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ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar is thrilled to create India’s own space shuttle

The idea to make reusable rockets a reality is to cut down the cost of access to space by at least 10 times

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ISRO Chief Kiran Kumar. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The stepping stones of ISRO (Indian space research organisation) were laid by none other than our own beloved Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. After deploying its own GPS system through NAVIC, ISRO (India’s version of NASA) is all set to achieve another milestone in the field of space and technology. India is going to launch its own indigenous Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV). According to indianexpress.com if this attempt becomes a success then the cost of access to space will decline significantly by 10 times.

What does RLV mean ?

RLV is a mechanism of launching which intends to bring down the cost of launch. Initially, a series of technology demonstrations will take place followed by the testing of HEX-01 (also called winged body). ISRO chairman Kiran Kumar explains the whole mechanism of this upcoming experiment. He further elucidates that HEX-01 will be launched from Sriharikota Island. After coming back from space it will be guided by satellites and radars to make it land in the Bay of Bengal. However, the final winged body will land on Sriharikota Islands only (i.e. on land only).

Vikas engine of ISRO, Wikimedia commons
Vikas engine of ISRO, Wikimedia commons
  • K Sivan, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram said “These are just the first baby steps towards the big Hanuman leap. The final version will take at least 10-15 years to get ready since designing a human-rated reusable rocket is no kid stuff.
  • Apart from America, no other superpowers have attempted operational flights.
    • The US flew its space shuttle 135 times and then retired in 2011. It is said that it lost its capacity afterwards to send astronauts into space.
    • Russians made only a single space shuttle called ‘Buran’ which flew into space once in 1989.
    • French and Japanese made some experimental flights, though.
    • However, Chinese have never even attempted a space shuttle.
  • Indian space shuttle or RLV-TD began its construction nearly 5 years ago. Our government has invested nearly RS 95 Crores in this project. The capability of the vehicle to survive a re-entry at velocities more than that of a supersonic range will be tested by the flight. That is the reason this experiment has also been named as Hyper Sonic Experiment (HEX). Later RLV will be tested for another return flight experiment. After successful completion of these experiments, ISRO will plan the final configuration of the upcoming Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).
  • Scientists have even developed a material called ‘Indian space plane’. This will help in protecting the exterior surface of the shuttle from the friction caused heat while entering earth’s atmosphere (this temperature goes up to 5000-700 degrees Celsius). This thermal coating failure was the reason due to which the American space shuttle (Columbia) crashed which lead to the death of Kalpana Chawla in 2003. Hence, ISRO is emphasising on the thermal management.
  • Scientists have worked hard in making this dream come true. ISRO’s aim is to have its own ‘swadeshi space shuttle’. Sooner or later the RLV will be renamed as ‘Kalyanam’ after India’s famous former president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (a legendary aeronautical engineer and rocket scientist) who dreamt of making India into a developed nation.
Former President - Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia commons
Former President – Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia commons
  • Given the vast potential which lies within our very own ISRO, we all hope this project becomes a success where all other superpowers have failed.
  • Even though the whole world is silent in attempting winged flights, ISRO’s main motto behind all this is bringing down the overall cost of building space infrastructures. This way scientists at ISRO believe that their capability will increase significantly.

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-Prepared by Pritam

Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata.

You can reach the author at @pritam_gogreen

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Biotechnology Can Meet The Growing Energy Needs Of Rural India

The Indian economy also has a distinct advantage with respect to its demography that can ensure sustained growth for the sector.

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Indian biotechnology industry has flourished over the years. As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups. Pixabay

Over the last two-to-three decades, the major success story of the Indian economy has been the stellar growth of its IT industry. But as the dividends from the sector reach the eventual inflection point, India needs to build similar competencies in other industries to ensure sustained growth and prosperity.

It is not acknowledged as often but the biotechnology industry seemed poised to take over the mantle. In the span of a decade beginning in 2007, the industry has grown exponentially in size from about $2 billion to over $11 billion in terms of revenue. By 2025, it is targeted to touch $100 billion.

The biotechnology industry, however, has been impacting Indian lives long before it grew so much in size. Back in the mid-1960s, advancements in biotechnology drove the Green Revolution, which enhanced farm yields and made the country self-sufficient in food production.

A similar contribution from the sector was witnessed in the White Revolution when India became a milk-surplus nation and improved the nutrition level of its citizens.

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However, a few challenges need to be addressed if India is to fuel the growth of its biotechnology industry and achieve its target of making it a $100 billion industry by 2025. Pixabay

More recently, the meteoric growth of the Indian pharmaceutical industry is a result of process innovation that has given the country a cost advantage in the manufacture of drugs.

Further, the growing energy needs of India’s rural areas have been increasingly met by biomass fuel.

These outcomes have been the result of years of concerted efforts by the Indian government to enable the growth of the industry. As early as 1986, Rajiv Gandhi, recognising the potential of biotechnology in the country’s development, set up the Department of Biotechnology, making India one of the first countries in the world to have a government department solely dedicated to biotechnology.

Over the years, the Department of Biotechnology has set up 17 Centres of Excellence at higher education institutions across the country and has supported the establishment of eight biotechnology parks across different cities. The biggest contribution of the department has been in setting up of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) in 2012, which has successfully supported 316 start-ups in its six years of existence.

Due to these efforts, the Indian biotechnology industry has flourished over the years. As of 2016, India had over a thousand biotechnology start-ups. To put matters in perspective, Australia has a total of 470 biotechnology companies. More than half of these start-ups are involved in healthcare – drugs, medical devices and diagnostics – while about 14 per cent are in agricultural biotechnology and about 18 per cent in biotechnology services.

The Indian economy also has a distinct advantage with respect to its demography that can ensure sustained growth for the sector. More than half the Indian population is below the age of 25. On a global scale, the median age in India (26.5 years) is much below that of China (35.9 years) and the US (37.1 years). An effective utilisation of this demographic advantage will provide India a competitive edge over all other emerging economies in the advancement of biotechnological research and development.

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he industry argues that India’s stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. Pixabay

However, a few challenges need to be addressed if India is to fuel the growth of its biotechnology industry and achieve its target of making it a $100 billion industry by 2025. First, India’s research and development expenditure is quite low at 0.67 per cent of GDP, not only compared to mature biotechnology economies such as Japan and the US (which stands at around 3 per cent) but also in comparison to emerging economies like China (which is at around 2 percent).

Second, and more specific to the biotech pharmaceutical sector, there are a few India-specific challenges with the country’s IP regime. There are two main areas of contention for the industry in India’s approach to intellectual property. The first issue lies in Section 3(d) of the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005, which sets a higher standard for patentability than mandated by TRIPS. The industry argues that India’s stricter standards for patents discourages innovation and dampens foreign investment. The second issue is that of compulsory licensing, which gives the government power to suspend a patent in times of health emergencies. Although India has used this option only once, the industry feels that such regulations keep investors clear of Indian markets.

A third challenge lies in the risk involved in the Valley of Death, that is, the risk of failure in the transition of innovative products and services from discovery to marketisation. Most of the early research funding, often provided by universities or the government, runs out before the marketisation phase, the funding for which is mostly provided by venture capitalists. It becomes difficult to attract further capital between these two stages because a developing technology may seem promising, but it is often too early to validate its commercial potential. This gap has a huge impact in commercialisation of innovative ideas.

Also Read: Portable Power: 2019’s 10 Best Portable Generators for Camping

Thus, the Indian government needs to act on these challenges facing the biotechnology sector. An increase in investment towards research and development and building human capital is the most crucial point of action. These initiatives have shifted growth trajectories of countries like China away from India. As for the challenging IP regime, the government needs to come together with the biopharma industry and chalk out a middle ground that recognises the value of innovation and does not hurt its investment attractiveness. Finally, for the Valley of Death concerns, the government can build a mechanism where funding can be provided for select innovative ideas based on their national importance. Only such action-oriented steps can make biotechnology the next success story of the Indian economy. (IANS)