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UAE Hope Probe Nears Mars in First Arab Mission

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By Reuters | Updated: 10 February 2021

The United Arab Emirates’ first mission to Mars is set to reach the red planet and enter its orbit on Tuesday following a seven-month, 494 million km journey, allowing it to start sending data about the Martian atmosphere and climate.

This would make the UAE the fifth space agency to reach the planet. The Mars programme is part of the UAE’s efforts to develop its scientific and technological capabilities and reduce its reliance on oil. The UAE Space Agency even has an ambitious plan for a Mars settlement by 2117.

The attempt to lock into orbit around Mars has a 50 percent chance of failing, Dubai’s ruler and UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said on Tuesday.

“But even if we could not enter the orbit, we’ve already made history. This is the farthest point in the universe to be reached by Arabs throughout their history … Our goal is to give hope to all Arabs that we are capable of competing with the rest of the world,” he said.

To enter Mars’ orbit, the probe needs to burn some of its 800kg of onboard fuel to slow down enough not to overshoot the planet.

“If the probe is slowed down too much then the probe would enter an orbit that would ultimately lead it to crash on Mars,” Associate Professor in Astronomy and Science Communication Daniel Brown, from Britain’s Nottingham Trent University, told Reuters.

“If it overshoots, then it will hurtle into interplanetary space on a much larger orbit around the Sun and most likely not meet Mars at all,” he said, adding that there were other scenarios between these extremes.

This year marks 50 years since independence from Britain and the founding of the UAE. Mars probes launched by China and NASA just after the UAE’s lift-off in July are also set to reach the planet this month.

The Emirates Mars Mission, which has cost around $200 million (roughly Rs. 1,500 crores), launched the Hope Probe from a Japanese space centre. It aims to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere for the first time, studying daily and seasonal changes.

The UAE first announced plans for the mission in 2014 and launched a National Space Programme in 2017 to develop local expertise. Its population of 9.4 million, most of whom are foreign workers, lacks the scientific and industrial base of the big spacefaring nations.

Hazza al-Mansouri became the first Emirati in space in 2019 when he flew to the International Space Station.

To develop and build the Hope Probe, Emiratis and Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) worked with US educational institutions.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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ISRO’s Faces SSLV-D1 Data Loss at Terminal Phase of the Mission, Placed in Wrong Orbit

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By ANI | Updated: 8 August 2022

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday said its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) placed satellites into elliptical orbit instead of a circular orbit. Sharing the updates of its satellite launch, ISRO said “SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356kx76km elliptical orbit instead of 356km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. The issue is reasonably identified. Failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation. A committee would analyse and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back soon with SSLV-D2.”

Earlier in the day, ISRO launched its first new rocket the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) and a student-made satellite-AzaadiSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

To mark the country’s celebrations of “Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, the SSLV, co-passenger satellite called “AzaadiSAT” comprising 75 payloads built by 750 students from 75 rural government schools across India was launched.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath on Sunday said that both Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) were injected but the “orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable.”

“All stages performed normal. Both satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable,” the ISRO chief said.

He further said that the SSLV-D1 suffered data loss at the terminal phase of the mission.

“In the terminal phase of the mission, some data loss is occurring. We are analysing the data to conclude the final outcome of the mission with respect to achieving a stable orbit,” Somanath added.

Girls who designed the satellite also witnessed the SSLV-D1 launch. The general public also witnessed the launch from the viewing gallery of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

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SpaceX Launches South Korea’s First Lunar Orbiter Danuri on Falcon 9 Rocket

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 August 2022

South Korea’s first lunar orbiter successfully launched on a year-long mission to observe the Moon, Seoul said Friday, with the payload including a new disruption-tolerant network for sending data from space.

Danuri — a portmanteau of the Korean words for “Moon” and “enjoy” — was on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. It aims to reach the Moon by mid-December.

“South Korea’s first lunar orbiter ‘Danuri’ left for space at 8:08am on August 5, 2022,” Seoul’s science ministry said in a tweet, sharing a video of the rocket blasting off trailing a huge column of smoke and flames.

“Danuri will be the first step towards the Moon and the farther universe,” it said, apparently referring to the country’s ambitious space programme, which includes plans for a Moon mission by 2030.

SpaceX tweeted that the launch had been a success.

“Deployment of KPLO confirmed,” it said, referring to Danuri using an acronym of its official name, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.

During its mission, Danuri will use six different instruments, including a highly sensitive camera provided by NASA, to conduct research, including investigating the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites.

One of the instruments will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, which, according to South Korea’s science ministry, is a world first.

BTS in space

Danuri will also try to develop a wireless Internet environment to link satellites or exploration spacecraft, they added.

The lunar orbiter will stream K-pop sensation BTS’ song “Dynamite” to test this wireless network.

Another instrument, ShadowCam, will record images of the permanently shaded regions around the poles of the Moon where no sunlight can reach.

Scientists also hope that Danuri will find hidden sources of water and ice in areas of the Moon, including the permanently dark and cold regions near the poles.

“This is a very significant milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” said Lee Sang-ryool, head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, in a video shown before the launch.

“Danuri is just the beginning, and if we are more determined and committed to technology development for space travel, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, and so on in the near future.”

South Korean scientists say Danuri — which took seven years to build — will pave the way for the nation’s more ambitious goal of landing on the Moon by 2030.

“South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have launched an unmanned probe to the Moon,” an official at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told AFP.

“We hope to continue contributing to the global understanding of the Moon with what Danuri is set to find out.”

Lunar ambitions

Danuri was launched by a private company — SpaceX — but South Korea recently became one of a handful of countries to successfully launch a one-tonne payload using their own rockets.

In June, the country’s homegrown three-stage rocket nicknamed Nuri — a decade in development at a cost of $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 11,864 crore) —launched successfully and put a satellite into orbit, on its second attempt after a failure last October.

That launch — coupled with Danuri’s launch Friday — helps bring South Korea ever closer to achieving its space ambitions.

In Asia, China, Japan and India all have advanced space programmes — and the South’s nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea has also demonstrated satellite launch capability.

Ballistic missiles and space rockets use similar technology and Pyongyang put a 300-kilogram (660-pound) satellite into orbit in 2012 in what Washington condemned as a disguised missile test.

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IIT-M Students Conduct First Student Council Election Using Blockchain Technology

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 4 August 2022

Students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), here, have conducted a students council election using blockchain technology which is claimed to be the first of its kind to be used in the poll process, an official said on Thursday. Students of Webops and Blockchain Club from the Centre for Innovation (CFI), IIT-Madras, developed the software to conduct the election through the blockchain technology.

A blockchain is an unchangeable, distributed digital ledger. The transactions or records on the ledger which are stored individually are referred to as a ‘block’ and the information in a block is usually linked to the information in a previous block. This, over time, forms a chain of transactions, which is what the word blockchain refers to.

This technology can also be used by governments to improve both efficiency and traceability in the process. Back in May, the Brazilian government unveiled a blockchain network in a bid to combat corruption in public expenses by tracking them efficiently. The Brazilian Blockchain Network is still in development but will be used by a number of governmental institutions

In view of the conduct of the election, the India Book of Records presented IIT-Madras students with the record of ‘Blockchain Software for Students Body Election.’

“This student-led project has the transformative potential to positively disrupt the way elections are held. By harnessing the inherent trust and immutability offered by blockchain technologies, this work demonstrates their impact on conducting elections…” said IIT-Madras, faculty-in-charge, Webops and Blockchain Club, professor Prabhu Rajagopal.

According to the officials, some of the key advantages of using blockchain technology for elections include considerable cost reduction, offering a tamper-proof process that is verifiable and bringing an innate trust in the election process.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX Debris Discovered in Australian Sheep Paddock

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A SpaceX Falcon 9, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Dragon crew capsule, lifts off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday. David J. Phillip/AP
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 4 August 2022

A charred chunk of space junk found jutting from a paddock by an Australian sheep farmer was confirmed to be part of one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX missions by authorities Thursday.

The ethereal-looking debris, believed to have plummeted to Earth on July 9, was found last week in Dalgety — a remote area near Australia’s Snowy Mountains, about five hours’ drive southwest of Sydney.

“It was kind of exciting and weird all in the same way,” astrophysicist Brad Tucker, who visited the site after local farmers contacted him last month, told AFP.

He said that finding the large chunk embedded in an empty field reminded him of something out of the sci-fi film “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

“It’s astounding to see it.”

Australia’s space agency confirmed the debris had come from one of Musk’s missions in a statement and told locals to report any further finds to SpaceX.

“The Agency has confirmed the debris is from a SpaceX mission and continues to engage with our counterparts in the US, as well as other parts of the Commonwealth and local authorities as appropriate,” an Australian Space Agency spokesman said.

Tucker said the piece was part of a trunk jettisoned by the earlier Crew-1 capsule when it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in 2021.

He said the trunk had split up on re-entry, with reports of other space junk also found at nearby properties, making more discoveries linked to the SpaceX mission likely.

Most space debris splashes down at sea but with the increase in space industries worldwide, the amount crashing to earth would likely increase, he added.

“We do have to realise that there is a likely risk it may hit in a populated area once and what that means.”

Australia’s Space Agency said it was working to mitigate debris and had raised the issue internationally.

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NASA’s New Horizons Data Helps Identify a Possible Source for Pluto’s Moon Charon’s Red Cap

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By ANI | Updated: 2 August 2022

Scientists combined data from NASA’s New Horizons mission with novel laboratory experiments and exospheric modelling to reveal the likely composition of the red cap on Pluto’s moon Charon and how it may have formed. This first-ever description of Charon’s dynamic methane atmosphere using new experimental data provides a fascinating glimpse into the origins of this moon’s red spot as described in two recent articles. “Prior to New Horizons, the best Hubble images of Pluto revealed only a fuzzy blob of reflected light,” said SwRI’s Randy Gladstone, a member of the New Horizons science team. “In addition to all the fascinating features discovered on Pluto’s surface, the flyby revealed an unusual feature on Charon, a surprising red cap centred on its north pole.”

Soon after the 2015 encounter, New Horizons scientists proposed that a reddish “tholin-like” material at Charon’s pole could be synthesized by ultraviolet light breaking down methane molecules. These are captured after escaping from Pluto and then frozen onto the moon’s polar regions during their long winter nights. Tholins are sticky organic residues formed by chemical reactions powered by light, in this case, the Lyman-alpha ultraviolet glow is scattered by interplanetary hydrogen molecules.

“Our findings indicate that drastic seasonal surges in Charon’s thin atmosphere, as well as light breaking down the condensing methane frost, are key to understanding the origins of Charon’s red polar zone,” said SwRI’s Dr Ujjwal Raut, lead author of a paper titled “Charon’s Refractory Factory” in the journal Science Advances. “This is one of the most illustrative and stark examples of surface-atmospheric interactions so far observed at a planetary body.”

The team realistically replicated Charon surface conditions at SwRI’s new Center for Laboratory Astrophysics and Space Science Experiments (CLASSE) to measure the composition and colour of hydrocarbons produced on Charon’s winter hemisphere as methane freezes beneath the Lyman-alpha glow. The team fed the measurements into a new atmospheric model of Charon to show methane breaking down into residue on Charon’s north polar spot.

“Our team’s novel ‘dynamic photolysis’ experiments provided new limits on the contribution of interplanetary Lyman-alpha to the synthesis of Charon’s red material,” Raut said. “Our experiment condensed methane in an ultra-high vacuum chamber under exposure to Lyman-alpha photons to replicate with high fidelity the conditions at Charon’s poles.”

SwRI scientists also developed a new computer simulation to model Charon’s thin methane atmosphere.

“The model points to ‘explosive’ seasonal pulsations in Charon’s atmosphere due to extreme shifts in conditions over Pluto’s long journey around the Sun,” said Dr Ben Teolis, lead author of a related paper titled “Extreme Exospheric Dynamics at Charon: Implications for the Red Spot” in Geophysical Research Letters.

The team input the results from SwRI’s ultra-realistic experiments into the atmospheric model to estimate the distribution of complex hydrocarbons emerging from methane decomposition under the influence of ultraviolet light. The model has polar zones primarily generating ethane, a colourless material that does not contribute to a reddish colour.

“We think ionizing radiation from the solar wind decomposes the Lyman-alpha-cooked polar frost to synthesize increasingly complex, redder materials responsible for the unique albedo on this enigmatic moon,” Raut said. “Ethane is less volatile than methane and stays frozen to Charon’s surface long after spring sunrise. Exposure to the solar wind may convert ethane into persistent reddish surface deposits contributing to Charon’s red cap.”

“The team is set to investigate the role of solar wind in the formation of the red pole,” said SwRI’s Dr Josh Kammer, who secured continued support from NASA’s New Frontier Data Analysis Program.

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ISRO to Launch SSLV-D1 Rocket From Sriharikota on Sunday, Citizens Invited to Join View Gallery

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By ANI | Updated: 2 August 2022

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its new Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota on August 7.

According to ISRO, the mission will be launched at 9:18 am IST. The public will be allowed to witness the launch from up-close, from ISRO’s Launch Viewers gallery.

ISRO on Monday invited the general citizens to the viewing gallery of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota to witness the launch of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) Mission, scheduled for Sunday, August 7.

The Space Port of India naturally attracts visitors to witness the launch activities and cheer for the pride of the country. Launch view gallery would allow thousands of viewers to witness the launch.

The ground testing of the newly developed solid booster stage (SS1) for the new launch vehicle of ISRO i.e. Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) was carried out on March 14 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre Sriharikota at 12:05pm IST.

All the propulsion parameters during the test are found satisfactory and closely matching with the predictions.

SS1 motor is a three-segmented solid propulsion stage incorporating many new technologies and innovative processes which include a bond-free joint between the segments, high power electromechanical actuator with digital control electronics, optimized ignitor and simultaneous propellant casting of all segments, which have been successfully validated in the ground test.

The successful test of the solid booster stage had given sufficient confidence to proceed with the first developmental flight of SSLV (SSLV-D1) which was scheduled for May 2022. The remaining stages of SSLV i.e. SS2 & SS3 stages have successfully undergone necessary ground tests and are ready for integration.

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