO’s core plans like the realization of SSLV, launch of GISAT-1, delay in the first test-flight of the rocket as part of Gaganyaan — India’s human space flight mission.
Meanwhile, two positive developments happened for ISRO — securing an Indian patent for its liquid cooling and heating garment (LCHG) suitable for space applications and for its method of manufacturing highland lunar soil simulant or simply lunar/moon soil.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: इसरो के पीएसएलवी रॉकेट ने 42वें संचार उपग्रह सीएमएस-01 संग भरी उड़ान
On May 16, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Indian private sector will be a co-traveler in India’s space-sector journey and a level-playing field will be provided for them in satellites, launches, and space-based services. She also said that a predictable policy and regulatory environment will be provided to the private players.
Future projects for planetary exploration, outer space travel, and others are to be opened up for the private sector, and there will be a liberal geospatial data policy for providing remote-sensing data to tech-entrepreneurs subject to various checks.
On June 24, the Union Cabinet decided to set up IN-SPACe, making ISRO focus on research and development (R&D) of new technologies, exploration missions, and human spaceflight programs. The IN-SPACe would provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure.
As a part of the rejig, DoS’ commercial arm New Space India Limited (NSIL) will endeavor to re-orient space activities from a ‘supply-driven’ model to a ‘demand-driven’ model, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of the country’s space assets. “The best is to establish an independent regulator — Space Regulatory Authority of India (SRAI) — which will create a level-playing field for many of the emerging players,” Narayan Prasad, Chief Operating Officer, search, told IANS.
Establishing an independent regulator could allow a systematic review and reforms on a continuous basis rather than one-off announcements, Prasad said. As per the current scheme of things, IN-SPACe will have its own directorates for technical, legal, safety and security, monitoring as well as activities promotion for assessing the private sector’s needs and coordination of the activities.
IN-SPACe would have a board and representatives from industry, academia, and the government, Sivan said. “Initially, IN-SPACe will be manned by people from the existing space setup. Later, people from outside will be taken in. It will have its funds from the budgetary allocations for the DoS. The new body may not need big financial allocations,” Sivan remarked.
Meanwhile, ISRO restarted its satellite launch operations on November 7 by putting into orbit the Earth Observation Satellite EOS-1, formerly RISAT-2BR2, and nine other foreign satellites in a textbook style, using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C49). With this launch, ISRO put into orbit a total of 328 foreign satellites, all for a fee. On December 17, ISRO orbited India’s 42nd communication satellite-CMS-01 (formerly named GSAT-12R) with its PSLV-C50 rocket.
While that was the last space mission for India in 2020, Sivan told IANS that the first quarter of 2021 will see the Indian space agency’s cash till ringing with the commercial launch of Brazilian satellite Amazonia as well as three Indian satellites. “End of February or early March 2021, we will be sending our rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle-C51 (PSLV-C51). The primary payload will be the Brazilian satellite called Amazonia an earth observation satellite,” Sivan said.
“The PSLV-C51 mission will be a very special mission not only for ISRO but also for India as the rocket will be carrying the earth observation satellite Anand made by an Indian startup called Pixxel (Incorporated as Syzygy Space Technologies Pvt Ltd),” he added. The PSLV-C51 will also carry a communication satellite – Satisat – built by the students of city-based Space Kidz India and another satellite – Unit – built by a consortium of three Indian universities.
According to Sivan, Team ISRO has a busy schedule ahead for the launch of Aditya L1 satellite, third moon mission Chandrayaan-3, Gaganyaaan – India’s human space mission, and realization of small rocket Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). He also said the SSLV will carry EOS-02 (Earth Observation Satellite), and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-F10 (GSLV) carrying EOS-3. The other Indian satellites that are ready for launch are GISAT and Microsat-2A.
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* International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has recognized NavIC as a component of the World-Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS).
* Hindustan Aeronautics Limited delivered the biggest cryogenic propellant tank (C32 LH2) for ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mk III (GSLV).
* India’s 700 kg cartography satellite Cartosat-2F and Russia’s 450 kg Kanopus-V satellite had a near-miss in outer space on November 27.
* ISRO opts for a generic name for remote sensing and communication satellites.
* An US court ordered Antrix Corporation to pay $1.2 billion as damages to Bengaluru-based Devas Multimedia.
* India’s human space mission Gaganyaan to be delayed.
* Chandrayaan-2 completes a year of orbiting the moon.
* 100th birth anniversary of Indian rocket scientist Satish Dhawan celebrated.
* ISRO got the patent for ‘Made in India Moon Soil’.
* Bharti Global and the UK government-led satellite communications company OneWeb launched 36 satellites with a Russian rocket Soyuz. (IANS)
Hackers have stolen crypto tokens worth $120 million from Blockchain-based decentralised finance (DeFi) platform BadgerDAO. Several crypto wallets were drained before the platform could stop the cyber attack. In a tweet, Badger said it has received reports of unauthorised withdrawals of user funds. "As Badger engineers investigate this, all smart contracts have been paused to prevent further withdrawals. Our investigation is ongoing and we will release further information as soon as possible," the company said late on Thursday.
According to the blockchain security and data analytics Peckshield, the various tokens stolen in the attack are worth about $120 million, reports The Verge. According to reports, someone inserted a malicious script in the user interface (UI) of their website. Badger has retained data forensics experts Chainalysis to explore the full scale of the incident and authorities in both the US and Canada have been informed. "Badger is cooperating fully with external investigations as well as proceeding with its own," it said. DeFi is a collective term for financial products and services that are open, decentralised and accessible to anyone. DeFi products open up financial services to anyone with an internet connection and they are largely owned and maintained by their users. While the attack didn't reveal specific flaws within Blockchain tech itself, it managed to exploit the older "web 2.0" technology that most users need to use to perform transactions, according to reports. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: crypto wallets, BadgerDAO, decentralised finance, Blockchain, 120 million, crypto tokens, Hackers)
A total of 120 top Bollywood and other celebrities are expected to attend the wedding of film stars Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal which is scheduled on December 9 in Rajasthan, said Rajendra Kishan, the District Collector (DC) of Sawai Madhopur district of the state on Friday. The District Collector told mediapersons: "These 120 guests shall follow all COVID-19 protocols and fully vaccinated guests will get entry in the much-hyped celebrity wedding."
Kishan said that the organisers have been asked to strictly follow all Covid-19 protocols. Also, those who are not vaccinated, will not be allowed without the negative RT-PCR test report, he added. "We have been informed by organisers that a total of 120 guests are invited to the wedding and the events will take place between December 7 to December 10," he added.
Earlier at 10.30 a.m., Kishan called a meeting which was attended by administrative, police and forest department officials, hotel and event managers to ensure adequate arrangements for crowd control, smooth regulation of traffic, and law and order situation amid the VIP movement. The wedding venue Fort Barwara, that has been converted into a heritage hotel, is situated in the panchayat samiti Chauth Ka Barwara. The venue is around 22 km away from Sawai Madhopur and is around 174 km from Jaipur. Sawai Madhopur district is famous for the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve and as per reports, the guests are likely to be taken for a tiger safari. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Rajasthan, December 9, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, film stars, celebrities, Bollywood, Katrina-Vicky)
The National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), which confirmed the first two cases of the Omicron variant in Bengaluru on Thursday, is continuously monitoring the situation in four cities - Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, and Pune. The NCBS is a part of a consortium of national laboratories performing genomic surveillance across four city clusters. The consortium was established four months ago with support from The Rockefeller Foundation's Pandemic Prevention Institute, and is led by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad.
Dr Rakesh Mishra at the CCMB said on Friday that the consortium is continuously monitoring the situation in all the four cities and has upscaled its efforts to sequence as many samples as possible Apart from the CCMB and the NCBS, the consortium includes CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology - IGIB in New Delhi and the Pune Knowledge Cluster, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
The first case of the Omicron variant was detected in South Africa and reported to the World Health Organization on November 24. | Unsplash
The consortium is focused on upscaling genomic surveillance as part of national efforts led by the INSACOG - Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium - to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The consortium intensified its sequencing efforts after the World Health Organisation announced Omicron as a Variant of Concern. Such an intensified effort enabled the Bengaluru team at the NCBS, a member laboratory of INSACOG, in collaboration with Strand Life Sciences and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), to detect, rapidly sequence and verify the existence of the omicron variant in samples from two Covid-19 infected individuals.
They hope this will aid in a rapid response to contain the spread of variants of concern. Prof Satyajit Mayor from the NCBS conveyed the information to local and national authorities, and the Indian government released a statement on December 2, all within four days of receiving the samples. Both SARS-CoV-2 genomes have also been uploaded to the global repository for SARS-CoV-2 sequences, GISAID, so that they can be publicly available to the scientific community, the NCBS said. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: Hyderabad, New Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, The National Centre for Biological Sciences, Situation, NCBS, Omicron)