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MEASLES VIRUS IN CONGO

Why in News?

  • Over 3,000 people have been killed by a deadly Measles virus in DR Congo this year

What is measles

  • Measles is a highly contagious viral disease.
  • It remains an important cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.
  • Measles is transmitted via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons. Initial symptoms, which usually appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, a runny nose, bloodshot eyes, and tiny white spots on the inside of the mouth. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.
  • Measles poses less of a threat globally and specifically to wealthy countries, as vaccination programmes are widespread and effective.
  • Even countries with well-developed healthcare systems would struggle to contain an Ebola outbreak, while a measles outbreak in a country with widespread immunity would have far less social, medical and economic impact.

Background:

  • Ebola outbreaks, such as the current one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which has claimed2,074 people’s lives, are widely covered in the media.
  • Although measles has a much lower mortality rate than Ebola, there have been over165,000 suspected cases of measles, with over 3,200 deaths in the DRC since the start of 2019.

Vaccination:

  • For a vaccination programme to be effective, at least 92-95 per cent of the population must be immunised — this creates so-calledherd immunity.
  • Another approach is ring vaccination.
  • Ring Vaccination
  • This is where clusters of people who are particularly at risk are vaccinated.
  • This approach can help to contain the spread of an outbreak, but with aid organisations facing attacks, community mistrust and under-resourcing, even ring vaccination approaches are proving difficult to implement in both outbreaks.
  • Herd Immunity
    • Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.

Countries that Eliminated Measles:

  • Five countries have eliminated measles – Bhutan, DPR Korea, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste.

Issue in Congo:

  • Many local communities in the DRC mistrust medical workers. It stems from years of regional isolation andconflict.
  • In some areas, this mistrust has even led to violence against the “wealthy” and “foreign” humanitarian aid workers, resulting in treatment centres being closed and thecontainment response being stalled for both Ebola and measles.
  • The perception that the international response to measles is minimal compared with the effort mounted against Ebola also stirs mistrust and anger within the DRC.

WHO on Measles:

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the current Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, partly in response to international pressure and fear of the disease spreading to other countries. Measles has been given no such status.
  • The WHO has raised almost $114 million for combating the DRC Ebola outbreak, while barely $2.5 millionhas been raised to combat measles.
  • Why WHO must focus on Measles
    • This is especially relevant when considering that an aspect of public resistance stems from the response teams only treating Ebola, whereas, from a community perspective, diseases such as measles and malaria are far greater threats to their lives.
    • For example, malaria was responsible for over27,000 deaths in the DRC in 2017.
  • How then should the international community respond to outbreaks to protect both the overall health of a community and the global spread of a specific disease?
    • Solution is as recently proposed byDoctors Without Borders and The Alliance for International Medical Action.
    • They suggested that instead of the international community delivering targeted aid for only Ebola, resources should be deployed to strengthen local infrastructure and provide a decentralised capacity to provide care to all communities.
    • This may enable a country to contain an Ebola outbreak while still responding to outbreaks of other infectious and non-infectious diseases, providing better care for local communities.
    • By using international resources to strengthen local infrastructure, it might be possible to create more resilient community health systems capable of responding to future outbreaks, possibly without needing international support.

ERADICATING MALARIA BY 2050

Why in News?

  • A report in The Lancet concludes that it is possible to eradicate malaria as early as 2050 — or within a generation — with the right strategies and sufficient funding. The report, published by The Lancet Commission on malaria eradication, used existing evidence with new epidemiological and financial analyses.

Global Malaria Trends:

  • Since 2000, global malaria incidence and death rates declined by 36 and 60 per cent, respectively.
  • Today, more than half of the world’s countries are malaria-free. However, there are over 200 million cases of malaria reported each year, claiming nearly half a million lives.
  • However, this progress hangs in the balance. Despite global efforts, there are over 200 million cases of malaria reported around the world each year, claiming the lives of nearly half a million individuals.
  • Malaria cases are rising in 55 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. There is also inequity, with 29 countries (27 in Africa) accounting for the large majority of new cases and 85 per cent of global deaths in 2017.
  • Two countries (Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo) account for 36 per cent of global cases. On the other hand, 38 countries had incidences of fewer than ten cases per 1,000 population in 2017 and reported just 5% of total malaria deaths.

Modelling A World Free from Malaria:

  • The report used new modelling to estimate plausible scenarios for the distribution and intensity of malaria in 2030 and 2050.
  • Analyses indicate that socioeconomic and environmental trends, together with improved coverage of malaria interventions, will create a world in 2050 with malaria persisting in pockets of low-level transmission in equatorial Africa.
  • To achieve eradication by 2050, the Report Identifies three ways to accelerate the decline in Malaria Cases:
      1. The world must improve implementation of malaria control programmes.
      2. They must develop and roll out innovative new tools to overcome the biological challenges to eradication.
      3. Malaria-Endemic Countries and Donors must Provide the Financial Investment Needed.

About Malaria:

  • Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium Parasites. These are spread from person to person by the bite of Female Anopheles Mosquitoes in search of a blood meal.
  • Once infected, people become very sick with a severe fever and shaking chills.
  • The parasites infect cells in the liver and red blood cells, and other symptoms include anaemia.
  • Eventually the disease takes a toll on the whole body, including the brain, and can be fatal. Around 435,000 people – mostly children – die from malaria each year.

CLASSIFICATION OF INFLUENZA AS H5N1, H1N1 AND OTHER KINDS

Why in News?

  • On September 3, India was again declared free of the H5N1 virus, which causes avian influenza or bird flu, the earlier such declaration having come in 2017. In the last two years, there had been outbreaks of the disease in Odisha, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
  • According to the WHO, influenza is known to affect 5-10% of adults and 20-30% of children across the world every year. The many kinds of viruses causing influenza are identified by a standard nomenclature issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1980.

The Four Influenza Types:

  • The WHO defines influenza as “a contagious, acute respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, usually influenza A or B subtypes.”
  • The influenza virus, which causes the illness, is of four types: A, B, C, and D.
  • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only the influenza A and B viruses are known to cause epidemics.
  • The C type virus usually causes mild respiratory illness, while the D type virus typically affects cattle and is not known to infect humans.
  • The disease is often confused with a heavy cold, which has the same symptoms — headaches, runny nose, cough, and muscle pains.
  • According to WHO, influenza is known to kill 6.5 lakh people every year, especially affecting young children, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with vulnerable immune systems.

The Subtypes:

  • Only the influenza A virus is divided into subtypes. The subtype is based on two proteins on the surface of the virus, hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N).
  • Hemagglutinin has 18 further subtypes while neuraminidase has 11. They are named from H1 to H18 and N1 to N11 in a sequential system that applies uniformly to influenza viruses from all sources.
  • According to the WHO, “Humans can be infected with avian, swine and other zoonotic influenza viruses, such as avian influenza virus subtypes A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and A(H9N2) and swine influenza virus subtypes A(H1N1), A(H1N2) and A(H3N2).”
  • Novel strains of the H1N1 virus have appeared in 1918, 1957, 1968, and most recently in 2009 during the global bird flu outbreak, which the WHO designated a pandemic. The 2009 strain is now known to have replaced the previous strains.

ISRO TECHNICAL LIAISON UNIT

Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) at Moscow, Russia.

Highlights:

  • Department of Space has instituted technical Liaison Units, namely ISRO Technical Liaison Units (ITLU) at Washington, USA and Paris, France with the prime objective to liaise with various Government and space agencies in USA and Europe, respectively.
  • Space cooperation has been one of the major links between India and Russia almost from the beginning of the space era and currently both sides are actively pursuing interactions in diversified areas of space programme
  • Apart from intensifying cooperation with Russia, India has expanded its space cooperation with countries near to Russia.
  • This calls for extensive uninterrupted coordination & interface support for increased level international technical collaboration.

ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU):

  • The ISRO Technical Liaison Unit (ITLU) at Moscow will enable effective technical coordination for timely interventions on diversified matters with Russia and neighbouring countries for realization of the programmatic targets of ISRO.
  • The Liaison Officer, deputed at ITLU from ISRO provides technical information about the developments in research and technology and inputs arising from their meetings with researchers, government agencies and industries in the respective countries.
  • They also support the ongoing bilateral programmes of cooperation in space technology and act on behalf of ISRO on the matters referred.

Advantages:

  • ISRO will be able to collaborate with Space agencies/industries in Russia and neighbouring countries for mutually synergetic outcomes.
  • ISRO’s Gaganyaan programme requires development of some of the key technologies and establishment of specialized facilities, which are essential to support life in space.
  • Keeping in view the 15th August, 2022 timeline for realization of the Gaganyaan human space programme, it is prudent to avail technical cooperation from International space agencies, who have already demonstrated their technical capabilities in specific areas.
  • Russia, being one of the space-faring nations, it is envisaged to collaborate with Russia extensively in various fields of relevance.

HYPERSONIC TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATOR VEHICLE (HSTDV)

Why in News?

  • The DRDO has conducted the maiden test of an indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) along with several technologies.

HSDTV:

  • The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight.
  • India is pushing ahead with the development of ground and flight test hardware as part of an ambitious plan for a hypersonic cruise missile.
  • The HSTDV is intended to attain autonomous scramjet flight for 20 seconds, using a solid rocket launch booster.
  • The research will also inform India’s interest in reusable launch vehicles. The eventual target is to reach Mach 6.5 at an altitude of 32.5 km.
  • Under this project, DRDO is developing a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scram-jet engine.

Uses:

  • This is dual-use technology, which when developed, will have multiple civilian applications.
  • It can be used for launching satellites at low cost.
  • It will also be available for long-range cruise missiles of the future.

Scram-jet technology:

  • In scram-jet technology, combustion of fuel takes place in a chamber in the missile at supersonic speeds.
  • This is different from a ram jet system where the system collects the air it needs from the atmosphere during the flight at subsonic speeds and the propellants burn in the combustion chamber.

NEW PAPER-BASED TEST KIT FOR MALARIA DETECTION

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Achievements Of Indians In S&T

Why in News?

  • With over one million reported cases in 2017, malaria still continues to be a burden for India and most countries of Southeast Asia.
  • Now, a group of researchers from IIT Guwahati has developed a simple detection method that uses an instrument when in the lab or a piece of chromatographic paper when in the field.

Paper Test Kit for Malaria:

  • The kit can be used to detect Plasmodium parasite, which causes malaria and also specifically detect Plasmodium falciparum, a notorious species.
  • Using an ordinary syringe fitted with a small magnet, magnetic beads and few chemicals inside, the researchers were able to specifically capture the antigen released by the parasites in the blood of malaria patients.
  • As the blood has many interfering agents, the kit used magnetic bead–tethered aptamers (two small DNA molecules), which capture only the specific antigens and separate these from the blood serum to perform the reaction.
  • This kit also has high stability in hot and humid conditions.

Working mechanism:

  • When the captured antigens interact with specific substrates inside the syringe, the blue dye turns pink. The dye is then adsorbed over a modified chromatographic paper.
  • The formation of pink colour on the paper is a direct indication of the presence of parasites in the blood serum. The intensity of the colour increases when the concentration of antigen is high.
  • The intensity of the colour change is measured using a spectrophotometer. This gives a quantitative measurement and can detect very low level of the antigen in blood.

Malaria:

  • Malaria is a potentially life-threatening parasitic disease caused by the parasites Plasmodium viviax (P.vivax), P.falciparum, P.malariae, and P.ovale transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito.
  • World’s first Malaria Vaccine RTS,S (Mosquirix) was recently unveiled.

Incidence of Malaria in India:

  • India ranks very high in the list of countries with a serious malaria burden.
  • In 2018, 3,99,134 cases of malaria and 85 deaths due to the disease were reported in the country, according to data from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
  • Six states — Odisha (40%), Chhattisgarh (20%), Jharkhand (20%), Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram (5-7%) — bear the brunt of malaria in India.
  • These states, along with the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, account for 90% of India’s malaria burden.

DEFENCE SPACE RESEARCH AGENCY (DSRA)

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Space technology

Why in News?

To enhance the capabilities of the armed forces to fight wars in space, the government has approved the setting up of a new agency which will develop sophisticated weapon systems and technologies.

Defence Space Research Agency:

  • The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by PM Modi has cleared the setting up of the DSRO.
  • It has been entrusted with the task of creating space warfare weapon systems and technologies.
  • The agency would be provided with a team of scientists which would be working in close coordination with the tri-services integrated Defence staff officers.
  • It would be providing the research and development support to the Defence Space Agency (DSA) which comprises members of the three services.
  • The DSA has been created “to help the country fight wars in the space”.
  • The Defence Space Agency is being set up in Bengaluru under an Air Vice Marshal-rank officer and will gradually take over the space-related capabilities of the three forces.

Why such move?

  • In March, India had carried out the Anti Satellite Test (ASAT) which demonstrated its capability to shoot down satellites and joined an elite club of four nations with similar capability.
  • The test also helped the country develop deterrence capability against adversaries who may want to attack Indian satellites to cripple systems in times of war.

PARTHENOGENESIS

Why in News?

  • About a week ago, the New England Aquarium in the US announced that a “virgin”
    anaconda had given birth during the winter.
  • This is Immaculate Conception in Catholicism; in scientific terminology, it is
    parthenogenesis.
  • This is only the second known case of parthenogenesis in green anacondas. It is not
    unknown in snakes, but undocumented enough to make it to scientific journals.

Parthenogenesis:

  • The term parthenogenesis is a amalgam of the Greek words parthenos meaning virgin and
    genesis meaning origin.
  • About 2,000 species are known to reproduce through parthenogenesis, which is one of the
    known means of asexual reproduction.
  • It is a reproductive strategy that involves development of a female (rarely a male) gamete
    (sex cell) without fertililisation.
  • It occurs commonly among lower plants and invertebrate animals (particularly rotifers,
    aphids, ants, wasps and bees) and rarely among higher vertebrates”.
  • A gamete is the egg in females and the sperm in males. In animals, parthenogenesis means
    development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell.
  • Many species that reproduce through parthenogenesis do not reproduce sexually. Others
    switch between the two modes taking cues from the environment.

How are the babies?

  • Babies born through parthenogenesis are clones of the mother, as has now been confirmed
    by the aquarium through DNA tests.
  • Parthenogenetic offspring tend to be clones of the parent because there has been no
    exchange and rearrangement of genetic information with another individual as happens in
    case of a sexual reproductive process.
  • In some species, offspring born by parthenogenesis from a mother can also be male but it
    lacks one X chromosome.

RICE BLAST DISEASE RESISTANCE

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Biotechnology

Why in News?

Rice blast, caused by a fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, is one of the major diseases of the rice crop. Now, researchers from ICAR-National Rice Research Institute (NRRI), Odisha have mapped out the diverse genes in rice that help in disease resistance.

Rice Blast Disease:

  • Rice blast caused by fungus Magnaporthe oryzae,is generally considered the most important disease of rice worldwide because of its extensive distribution and destructiveness under favourable conditions.
  • Rice blast can affect most of the rice plant with the exception of the roots. The fungus can infect plants at any growth stage.
  • Symptoms can be either lesions or spots. Their shape, colour and size vary depending on varietal resistance, environmental conditions and the age of the lesions.
  • Rice blast is the most important disease of rice worldwide. Under favourable conditions, the disease can results in total crop failure.

Background:

  • From 1980-1987, seven blast endemics have occurred in India causing severe losses. Fungicides are very expensive, harmful for the environment and inappropriate application can cause health issues.
  • Researchers around the globe have been on a hunt for resistant genes against the pathogen and so far, more than 100 resistance (R) genes in the rice genome have been identified.
  • The rapid changes in pathogen virulence pose a constant challenge to the success of existing blast-resistant rice varieties.
  • Therefore, there is always a need to identify new broad-spectrum blast resistant genes/alleles in rice germplasm such as landraces, wild rice, etc,

Findings:

  • Researchers from ICAR-National Rice Research Institute (NRRI), Odisha have mapped out the diverse genes in rice that help in disease resistance.
  • The present study showed that the rice landraces collected from north-eastern states of India had the highest resistance.
  • The researchers found the presence of 24 previously pin-pointed resistant genes in the 161 rice landraces. The landraces were found to harbour 5-19 resistant genes.
  • The landraces from Tripura had the highest number of resistant genes, followed by those from Maharashtra.
  • The study also pointed out that rice varieties in the same ecological conditions can have different resistant/susceptible behaviours.

CRISPR-CAS9 -GENE EDITING RULES

GS 3: Science & Technology -Biotechnology

Why in News?

In a bid to make babies immune to infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), He Jiankui, a researcher from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, used a clinically untested gene editing tool (CRISPR-Cas9)to modify a particular gene.The announcement of the birth of gene-edited twin girls late last year set off an international furore.

How does it work?

  • Unusual but repeated DNA structures that scientists had been observing were given a name —Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats or CRISPR.
  • In 2012, scientists discovered that CRISPR is a key part of the “immune system”. For instance, when a virus enters a bacterium, it fights back by cutting up the virus’s DNA. This kills the virus but the bacterium store some of the DNA.
  • The next time there is an invasion, the bacterium produce an enzyme called Cas9 which matches the stored fingerprints with that of the invader’s. If it matches, Cas9 can snip the invading DNA.
  • The CRISPR-Cas9 gene editingtool thus has two components —a short RNA sequence that can bind to a specific target of the DNA and the Cas9 enzyme which acts like a molecular scissor to cut the DNA.
  • To edit a gene of interest, the short RNA sequence that perfectly matches with the DNA sequence that has to be edited is introduced.
  • Once it binds to the DNA, the Cas9 enzyme cuts the DNA at the targeted location where the RNA sequence is bound.
  • Once the DNA is cut, the natural DNA repair mechanism is utilised to add or remove genetic material or make changes to the DNA.
  • Dr. He used the CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing technique in the twin girls to disable a gene called CCR5, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter and infect cells

Issues with gene tool?

  • There is a general consensus in the scientific and ethics communities that the CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing technique should not be used clinically in embryos
  • There is also consensus that gene editing can be potentially used only to prevent serious genetic disorders that have no alternative treatment. While HIV cannot be cured, medicines can keep the virus under check.
  • Importantly, human clinical trials have not been carried out anywhere in the world to test whether disabling the gene completely prevents HIV infection and what the side-effects of doing so would be. In the absence of any clinical trial data as well as consensus to use this tool to prevent HIV infection, performing it on babies as a form of medical intervention is unethical.
  • Dr. He used the CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing technique in the twin girls to disable a gene called CCR5, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter and infect cells.

Can disabling the CCR5 gene prevent HIV?

  • While it is generally believed that babies without a functional CCR5 gene will become resistant to HIV infection, certain other strains of HIV use another protein (CXCR4) to infect cells. Hence, even people who are born with two copies of the non-functional CCR5 gene are not completely protected or resistant against HIV infection.
  • There is also the possibility that the gene editing tool could have caused unintended mutations in other parts of the genome, which may lead to unpredictable health consequences.
  • Most importantly, medicines and delivery through caesarean section and avoiding breast feeding can prevent vertical viral transmission from mother to foetus. While women with HIV have greater chances of passing the virus to the foetus, in this case, the mother was HIV-free; the father was HIV positive

Protective role of CCR5 Gene?

  • The CCR5 gene’s protectiverole against the West Nile virus is well established, the CCR5 gene can also helps to protect the lungs, the liver and the brain during certain serious infections and chronic diseases.
  • The gene is known to prompt the immune system to fight the influenza virus in the lungs. Without this gene the defence system would fail. In the case of people with multiple sclerosis, absence of this gene makes them twice as likely to die early.

Was the gene removed in both babies?

  • There are two copies of the gene in every person. In the case of one baby girl both the copies of the gene were disabled but in the other baby, only one copy was disabled.
  • So the baby with one functional copy of the gene might still be susceptible to HIV infection.
  • The decision to implant the embryo with only one disabled copy makes the work all the more unethical.

Steps taken by China to prevent misuse?

  • Dr. He’s experiment violates the 2003 guidelines that prohibits the use of gene-manipulated embryos for reproductive purposes.
  • In February China posted the draft regulation requiring researchers to obtain prior approval from the government before undertaking clinical trials.
  • Those found violating the rules will be punished and this includes a lifetime ban on research. China is now all set to introduce gene-editing regulation.

IAF SIGNS AN AGREEMENT WITH ISRO FOR GAGANYAAN MISSION

Why in News?

  • • Reserve Bank of India (RBl) permitted banks to accept Aadhaar number only for ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) verification of customers with DBT accounts with their consent.

Highlights:

  • • RBI has added the ‘Proof of possession of Aadhaar number’ to the list of Officially Valid Documents (OVD).
  • • This was notified by the RBI in its amended Master Direction on KYC.
  • • RBI’s Master Direction is a rule book that the regulated entities need to follow.
  • • The bank should obtain the Aadhaar number from the customers who receive any benefit or subsidy under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).

For Non-DBT beneficiary customers:

  • • For Non-DBT beneficiary customers, the Regulated Entities (REs) should obtain a certified copy of any OVD describing the details of customer’s identity and address along with 1 recent photograph.
  • • Along with this, while submitting Aadhaar for Customer Due Diligence, the RES must redact or blackout the Aadhaar number as per Sub-rule 16 of Rule 9 of the amended Prevention of Money-Laundering(PML) Rules.
  • • All the non-individual customers should submit Permanent Account Number(PAN)/Form No 60 (for companies and Partnership firms – only PAN) along with other documents.

    • Form 60 is submitted by an individual who do not have a Permanent Account Number (PAN).

IAF SIGNS AN AGREEMENT WITH ISRO FOR GAGANYAAN MISSION

  • Why in News?

    • 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 space mission

  • • AVM R.G.K. Kapoor, ACAS Ops (Space), IAF handed over the MoU to Shri R Hutton, Project Director of Gaganyaan Programme.

Highlights:

  • • 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.
  • • ISRO will collaborate extensively with national agencies, laboratories, academia and industry to accomplish the objectives of the prestigious mission.

Gaganyaan Mission:

  • • Gaganyaan (“Sky Craft”) is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the basis of the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme.
  • • Gaganyaan was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018.
  • • The mission is worth Rs. 10,000 crore.
  • • The Programme is aimed to be launched by December 2021.
  • • It was approved by the Union Cabinet in 2018.
  • • In its maiden crewed mission, ISRO’s largely autonomous 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km (250 miles) altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board.

IIT MADRAS LAUNCHES A DATA PLATFORM CALLED IDIP

Why in News?

  • • Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) launched a data platform called “Integrated Database on Infrastructure Projects (IDIP)”.

Highlights:

  • • IDIP is aimed at enhancing the efficiency of infrastructure development in India and to enable effective decision-making among different stakeholders involved in the infrastructure sector.
  • • This data platform is built because the quality data on infrastructure projects in the country is scarce.
  • • While data sets provided by the government are often very out dated, those from external agencies such as banks and funding institutions lack details.

IDIP’s focus on the Road Sector:

  • • While the database will expand to cover other infrastructure in the country, the initial focus of IDIP would be on the road sector, which has received the highest private investment among all infrastructure sectors.
  • • Comprehensive infrastructural data on 250 roads across the country, built on a public- private partnership (PPP) model, has been made available at a single destination.
  • • The Road PPP in India is the largest in the world.

    • IIT-Madras is soon to work on adding around 680 roads built on the Engineering Procurement and Construction model.

SUPERBUGS

Why in News?

  • U.N. Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) report on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) calls for greater action by stakeholders at all levels lest so-called “superbugs” claim 10 million lives a year.

What are Superbugs?

  • Superbugs is a term used to describe strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today.
  • Resistant bacteria that cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections and skin infections are just a few of the dangers we now face.
  • AMR is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial drug (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

Report findings:

  • Alarming levels of resistance have been reported in countries of all income levels, with the result that common diseases are becoming untreatable, and lifesaving medical procedures are riskier to perform.
  • The problem is not limited to low and middle-income countries, it is global in its reach.
  • In high-income countries alone, 2.4 million people could die between 2015 and 2050 due to antimicrobial drug resistance, which is being exacerbated by the abuse and overuse of existing antimicrobials agents such as antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal as well as antiprotozoal drugs.
  • There is also problem of inequity and lack of affordable access, which the report links to the deaths of nearly 6 million people annually, including a million children who die of preventable sepsis and pneumonia.
  • The economic damage of uncontrolled AMR could be comparable to the shocks experienced during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis as a result of dramatically.
  • increased healthcare expenditures; impact on food and feed production, trade and livelihoods; and increased poverty and inequality.

Recommendations:

  • The report recognizes that antimicrobials are critical to safeguard food production, safety and trade, as well as human and animal health, and it clearly promotes responsible use across sectors.
  • To stop the use of antimicrobials for growth promotion in healthy animals, increased investment in new antimicrobials, improved waste management tools, and the development of alternatives to antimicrobials.
  • Preparing and implementing national antimicrobial resistance action plans is the first step towards tackling the drug resistance, but there is a need to address the financing and capacity constraints faced by many resource-poor countries.

AKASH MISSILE

Why in news?

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully test fired AKASH-MK-1S missile.

Highlights:

  • It is surface to air anti-aircraft missile with a strike range of 25 km and capability to carry warhead of 60 kilogram.
  • It can reach an altitude of 18 km and can be fired from both tracked and wheeled platforms.
  • The missile is guided by a phased array fire control radar called ‘Rajendra’ which is termed as Battery Level Radar (BLR) with a tracking range of about 60 km.
  • The Akash-MK-1S is capable of striking down enemy fighter jets and drones very effectively and accurately.

MEERLICTH OPTICAL TELESCOPE

Why in news?

  • Scientists in South Africa have launched the world’s first optical telescope linked to a radio telescope, combining “eyes and ears” to try to unravel the secrets of the universe.
  • The device forms part of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project in the remote Karoo
    desert, which will be the world’s most powerful radio telescope system.

Square Kilometre Array:

  • The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre of collecting area.
  • The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development towards building and delivering a unique instrument, with the detailed design and preparation now well under way.
  • The SKA will eventually use thousands of dishes and up to a million low-frequency antennas that will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail.
  • Its unique configuration will give the SKA unrivalled scope in observations, largely
    exceeding the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • South Africa’s Karoo host the core of the high and mid frequency dishes, ultimately extending over the African continent. Australia’s Murchison Shire host the low-frequency antennas.

MeerLITCH:

  • The latest move combines the new optical telescope MeerLITCH — Dutch for ‘more light’
    — with the recently-completed 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope, located 200 kilometres away.
  • This is the eye, with the MeerKAT being the ears as a radio telescope.
  • The MeerLITCH uses a main mirror just 65 cm in diameter and a single 100 megapixel detector measuring 10 cm x 10 cm.
  • Astronomers have previously had to wait for a cosmic incident to be picked up by a radio telescope and then carry out optic observations afterwards.
  • The project has been six years in the making by a joint-team of South African, Dutch and British scientists.

Purpose of MeerLITCH:

  • MeerLICHT boasts of a huge field of view that allows astronomers to see an area 13 times the size of the full moon in exquisite detail, and pick up objects one million times fainter than is possible with the human eye.
  • The priorities for MeerLITCH is the study of black holes, neutron stars and stellar explosions, which must be scrutinized quickly before they fade away.
  • The study of exploding stars across the universe will gain a whole new dimension.
  • Flashes of radio emission known as Fast Radio Bursts may now be ‘caught in the act’.
  • Hopefully we can finally determine the origin of these enigmatic flashes.

SUPERCONDUCTIVITY

Why in News?

  • Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru confirms that their material exhibits major properties of superconductivity at ambient temperature and pressure.

Superconductivity:

  • Superconductivity is a phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance and expulsion of magnetic flux fields occurring in certain materials, called superconductors, when cooled below a characteristic critical temperature.
  • A material is said to be a superconductor if it conducts electricity with zero resistance to the flow of electrons.
  • Until now, scientists have been able to make materials superconduct only at temperature much below zero degree C and hence making practical utility very difficult.
  • They help build very high efficiency devices leading to huge energy savings.

Silver embedded gold matrix:

  • The material that exhibited superconductivity is in the form of nanosized films and pellets made of silver nanoparticles embedded in a gold matrix.
  • Interestingly, silver and gold independently do not exhibit superconductivity.

GOLDEN RICE

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its partners, the Philippines Rice Research Institute and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, have successfully cultivated Golden Rice in a controlled environment on IRRI campus.

Golden rice:

  • Golden Rice is a new type of rice that contains beta-carotene (provitamin A), which is converted into vitamin A as needed by the body and gives the grain its golden color.
  • It is developed through genetic engineering and produces two new enzymes that complete the beta-carotene expression in the rice grain.
  • Research has indicated that one cup of Golden Rice can provide up to 50% of the daily requirement of an adult for vitamin A.
  • But presently, it has a low shelf life of not more than 3 months as it may lose its nutrients after that.
  • Golden Rice can be grown just like ordinary rice and varieties containing the GR2E Golden Rice trait have the same yield and agronomic performance as their conventional counterparts.
  • It is intended to complement current strategies in the fight against vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and is intended to supply up to 30-50 percent of the estimated average requirement for vitamin A for preschool age children and pregnant or lactating mothers.

NEW PLANTS SPECIES WITH HEALING PROPERTIES FOUND IN MANIPUR

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics,
Nano-Technology

Why in news?

Scientists have identified new plants species in Manipur, whose medicinal or pharmacology properties were not known yet.

Traditional medicines of Zeliangrong Tribals:

  • Scientists identified plants like Gynuracusimbua, Hedyotisscandens, Mussaendaglabra and Schimawallichii whose medicinal usage are reported for the first time and its pharmacological properties are not explored so far.
  • The researchers documented 145 medicinal plants that the healers use for treating 59 ailments.
  • They also found that the ethnic group used more than 40 species for treating more than one ailment.
  • In most cases, native healers were found using leaves as a primary ingredient in their formulation, owing to the year-round availability.
  • Additionally, they practice some uncommon methods such as using of guava leaves along with other medicinal plants for treating cold and fever.
  • Healers of this tribal group were also found using some rare and vulnerable species like Piperarunachalensis without being aware of the status of these plants.

Zeliangrong ethnic group:

  • Zeliangrong people are one of the major indigenous Naga communities living in the tri- junction of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland in India.
  • The term “Zeliangrong” refers to the Zeme, Liangmai and Rongmei Naga tribes combined
    together.
  • Earlier, the term also covered the Inpui tribe.
  • The proper noun Zeliangrong does not denote a tribe but, rather, a union of tribes or, rather, the apex tribe of three aforementioned tribes (Zeme Naga, Liangmai Naga, Rongmei Naga).

ISRO LAUNCHES RADAR IMAGING OBSERVATION SATELLITE RISAT-2B

Why in news?

In a predawn launch, a PSLV rocket of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) placed RISAT-2B, an X-band microwave Earth observation satellite, into orbit 556 km above earth.

Highlights:

  • The PSLV-C46 launcher carrying the 615-kg RISAT-2B blasted off at 5.30 a.m. The satellite reached its designated position and started orbiting in space with an inclination of 37°.
  • After the satellite separated from the launcher, its solar arrays deployed automatically.
  • the RISAT-2B is built to operate for at least five years.
  • Two important secondary or piggyback trial payloads that would revolutionise its future missions were also included in the launch.
  • They are the new Vikram processor from Semiconductor Laboratory (SCL), Chandigarh, that will control future launchers, and a low-cost micro-electronic inertial navigation system from the ISRO Inertial Systems Unit, Thiruvananthapuram.
  • This is the third Indian RISAT in 10 years, and follows the Israeli-built RISAT-2 in 2009 and the ISRO-built RISAT-1 in 2012. The older RISATs have reached the end of their lives.
  • ISRO has planned a series of radar imagers in the coming months to enhance its space based observation of Earth and the Indian region.

Significance:

  • Its X-band synthetic aperture radar can give added details such as the size of objects on earth, structures and movement.
  • Information from RISAT-2B will complement data from normal optical remote sensing satellites.
  • Such data are useful for agencies that need ground images during cloud, rain and in the dark.
  • “The new satellite will enhance India’s all-weather [space-based] capabilities in
    agriculture, forestry and disaster management,” ISRO said.
  • Data from the satellite would be vital for the Armed Forces, agriculture forecasters and disaster relief agencies.
  • ISRO chairman described RISAT-2B as “an advanced Earth Observation satellite with an
    advanced technology of 3.6-metre radial rib [unfurlable] antenna”.

SUCCESSFUL FIRING OF BRAHMOS AIR LAUNCHED MISSILE

GS 3: Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

IAF successfully fired the BrahMos air version missile from its frontline Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

Highlights:

  • 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 with ranges of close to 300 km, designed and developed by BAPL.
  • The IAF 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.

BrahMos:

  • The BrahMos is a ramjet supersonic cruise missile of a short-range developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia.
  • The missile can be launched from land, aircraft, ships and submarines.
  • The technology used in this joint venture is based on Russian cruise missile (sea skimming) and the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile.
  • The cruise missile derives its name from portmanteau formed from the names of the river Brahmaputra of India and the river Moskva of Russia.
  • BrahMos travels at the speed of 2.8 to 3.0 Mach making it world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile that is currently in operation.

MOU FOR JOINT COLLABORATION ON CANCER RESEARCH

GS 3: Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), M/o Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), Government of India today signed an MOU for supporting joint collaborative research programmes in the area of Cancer.

Highlights:

  • This MOU shall help strengthen the various initiatives specifically for cancer viz.
  • Strategizing and prioritizing cancer research, development of new and affordable technologies, jointly design and fund clinical trials, coordinate and collaborate for translational research, interventions, training of manpower and infrastructure development.
  • The clinicians shall work in coherence with Researchers to identify and develop collaborative research programmes and public health initiatives for awareness of the public at large.
  • Various activities like joint clinical fellowships, intensive workshops on clinical research methodologies and protocol development shall work towards creating a community of trained manpower and provide a platform to utilize their acquired skills in the best possible manner.

INDIA ADOPTS NEW STANDARDS FOR MEASURING KILOGRAM

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

Recently, the CSIR-National Physical Laboratory (NPL), which is India’s official reference keeper of units of measurements, released a set of recommendations to update the definition of the kilogram.

Highlights:

  • The kilogram joined other standard units of measure such as the second, metre, ampere, Kelvin, mole and candela that would no longer be defined by physical objects.
  • The measures are all now defined on the basis of unchanging universal, physics constants. The kilogram now hinges on the definition of the “Planck Constant”, a constant of nature that relates to how matter releases energy.
  • In 2018, at the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in Versailles (France), delegates of International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) had voted to redefine the kilogram in terms of Planck constant.
  • Earlier, the kilogram derived its provenance from the weight of a block of a platinumiridium alloy housed at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in France.

 

WEARABLE SUPERCAPACITOR

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in news?

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have fabricated a wearable supercapacitor that can store and deliver large amount of electrical energy, exceeding other similar devices

What is Capacitor and Supercapacitor?

  • The capacitor is a component which has the ability or “capacity” to store energy in the form of an electrical charge producing a potential difference (Static Voltage) across its plates, much like a small rechargeable battery.
  • A supercapacitor differs from the ordinary capacitor in that it has much higher capacity and energy density, while at the same time having a higher power density. These characteristics make it a convenient power source for devices that require high power and durability of the power unit.

Wearable Supercapacitor:

  • The wearable energy storage device can be stitched on to any fabric and can deliver power ranging from microwatt to milliwatt. The energy stored in the device can power GPS location-based transmitters or a 1.8 volt LED.
  • Supercapacitor is integrated with a piezoelectric energy generator which will make it completely self-sustaining and when stitched to the fabric, the supercapacitor can be used for powering GPS location-based devices or a LED lamp or even charge small electronic devices.
  • The electrode of the supercapacitor was fabricated by uniformly coating cotton yarn with carbon nanotubes (CNTs). The coating is done by dipping the yarn into carbon nanotube ink, where the CNTs are dispersed in water using a surfactant (detergent).
  • The coating converts the electrical insulating yarn into a metallic conductor thereby behaving like an electrode. “The yarns coated with carbon nanotubes exhibited a finite electrical conductivity,”
  • As the supercapacitor is targeting wearable and portable electronics hence researchers prepared a solid electrolyte film just 150 micrometre thick by mixing poly vinyl alcohol and potassium hydroxide in appropriate proportionsand stitched the solid electrolyte with CNT-coated yarn both vertically and horizontally. Capacitors were formed wherever the CNT wires criss-crossed each other and sandwiched the electrolyte.
  • By increasing the number of stitches, and therefore, the number of capacitors, the amount of energy stored can be increased

MRSAM FIRING TRIALS

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in news?

The Indian Navy achieved a significant milestone in enhancing its Anti Air Warfare Capability with the maiden cooperative engagement firing of the Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM).

Cooperative engagement firing:

  • The firing was undertaken on the western seaboard by the INS Kochi and the INS Chennai.
  • The missiles of both ships were controlled by one ship to intercept different aerial targets at extended ranges.

Barak 8:

  • Is an Indian-Israeli surface-to-air missile (SAM), designed to defend against any type of airborne threat including aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles, and UAVs as well as ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and combat jets.
  • Barak 8 was jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure, Elta Systems, Rafael and other companies.
  • Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) produces the missiles.

ISRO’S SEVEN MEGA MISSIONS

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

ISRO has planned seven mega missions, including Chandrayaan-2, to be conducted over a period of 10 years.

Highlights:

  • Xposat will be launched to study cosmic radiation in 2020, Aditya-L1 to the Sun in 2021, Mars Orbiter Mission-2 in 2022, Venus Mission in 2023, Lunar Polar Exploration or Chandrayaan-3 in 2024 and Exoworlds, an exploration outside the solar system in 2028.
  • Aditya-L1 will be placed in a ‘libration orbit’, which is about 1.5 million km from Earth. It is about 1% of the distance between the Sun and the Earth, where the gravity of the two celestial objects equalises. Placing it in such an orbit allows the spacecraft to circle along with the earth, thereby constantly facing the Sun.
  • Aditya-L1 will play a key role in understanding and predicting climate change on Earth. The payloads will study the solar corona. Corona has an influence on the upper atmosphere and that impacts climate change on earth.
  • Xposat will be a five-year mission, carrying a polarimeter instrument made by Raman Research Institute to measure cosmic radiation. The spacecraft will be placed in a circular 500-700 km orbit.
  • The four other undefined missions, which are in the planning stage, are Mangalyaan-2, Venus mission, Lunar Polar Exploration and Exoworlds.

WORKSHOP ON ARTIFICIAL BIO ORGANS

GS 3 : Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

In order to strengthen Indo-Australian Cooperation and achieve development of 3D printing industry in both the countries, Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ) has recently organized a one-day workshop on Organ Bio Printing.

Highlights:

  • The workshop explored 3D printing, an innovative technology that covers all medical disciplines and offers new opportunities in diagnostics and therapy.
  • From diagnostic visualization to surgical planning, patient-specific models provide an added value for patients and physicians.

Organ Printing:

  • Artificially constructed device designed for organ replacement, produced using 3D printing techniques.
  • The primary use of printable organs is in transplantation.
  • Research is currently being conducted on artificial heart, kidney, and liver structures, as well as other major organs.
  • Some printed organs are approaching functionality requirements for clinical implementation, and primarily include hollow structures such as the bladder, as well as vascular structures such as urine tubes.
  • 3D printing allows layer-by-layer construction of a particular organ structure to form a cell scaffold.

NASA’S ARTEMIS TO PUT FIRST WOMAN ON MOON

GS 3: Science & Technology – Awareness in The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology

Why in News?

NASA’s plans for the first woman on the lunar surface in 2024 in its ambitious plan named Artemis.

Artemis Mission:

  • ARTEMIS stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of Moon’s Interaction with the Sun.
  • As the name suggests, the two spacecraft will measure what happens when the Sun’s radiation hits our rocky moon, where there is no magnetic field to protect it.
  • Artemis is also the Greek goddess of the Moon and twin sister of the god Apollo.
  • The Apollo program famously put the first men on the lunar surface in the 1960 and 70s.

Work in progress for Artemis:

  • The program is still very much in its infancy.
  • NASA has been developing a rocket and crew capsule to take people into deep space, those vehicles still have yet to actually carry any astronauts.
  • NASA is developing new hardware including new lunar landers, in order for this project to be a success.
  • Fifty years after the first person set his foot on the moon, NASA will also reveal three lunar rocks that Neil Armstrong picked using tongs to pile about 20 rocks into a specialized collection box.

CCMB SCIENTISTS SEQUENCE ASIATIC LION GENOME

GS 3 : Science & Technology

Why in news?

The entire genome of Asiatic lion has been sequenced by scientists from CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

Highlights:

  • The objective is to understand the species at DNA level and study if there are any specific problems with regard to adaptability to environment or behaviour vis-à-vis other big cats.
  • It would help researchers to better understand the evolution of Asiatic lions and also make possible comparative analysis with other big cats.
  • The genome sequencing would enable scientists to develop specific markers to study population genetics (the differences at the gene level within a population) and get newer insights into its population status and subsequent management.
  • The study will enable better disease and population management of the endangered big cat by identifying characteristics which are specific to Asiatic lions.

Asiatic Lion:

  • It is listed as Endangered by IUCN Red List.
  • It is listed in Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • At present the only home of Asiatic lion is Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat.
  • The population of the endangered Asiatic lion is very low only 523 animals are present in the Gir forests

MICROSOFT LAUNCHES “ELECTIONGUARD” FOR SECURE VOTING

GS 3: Science & Technology

Why in news?

  • Microsoft has announced the launch of “ElectionGuard”, a free open-source Software Development Kit (SDK) to help nations to carry out secure and verifiable voting.
  • Microsoft Launches “ElectionGuard” for secure voting

Highlights:

  • Developed by Galois, “ElectionGuard” is a supplement to paper ballots.
  • It is verifiable as it allows the voters and third-party organizations to verify election results.
  • “ElectionGuard” provides a voter a unique code.
  • During the process of voting, voters have an optional step which allows them to track their votes from the moment he/she casts it, after the voter has verified the selections are correct to the final step of counting the votes.
  • It does not work with vote-by-mail systems and is not designed to work with internet voting schemes as it can be easily hacked.
  • In terms of security, “ElectionGuard” uses Homomorphic encryption which enables mathematical procedures.

IAF GETS FIRST APACHE GUARDIAN ATTACK HELICOPTER

GS 3: Science & Technology – Defence

Why in news?

  • US aerospace major Boeing has handed over first of the 22 Apache Guardian attack helicopters to the Indian Air Force today.
  • The addition of AH-64E (I) Apache helicopter is a significant step towards modernization of the force’s chopper fleet.

AH-64E Apache:

  • The AH-64E Apache is a leading multi-role attack helicopter and is flown by the US Army.
  • The helicopter has been customised to suit the IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain.
  • It has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground.
  • Its ability to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes it a lethal acquisition.
  • India Adds 40mn New Internet Users Each Year

    Why in News?

    • According to Google’s ‘Year in Search – India: Insights for Brands’ report, an estimated 40 million Indians are joining the internet bandwagon annually, and this rate of expansion is among the fastest in the

    Key Findings:

    • At 400 million active internet users, India is the second largest internet user market after China.
    • An estimated 40 million Indians are joining the internet bandwagon annually,  and this rate of expansion is among the fastest in the
    • The average mobile data usage per subscriber is pegged at about 8GB a month, which is at

    Impact:

    • As more and more Indians are using the internet, the problem of ‘digital divide’ in the country will get resolved.
    • More and more players across several digital platforms will adopt a regional content strategy to reach out to the Indian
    • The attitudinal shift to online services will aid in digital banking, digital governance

    Indian Scientists Discover How Serotonin Helps Brain Cells Cope with Stress

    Why in News?

    • Indian scientists have discovered that serotonin boosts energy production in brain cells and helps them survive under stress. This new knowledge can potentially be used to develop anti-stress drugs in

    Role of Serotonin:

    • Serotonin is a chemical that relays information from one part of the brain to another and is known to play a key role in a number of functions ranging from sleep to social
    • The study by scientists at the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) has found that the neurotransmitter boosts the number of mitochondria in brain cells.
    • Mitochondria in brain cells generate energy to carry out cellular functions and play a role in survival of brain cells under
    • In addition, serotonin also increases production of energy by
    • This role of serotonin in regulating neuronal energetics was not known till

    Benefits of Serotonin:

    • Serotonin reduces toxic reactive oxygen species in neurons, boosts anti-oxidant enzymes and buffers neurons from the damaging effects of cellular
    • The study has uncovered an unprecedented role of serotonin in energy production in neurons, directly impacting how neurons handle
    • It has also identified novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative and psychiatric

    Energy boosting function:

    • Researchers have also found out the mechanism through which serotonin carries out its energy boosting
    • It has emerged that generation of new mitochondria in neurons by serotonin is accompanied by increased cellular respiration and energy chemical
    • These effects of serotonin involve the serotonin2A receptor and master regulators of mitochondrial generation – SIRT1 and PGC-1a.

    India’s First Indigenous Microprocessor “Ajit” Developed

    Why in news?

    • Engineers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) have developed a microprocessor called “AJIT” which could reduce the country’s dependence on
    • India’s First indigenous microprocessor “AJIT” developed

    Highlights:

    • The  microprocessor   is   the   first   to   be conceptualised,   designed, developed and manufactured in
    • The project was funded by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and IIT
    • Powai Labs, a Mumbai-based company, has invested in the
    • It will own, market and support the

    AJIT:

    • AJIT is a medium-sized
    • It can be used inside a set top box, as a control panel for automation systems, in a traffic light controller or even robotic
    • The expected price of the processor in market will be 100.
    • It can not be used in mobile phones yet and also not for trivial uses like washing machines either.
    • It can be used in WiFi routers, secure power metres or even electronic voting
    • In the first stage, AJIT has been manufactured in the government-owned Semiconductor Laboratory,
    • MeitY has extended its funding to enhance the processor and deploy it in government- initiated
    • SAMEER (Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research), an independent laboratory under MeitY, is planning to use AJIT in the receivers being developed for NAVIC or IRNNS (The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System), an indigenous navigation system for the Indian
    • India’s electronics market is expected to reach $400 billion by 2020
    • Most of the electronic devices that are used are imported and only a quarter of the devices are produced in the

    DENGVAXIA

    Why in news?

    •  Sanofi Pasteur’s controversial vaccine dengvaxia has been approved by the US Food & Drug Administration, the first dengue vaccine to get the regulatory nod in the US.

    Dengvaxia:

    • Dengvaxia is basically a live, attenuated dengue virus.
    • An attenuated virus is a virus that retains its properties of triggering an immune response in the body but its ability to lead to a disease is compromised.
    • Three dengvaxia shots are administered, with the second and third given six and 12 months after the first one.
    •  It was cleared in three randomised, placebo-controlled studies over approximately 35,000 individuals in dengue-endemic areas, including Puerto Rico, Latin America and the Asia Pacific region. It was found to be about 76% effective in 9-16-year-olds already exposed to the disease.  In Philippines 10 deaths were reported in the island nation in 2017 in the aftermath of a school vaccination campaign with dengvaxia
    •  Dengvaxia is the first dengue vaccine to be licensed, Mexico being the first country to clear it in 2015. Subsequently it has been cleared in some 20 countries but what happened in 2017 in Philippines has raised question marks about CYD-TDV, as dengvaxia is known in technical parlance.

    Issues with Dengvaxia:

    •  Based on up to six years of clinical data, the analysis confirmed that Dengvaxia provides persistent protective benefit against dengue fever in those who had prior infection.
    •  For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection.

    Use of Dengvaxia in India:

    • Sanofi had submitted published data of Phase III trials from other countries and asked for a waiver
    • In May 2017, India turned down a recommendation of the Subject Expert Committee of the Drug Controller General of India and told Sanofi that there could not be a waiver of the requirement that a drug or vaccine, before being allowed to be marketed in India, would have to undergo phase III clinical trials (that establish safety and efficacy of a drug) on Indian subjects.

    STATE-OWNED NEWSPACE CREATES A FLUTTER AMONG SPACE STARTUPS

    Why in News

    • Department of Space (DoS) quietly registered its second commercial entity, NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL), in Bengaluru.

    Details:

    • The   small,    new  age  ventures    and   startups foraying into the space industry were still coming
    • to terms that the Union Cabinet had cleared a new business arm for DoS
    • DoS already has a commercial venture, Antrix Corporation Limited, which was set up in September 1992 to market the products and services of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
    • officials in the DoS and ISRO have been trying to figure out how exactly Antrix and NSIL would operate their respective businesses in the common, niche area.

    Board soon

    • the department [DoS] is completing statutory formalities such as the formation of a board of 8-10 directors,” Their roles and responsibilities will be divided. The new company will basically focus on industry participation.

    Haze ahead

    • NewSpace India enters the scene at a time when globally and in India small, low-budget new age ventures, many helmed by young dreamers inspired by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration (SpaceX), are vying to turn 21st-century space fantasies into reality.
    • The new company does have mandates: transfer technology to industry for producing the commercially successful PSLV spacecraft launchers; outsource assembly of small satellites and the upcoming Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV). It would also be tasked to “commercially exploit the R&D work done by ISRO centres and DoS constituents”.
    • A lot of new [business] activities are cropping up, such as customer satellites, spinoff technologies, industry participation, production partners, ground stations, and satellite data sales

    Antrix Corporation

    • Marketing arm of ISRO for promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by ISRO.
    • Antrix Corporation Limited is a wholly owned Government of India Company under the administrative control of the Department of Space, Government of India.
    • Antrix Corporation Limited was incorporated as a private limited company owned by Government of India, in September 1992 as a Marketing arm of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for promotion and commercial exploitation of space products, technical consultancy services and transfer of technologies developed by ISRO.
    • Antrix is engaged in providing Space products & services to international customers worldwide.
    • Antrix, which is an INR 950 Cr. Company in 2007-08 got the “Miniratna” status by the Government of India in 2008.

    ISRO TO LAUNCH RADAR IMAGING SATELLITE ‘RISAT 2BR1’

    Why in News?

    •  India is planning to launch its latest radar imaging satellite RISAT 2BR1 towards the end of May 2019 on one of the variants of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.
    •  The satellite, RISAT 2BR1, is expected to be launched aboard one of the reusable PSLV rockets on May 22, as per officials of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

    Highlights:

    •  The rocket that would carry the radar imaging satellite is designated as PSLV-C46 as per ISRO’s numbering system.
    •  It would take off from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
    •  Following the launch of RISAT 2BR1, ISRO will send up a cartography satellite Cartosat-3.
    •  India is also planning to launch two more defence satellites in either July or August with its new rocket, Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV).

    RISAT:

    •  The RISAT, which was first deployed in orbit on April 20, 2009 as the RISAT-2, uses synthetic aperture radars (SAR) to provide Indian forces with all-weather surveillance and observation, which are crucial to notice any potential threat or malicious activity around

    99942 APOPHIS

    Asteroid ‘99942 Apophis’:

    •  On April 13, 2029, a near-Earth asteroid will cruise by Earth, about 31,000 km above the surface.
    •  The asteroid, called 99942 Apophis, is 340 m wide.
    •  At one point, it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
    •  It is rare for an asteroid this size to pass by Earth so close.
    •  Although scientists have spotted small asteroids, on the order of 5-10 metres, flying by Earth at a similar distance, asteroids the size of Apophis are far fewer in number and so do not pass this close to Earth as often.
    •  Among potential lessons from Apophis, scientists are hoping they can use its flyby to learn about an asteroid’s interior.
    •  Apophis is one of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids, and scientists also hope their observations might help gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defence.

    ALL MODULES GETTING READY FOR CHANDRAYAAN-2 LAUNCH

    Why in News?

    All modules of Chandrayaan-2 are getting ready for launch in July 2019.

    Chandrayaan-2 mission:

    • Chandrayaan-2, India’s second lunar mission, has three modules namely Orbiter, Lander
      (Vikram) & Rover (Pragyan).
    • The Orbiter and Lander modules will be interfaced mechanically and stacked together as an integrated module and accommodated inside the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle.
    • The Rover is housed inside the Lander. After launch into earth bound orbit by GSLV MK-III, the integrated module will reach Moon orbit using Orbiter propulsion module.
    • Subsequently, Lander will separate from the Orbiter and soft land at the predetermined site close to lunar South Pole.
    • Further, the Rover will roll out for carrying out scientific experiments on the lunar surface. Instruments are also mounted on Lander and Orbiter for carrying out scientific experiments.

    Accomplishments of Chandrayaan-1:

  • India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1 was launched by the ISRO in October 2008 and operated till August 2009.
  • The Chandrayaan-1 had confirmed the magma ocean hypothesis, which stated that the moon was once completely molten.
  • In its ten-month orbit around the moon, Chandrayaan-1 had detected titanium and had confirmed the presence of calcium.
  • Chandrayaan-1 had gathered the most accurate measurements yet of magnesium, aluminium and iron on the lunar surface.
  • WORKSHOP ON “SPACE WARFARE AND TECHNOLOGY”

    Why in News?

    Directorate of Indian Defence University (IDU) is organizing a two day workshop on
    “Space Warfare and Technology” for senior and middle level officers from the three
    Services.

    Significance of Workshop:

    • This workshop is relevant especially in light of Defence Space Agency being raised and three Services energising their own capabilities.
    • It is to be seen as to how the Defence Space Agency will fit in the entire gambit of space domain utilisation in our country and efficiently perform its role for which it is being raised.

    Objectives of Workshop:

    • Weaponisation and Militarisation of Space

    • Preparation for Absorption of High-End Technology for Self-Sustenance in Space Operations

    • Space Innovations and Technology Exploitation

    • Inertial Navigation Systems and Sensors

    • Legal aspects of military use of space

    • Building Capacity – Training, Human Resource and Research & Development

    • Adversarial Capability in Space Domain & Way Forward for Indian Armed Forces

    ILLEGAL CULTIVATION OF BT BRINJAL

    GS 3: Science & Technology

    Why in News?

    The activists representing the Coalition for a GM-Free India (CGFI) have alleged that Bt brinjal is being cultivated illegally in Haryana.

    Highlights:

    • Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal, has been at the centre of controversy in India.
    • Bt brinjal, a genetically modified strain created by India’s seeds company Mahyco in collaboration with American multinational Monsanto, claims to improve yields and help the agriculture sector.
    • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), has sought information about Bt brinjal from Bangladesh, where farmers have been growing the crop since 2013.
    • According to International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), which works to promote bio-technology, Bt brinjal incorporates the cry1Ac gene expressing insecticidal protein which creates resistance against fruit and shoot borer , a pest.

    Side effects of Bt Brinjal:

    • Brinjal is prone to attack from insect pests and diseases, the most serious and destructive of which is the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) Leucinodes orbonalis.
    • It is said be fatal for lungs and kidneys.
    • Food safety and possible effects on organisms other than the pest insect (non-target organisms).

    Genetically Modified Organisms:

    • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.
    • The technology is called “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another and also between non-related species.
    • GM crops are aimed at providing increased level of crop protection by introducing resistance against plant diseases caused by insects, viruses and from herbicides.
    • The resistance against insects in GM crops is achieved by incorporating into the food plant the gene for toxin production, which is currently used as a conventional insecticide in agriculture and is considered safe for human consumption.
    • Virus resistance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from certain viruses which cause disease in plants. Virus resistance makes plants less susceptible to diseases caused by such viruses, resulting in higher crop yields.
    • Herbicide tolerance is achieved through the introduction of a gene from a bacterium conveying resistance to some herbicides. In situations where weed pressure is high, the use of such crops has resulted in a reduction in the quantity of the herbicides used.

    BAN OF MELAMINE

    GS 3: Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology

    Why in News?

    The government has extended the ban on import of milk and its products, including chocolates, from China till laboratories at ports for testing presence of toxic chemical melamine are upgraded.

    Highlights:

    • India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. It produces around 150 million tonne milk annually.
    • Uttar Pradesh is the leading state in milk production followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat.
    • India imports milk products from China, it has imposed the ban as a preventive measure.

    Melamine:

    • Melamine is an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen.
    • Melamine alone causes bladder stones in animal tests.
    • When combined with cyanuric acid, which may also be present in melamine powder, melamine can form crystals that can give rise to kidney stones.

    MOSQUIRIX: WORLD’S FIRST MALARIA VACCINE

    GS 3: Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology

    Why in News?

    African Nation, Malawi will be undertaking large scale pilot tests for the world’s most advanced experimental malaria vaccine in a bid to prevent the disease.

    Highlights:

    • The vaccine has been recommended by WHO for pilot introduction in selected areas of 3 African countries- Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.
    • RTS,S, known by its trade name Mosquirix, uses antibodies to target proteins presented by sporozoites (such as the circumsporozoite protein of falciparum).
    • To enhance the immune system and help prevent the parasite from infecting the liver.
    • Mosquirix is also engineered using a hepatitis B viral protein and a chemical adjuvant to further boost the immune response for enhanced effectiveness.

    Malaria:

    • It is caused by the infectious Plasmodium.
    • It is spreaded by female Anopheles Mosquitoes deposit parasite sporozoites into the skin of a human host.
    • Malaria is a leading cause of human morbidity and mortality.

    BACTERIOPHAGES IN GANGA WATER

    GS 3: Science & Technology – Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology

    Why in News?

    • A study commissioned by the Union Water Resources Ministry to probe the “unique properties” of the Ganga found that the river water contains a significantly higher proportion of organisms with antibacterial properties.
    • Other Indian rivers also contain these organisms but the Ganga — particularly in its upper Himalayan stretches — has more of them.

    Assessing Ganges Water:

    • The Nagpur based NEERI team was tasked with assessing the water quality for “radiological, microbiological and biological” parameters in the Bhagirathi and the Ganga at 20 sampling stations. As part of the assessment, five pathogenic species of bacteria (Escherichia, Enterobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio) were selected and isolated from the Ganga, Yamuna and the Narmada. Their numbers was compared with the bacteriophages present in the river water.

    Uniqueness of Ganga:

    • That the Ganga may contain unique microbial life, which makes it relatively more resilient to putrefaction, was suggested by British colonial scientists about 200 years ago.
    • Because bacteriophages are a kind of virus that kill bacteria, they are frequently found in proximity to each other.
    • In the river Ganga, the bacteriophages were detected to be approximately 3 times more in proportion than bacterial isolates. Though it isn’t evident that there are bacteriophage species unique to the Ganga, the study suggests there are many more of them in the Ganga than in other rivers. Samples drawn from the Ganga contained almost 1,100 kinds of bacteriophage, and proportionally there were less than 200 species detected in the samples obtained from the Yamuna and the Narmada.
    • However, these antibacterial properties varied widely along the length of the river.

    Uses of Bacteriophages:

    • Phage therapy or viral phage therapy is the therapeutic use of bacteriophages to treat pathogenic bacterial infections.
    • Phage therapy has many potential applications in human medicine as well as dentistry, veterinary science, and agriculture.
    • Bacteriophages are much more specific than antibiotics. They are typically harmless not only to the host organism, but also to other beneficial bacteria.

    PROJECT 15B

    Why in News?

    • State-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) has launched India’s third Project 15B Visakhapatnam-class guided-missile destroyer, the future INS Imphal, in Mumbai

    Project 15 B:

    • Project 15B ships feature cutting edge advanced technology and are comparable to the best ships of similar class anywhere in the World
    • These ships have been designed indigenously by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design
    • Each ship spans 163 metres in length and 17.4 metres at beam and displaces 7,300 tonnes. These ships will be propelled by four gas turbines to achieve speed in excess of 30knotes
    • The P15B destroyers incorporate new design concepts for improved survivability, sea keeping, stealth and Enhanced stealth features have been achieved through shaping of hull and use of radar transparent deck fittings which make these ships difficult to detect. P15B ships will be equipped to carry and operate two multiple role helicopters.
    • These ships are packed with an array of state-of-the-art weapons and sensors, including multi-functional surveillance radars and vertically launched missile system for long distance engagement of shore, sea-based and air targets.
    • With significant indigenous content, these ships are a true hallmark of self-reliance attained by our country in warship design and shipbuilding, and a shining example of the ‘Make in India’ Philosphy

    Visakhapatnam-Class Surface Combatants:

    • The INS Imphal is part of a planned fleet of four Visakhapatnam-class surface
    • The first-of-class Visakhapatnam was launched in April 2015 and is expected to enter service with the Indian Navy in 2021
    • The second ship of the type, Mormugao, was launched in September 2016 and is slated to join the fleet in 2022
    • The third and fourth Visakhapatnam-class guided missile destroyers are expected to enter service in 2023 and 2024 respectively

    CSIR UNDERTAKES A GENOME SEQUENCING PROJECT

    Why in News?

    • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has undertaken an indigenous genetic mapping effort to educate a generation of students on the “usefulness” of Genomics.
    • CSIR Undertakes a Genome Sequencing Project

    Highlights:

    • Under the Project, nearly 1,000 rural youth from the length and breadth of India will have their genomes sequenced by the CSIR
    • The project is an adjunct to a much larger government-led programme which is still in the works to sequence at least 10,000 Indian genomes
    • Those recruited as part of genome-sample collections are representative of the country’s population diversity and the bulk of them will be college students, both men and women, and pursuing degrees in the life sciences or biology
    • Genomes will be sequenced based on a blood sample
    • Every participant would be given a report and would be inform them whether they carry gene variants that make them less responsive to certain classes of medicines.

    Genome Sequencing:

    • Genome refers to an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its
    • Each genome contains all of the information required to build and maintain that
    • Genome sequencing refers to figuring out the order of the DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome.

    NASA SCIENTISTS DETECT FIRST MOLECULE OF UNIVERSE

    Why in News?

    • The scientists of NASA have detected the first molecule which is Helium Hydride that was formed from stray atoms in the Universe

    Highlights:

    • NASA Scientists Detect First Molecule of Universe – Helium Hydride is a combination of helium and Hydrogen
    • The research was published in the journal ‘Nature’.
    • The researchers used the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne observatory, to detect helium hydride in NGC 7027, a planetary Nebula about 3,000 light-years away from Earth.

    What is SOFIA?

    • Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope

    Significance of this discovery:

    • Scientists for long had held that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time
    • But scientists could not find HeH+ in space and it was unproven
    • The discovery brought a long search to a happy ending and eliminates doubts about our understanding of the underlying chemistry of the early universe

    SATURN’S MOON TITAN HAS 100-M DEEP METHANE LAKES

    Why in News?

    • Saturn’s largest moon Titan has small liquid lakes that run more than 100 metres deep, perched atop hills and filled with methane, scientists have found using data from NASA’s Cassini

    Methane Rains on Saturn:

    • Scientists have known that Titan’s hydrologic cycle works similarly to Earth’s — with one major difference. Instead of water evaporating from seas, forming clouds and rain, Titan does it all with methane and
    • We tend to think of these hydrocarbons as a gas on Earth, unless they’re pressurized in a tank.
    • However, Titan is so cold that they behave as liquids, like gasoline at room temperature on our Planet

    Cassini Mission:

    • Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission is a cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space agency
    • It has sent back thousands of stunning images and made numerous discoveries about the ringed planet and its Moons
    • Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet saturn
    • Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit. Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan
    • The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005

    WORLD’S LARGEST PLANE

    Why in News?

    • The world’s largest aircraft took off over the Mojave Desert in California, the first flight for the carbon-composite plane built by Strato launch Systems

    Highlights:

    • The white airplane called Roc, which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage.
      • The plane can be used to launch satellites
      • It has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage
      • It is carbon-composite

    PHASE 4 OF GEOSYNCHRONOUS SATELLITE LAUNCH VEHICLE (GSLV)

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, has approved ongoing GSLV continuation programme Phase-4 consisting of five GSLV flights during the period 2021- 2024.
    • The GSLV Programme – Phase 4 will enable the launch of 2 tonne class of satellites for Geo-imaging, Navigation, Data Relay Communication and Space

    Financial Implications:

    • The total fund requirement is Rs. 2729.13 Crores and includes the cost of five GSLV vehicles, essential facility augmentation, Programme Management, and Launch Campaign along with the additional funds required for meeting the scope of the ongoing GSLV Continuation

    Benefits:

    • The GSLV Continuation Programme – Phase 4 will meet the launch requirement of satellites for providing critical Satellite Navigation Services, Data Relay Communication for supporting the Indian Human spaceflight programme and the next interplanetary mission to Mars. This will also ensure the continuity of production in the Indian

    Implementation Strategy and Targets:

    • The GSLV Continuation Programme – Phase 4 will meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency up to two launches per year, with maximal participation by the Indian industry. All the operational flights would be completed during the period 2021-24.

    Major impact:

    • The operationalization of GSLV has made the country self-reliant in the launching capability of 2 tonne class of satellites for communication & meteorological satellites. The GSLV Continuation Programme will sustain & strengthen the capability and self-reliance in the launching of similar satellites for national requirements including next-generation navigation satellites, data relay communication satellites and interplanetary missions.

    Background:

    • GSLV has enabled independent access to space for 2 tonne class of satellites to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). One of the very significant outcomes of the GSLV Continuation Programme is the mastering of the highly complex cryogenic propulsion technology, which is an essential technological capability to launch communication satellites to GTO. This has also paved the way for the development of a high thrust Cryogenic engine & stage for the next generation launch vehicle i.e. GSLV Mk-lll.
    • With the recent successful launch of GSLV-F11 on 19th December 2018, GSLV has successfully orbited 10 national satellites. GSLV with the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has established itself as a reliable launch vehicle for communication, navigation and meteorological satellites and also to undertake future interplanetary missions.
    • GSLV Continuation Programme was initially sanctioned in 2003, and two phases have been completed and the third phase is in progress and expected to be completed by Q4 of 2020-21.

    New Genetic Method to Empower Conservation

    Why in News?

    • A team of scientists at Stanford University and the National Centre for Biological Sciences at India’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research have developed a method for extracting genetic information.

    Highlights:

    • The new method is faster and cheap and collects information from degraded and left-behind materials, such as feces, skin or saliva, and from food products suspected of containing endangered animals.
    • It will help wildlife conservationists aiming to protect endangered species, but they were unable to collect the DNA samples from rare and elusive animals.
    • The new method relies on identifying multiple, short portions of DNA segments in a single experiment (a multiplex PCR), followed by ‘next-generation sequencing’, in which multiple fragments of DNA can be decoded simultaneously, and several times, in an automated process.

    Multiplex PCR:

    • Multiplex polymerase chain reaction refers to the use of polymerase chain reaction to amplify several different DNA sequences simultaneously.

    WHATSAPP UNVEILS ‘CHECKPOINT TIPLINE’

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology

    Why in News?

    WhatsApp unveiled its ‘Checkpoint Tipline’, where people can check the authenticity of information received as the messaging giant looks to crack down on fake news ahead of the general election in the country.

    Checkpoint Tipline:

    • Launched by PROTO, an India-based media skilling startup, this tipline will help create a database of rumours to study misinformation during elections for Checkpoint – a research project commissioned and technically assisted by WhatsApp
    • Users in India can submit misinformation or rumours they receive to the Checkpoint Tipline on WhatsApp (+91-9643-000-888).
    • Once a WhatsApp user shares a suspicious message with the tipline, PROTO’s verification centre will seek to respond and inform the user if the claim made in a message shared is verified or not. The response will indicate if the information is classified as true, false, misleading, disputed or out of scope and include any other related information that is available. The verification centre, in turn, will be able to review rumors in the form of pictures, video links or text. Apart from English, it will cover four regional languages – Hindi, Telugu, Bengali and Malayalam.

    Significance:

    • PROTO will also look at working with organisations at the grassroots level to submit misinformation circulating across different regions in India during the election period.
    • The initiative will help create global benchmarks for those wishing to tackle misinformation in their own markets.

    YUVA VIGYANI KARYAKRAM PROGRAMME LAUNCHED BY ISRO.

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers etc.

    Why in News?

    The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the Young Scientist Programme (Yuva Vigyani Karyakram) to impart basic knowledge on space technology, space science and applications to the young ones to arouse their interest in space activities.

    Young Scientist Programme:

    • For the Young Scientist Programme, ISRO will select over 100 students from across India and give them practical experience of how satellites are built. Three Students will be selected from each state/union territory to participate in the programme each year covering CBSE, ICSE and state syllabus on the basis of their academic performance and extracurricular activities.
    • The Young Scientist Programme will involve a two-week residential training programme held each year during summer holidays for students from across the country who have completed class 8 and are studying in class 9.
    • The students selected under the programme will also visit ISRO centres, interact with senior scientists, and will have access to research and development facilities.
    • The students from rural areas will be given special weightage in the selection and all the expenses of travelling and boarding will be funded entirely by ISRO.
    • ISRO will also launch Six incubation centres which will be established in various parts of the country- North, South, East, West, Centre and North-East to allow students to use these centres for R&D purposes. The first such centre was established in Agartala, Tripura.

    ISRO, FRENCH AGENCY TO SET UP MARITIME SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers etc.

    Why in News?

    • ISRO and its French counterpart CNES has sealed an agreement to set up a joint maritime surveillance system in the country.
    • The two nations will explore putting up a constellation of low-Earth orbiting satellites.

    Oceansat-3-Argos Mission:

    • The system will be augmented with the launch of Oceansat-3-Argos mission in 2020 along with a joint infrared Earth-observation satellite. These will identify and track movement of ships globally – and in particular those moving in the Indian Ocean region where France has its Reunion Islands.
    • Before that, they will initially share data from their present space systems and develop new algorithms to analyse them, according to the Paris based National Centre for Space Studies. They work together for the design and development of joint products and techniques, including those involving Automatic Identification System (AIS), to monitor and protect the assets in land and sea.

    Other collaborations:

    The two agencies have put up two climate and ocean weather monitoring satellites Megha-Tropiques (of 2011) and SARAL-AltiKa (2013) that is considered a model

    INDIA’S FIRST INDIGENOUS SEMICONDUCTOR CHIPS FOR 4G/LTE AND 5G NR MODEMS

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

    Why in News?

    • A Bengaluru based company SIGNALCHIP has fabricated high performance and cost-efficient semiconductor chips.
    • These would enable high-speed wireless communication.

    Highlights:

    • Four chips designed by SIGNALCHIP
    • SCBM3412: a single chip 4G/LTE modem including the baseband and transceiver sections in a single device
    • SCBM3404: a single chip 4X4 LTE baseband modem
    • SCRF3402: a 2X2 transceiver for LTE
    • SCRF4502: a 2X2 transceiver for 5G NR standards

    Specifications:

    • The RF sections cover all LTE/5G-NR bands upto 6 GHz. These chips also support positioning using India’s own satellite navigation system, NAVIC.
    • The combined multi-standard system-on-chip (SoC) can serve as a base station chipset for a wide range of form factors from low-cost indoor small cells to high performance base stations.
    • Through the IPs created for devices, the company now has the potential to design products for multiple related fields.

    Significance:

    • Currently, in India, all devices and infrastructure, whether imported or domestically manufactured, use imported silicon chips.
    • Silicon chip design is a very challenging activity requiring high-cost R&D, deep knowhow and mastery of multiple complex domains.
    • Hence, this technology is not available in most countries.

    Impact:

    • Data Security is the paramount concern in the World today and India cannot remain secure in terms of data, unless it manufactures its own chips.
    • India is just breaking into the elite club of the world and this will have huge implications for India’s data security and data sovereignty, besides the positive economic implications.
    • At present only 8 companies and a few countries can design and build semiconductor chips.

    INDIA’S COMMUNICATION SATELLITE GSAT-31 LAUNCHED SUCCESSFULLY

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

    Why in News?

    India’s latest communication satellite, GSAT-31 was successfully launched from the Spaceport in French Guiana. The launch vehicle Ariane 5 VA-247 lifted off from Kourou Launch Base, French Guiana carrying India’s GSAT-31 and Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1/Hellas Sat 4 satellites.

    GSAT-31:

    • It was launched in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 250 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 35,850 km, inclined at an angle of 3.0 degree to the equator.
    • With a lift-off mass of 2536 kg, GSAT-31 will augment the Ku-band transponder capacity in Geostationary Orbit.
    • The satellite will provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites. GSAT-31 will provide DTH Television Services, connectivity to VSATs for ATM, Stock-exchange, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications.
    • The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications. It is the India’s 40th communication satellite which is configured on ISRO’s enhanced ‘I-2K Bus’, utilising the maximum “bus capabilities” of this type.

    CYBER-PHYSICAL SYSTEMS(CPS)

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-technology, bio-technology

    Why in News?

    The cabinet approved the launching of National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber- Physical Systems (NMICPS) which is to be implemented by Department of Science & Technology for a period of five years.

    Cyber-physical system (CPS):

    • CPS is an interdisciplinary field that deals with the deployment of computer-based systems that do things in the physical world. It integrates sensing, computation, control and networking into physical objects and infrastructure, connecting them to the Internet and to each other.
    • Examples of cyber physical systems are Smart Grid Networks, Smart Transportation System, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Utility Service Infrastructure for Smart Cities, etc.
    • CPS and its associated technologies, like Artificial Intelligence (Al), Internet of Things (loT), Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DP), Big Data Analytics, Robotics, Quantum Computing, Quantum Communication, Quantum encryption (Quantum Key Distribution), Data Science & Predictive analytics, Cyber Security for physical infrastructure and other infrastructure plays a transformative role in almost every field of human endeavor in all sectors.

    Difference between CPS and Internet of Things (IoT):

    • CPS are physical and engineered systems whose operations are monitored, coordinated, controlled and integrated by a computing and communication core. Where as IoT is is the network of devices such as vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.
    • CPS engineering has a strong emphasis on the relationship between computation and the physical world. IoT has a strong emphasis on uniquely identifiable and internet-connected devices and embedded systems.
    • CPS are not necessarily connected with internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) forms a foundation for this cyber physical systems revolution.
    • CPS It may be individual system which integrates the physical and cyber technology like smart electricity meters. Iot is smart Home in which all appliances are connected to each other through internet like TV is connected to mobile, lights are connected to mobile etc.

    National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems:

    • It is a comprehensive mission which would address technology development, application development, human resource development, skill enhancement, entrepreneurship and start-up development in CPS and associated technologies.
    • It aims at establishment of 15 numbers of Technology Innovation Hubs, six numbers of Application Innovation Hubs and four numbers of Technology Translation Research Parks (TTRP). These Hubs & TTRPs will connect to Academics, Industry, Central Ministries and State Government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organizations across the country in a hub and spoke model.

    KEY MISSIONS LAUNCHED ON FOUNDATION DAY OF DEPARTMENT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

    Why in News?

    • Department of Biotechnology in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, celebrated its 33rd Foundation Day.
    • Theme: “Celebrating Biotechnology: Building Indian as an Innovation Nation”.

    Missions launched:

    The Minister announced key missions at the foundation day ceremony including Atal JaiAnusandhan Biotech Mission – Undertaking Nationally Relevant Technology Innovation (UNaTI), which is expected to transform Health, Agriculture and Energy sectors during the next 5 years. This mission includes

    • GARBH-ini– A Mission to promote Maternal and Child Health and develop prediction tools for pre-term berth,
    • IndCEPI– A Mission to develop affordable vaccines for endemic diseases, Development of Biofortified and Protein Rich wheat – contributing to POSHAN Abhiyan,
    • Mission on Anti-Microbial Resistance for Affordable Diagnostics and Therapeutics and Clean Energy Mission– Innovative Technology interventions for Swachh Bharat.

    NASA CONCLUDES A 15-YEAR MARS MISSION OPPORTUNITY

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

    Why in News?

    • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that its Mars Mission- Opportunity has come to an end as they are unable to restore contact with Mars Rover.
    • This marked the conclusion of the 15-year long mission.

    Highlights:

    • The decision to end the mission was made after all the efforts to restore contact with the Opportunity Mars rover didn’t yield desired results.
    • Reason for losing contact with an opportunity:
    • A historic global dust storm reached the location of the Opportunity rover on Mars.
    • The storm darkened the skies and cut off of the rover’s solar power.
    • All the efforts of NASA to restore the rover did not yield positive results.
    • Things worsened with the onset of the winter at the location of the Opportunity rover.
    • The reduced sunlight and colder temperatures during winter made it unlikely for the recovery of the Opportunity rover.

    The mission:

    • Opportunity was the second of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers to land on Mars in January 2004.
    • Opportunity landed 90 days after its twin rover Spirit landed.
    • Spirit landed at Gusev Crater and Opportunity landed on the opposite side of Mars at Meridiani Planum. NASA expected 90-day lifetimes for the rovers.
    • Both Opportunity and Spirit far exceeded their expected lifetime.
    • Spirit’s mission ended in May 2011 after travelling eight kilometres and Opportunity had logged 45 kilometres before losing contact in June 2018.

    ATMOSPHERIC WATER GENERATOR (AWG)

    GS 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

    Why in News?

    • A Navratna PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG).
    • can be used to provide drinking water in community centres and public places.

    Atmospheric Water Generator:

    • The AWG is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, astart-up company based in Hyderabad.
    • It employs a novel technology to extract water from the humidity present in the atmosphere and purify it.
    • It uses heat exchange for condensing the atmospheric moisture to produce pure, safe and clean potable water.
    • It comes with a Mineralization Unit, which is used to add minerals which are required to make the water potable.
    • The AWG is configurable in static and mobile (vehicular) versions and is available in 30 litres/day, 100 litres/day, 500 litres/day and 1,000 litres/day capacities.

    GAGANYAAN’S REVIEW PANEL

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics etc.

    Why in News?

    • A national review committee on Gaganyaan is slated to meet for the first time on March 5 and 6 and comprehensively scan the contours of the first Indian human mission to space.
    • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) wants to unveil the human mission’s details to stakeholders from multiple agencies, and also keep the nation in the loop about the prestigious mission, K.Sivan, ISRO Chairman and Secretary, Department of Space, said. He added, “It should also give us the confidence that we are on the right track with such a humongous project.”

    Gaganyaan:

    • Gaganyaan is an Indian crewed orbital spacecraft intended to be the basis of the Indian human spaceflight program. The spacecraft is being designed to carry three people, and a planned upgraded version will be equipped with rendezvous and docking capability.
    • In its maiden crewed mission, Indian Space Research Organization’s largely autonomous 3.7-tonne capsule will orbit the Earth at 400 km (250 mi) altitude for up to seven days with a three-person crew on board.
    • The crewed vehicle is planned to be launched on ISRO’s GSLV Mk III in 2022. This HAL- manufactured crew module had its first uncrewed experimental flight in 2014.

    Challenges of the Gaganyaan:

    • A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
    • In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
    • For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, building a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space
    • Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required. However, many other challenging ones are still to be developed and tested.

    SOUTH ASIAN NITROGEN HUB” RESEARCH PROJECT

    GS 3: Science & Technology

    Why in news?

    The British Government has announced a research project- South Asian Nitrogen Hub to study nitrogen pollution in India and South Asia.

    Highlights:

    • The project led by UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology will partner with 50 organisations from the UK and South Asia.
    • The project aims to study the impact of different forms of nitrogen pollution, particularly looking at nitrogen in agriculture in eight countries of South Asia which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.

    Nitrogen Pollution:

    • Pollutant Gases like ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are produced from chemical fertilizers, livestock manure, and burning fossil fuels and is connected to air pollution, biodiversity loss, the pollution of rivers and seas, ozone depletion, health, economy and livelihoods. Gases like Ammonia and nitrogen dioxide can aggravate respiratory and heart conditions.
    • Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas that depletes the ozone layer. Nitrate from chemical fertilisers, manure and industry pollutes rivers and seas, poses a health risk for humans, fish, coral and plant life.

    Indian Institutions partnering for the study are:

    • National Institute of Oceanography
    • Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University
    • Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology
    • Jawaharlal Nehru University
    • Aligarh Muslim University
    • National Physical Laboratory
    • TERI University

    NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

    Why in news?

    NITI Aayog published the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.

    Key findings of the report:

    • Opportunities and economic impact of Artificial Intelligence for India
    • India specific key challenges and focus areas of AI implementation
    • Different initiatives identified for AI implementation in India and the role of different parties and the role of our government to make those successful.

    Challenges:

    • Shortage of expertise
    • Absence of data ecosystem
    • Privacy & security issues
    • Lack of awareness
    • Absence of any collaboration

    Focus areas:

    • Healthcare-Application of AI in Healthcare can help address issues of high barriers of access to healthcare facilities.
    • Agriculture-Artificial Intelligence will have significant global impact on agricultural productivity at all levels of the value chain.
    • Education-AI tools can be used to overcome the difficulties and challenges faced by Indian Education system. Smart Cities and Infrastructure: AI helps in improving public safety and eliminate most of the issues with Smart City and Intelligent City concepts.
    • Smart Mobility and Transportation-AI aided smart technologies like Assisted Vehicle, Greenfield Infrastructure, Autonomous Trucking, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Travel Route & Flow Optimization and Community Based Parking can be used to address many of the challenging areas faced by cities.

    Way forward:

    To encourage the development of sustainable AI solutions at an appropriate price.Facilitating creation of large foundational annotated data sets which will enable and accelerate development of AI solutions by start-ups. Partnership and collaborative approach involving various stakeholders and the government. Spreading awareness of the advantages of AI offers. Regulatory measures for ethics, Privacy and Security related concerns.

    ISRO’s PSLV C- 44 LAUNCH

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, Nano-technology, Bio-technology

    Why in News?

    Isro’s PSLV-C44 lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Thursday (January 24), carrying India’s military satellite Microsat-R and students’ payload Kalamsat.

    Details of launch:

    • The national space agency’s rocket, PSLV C44 carried the satellites into the orbit.
    • After about 14 minutes into the flight, the rocket ejected the 700-kg Microsat R satellite at an altitude of about 277 km.
    • With this launch, India became the first country to use the fourth stage of a space rocket as an orbital platform for micro-gravity experiments.

    Kalamsat Satellite:

    • The Kalamsat is a 10 cm cube nanosatellite weighing about 1.2 kg and has a life span of about two months.
    • Kalamsat, prepared by a student and Chennai-based Space Kidz India, is a small satellite (10 x 10 x 10 cm) and is meant for HAM radio services.
    • It has been developed by Space Kidz India and their team including Rifath Sharook, Srimathy Kesan, among others.
    • The Kalamsat satellite was the first to use fourth stage (PS4) of the launch vehicle PSLV-C44 as an orbital platform. The fourth stage moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments.

    PSLV-C44 rocket:

    • The PSLV is a four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.
    • One of the specialties of the launch was the configuration of the rocket. ISRO used the aluminium tank for the first time in the fourth stage of the launch of PSLV C 44.
    • In its normal configuration, the rocket would have six strap-on motors hugging the its first stage. However, for the launch of Kalamsat and Microsat-R satellites, the rocket carried only two strap-on motors by the sides of the first fuel stage at the bottom.
    • This was the first time the launch vehicle is built in this configuration known as PSLV-DL.
    • This will reduce the weight and increase the mass in the four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.
    • After parking the satellites in the intended orbits, the fourth stage of the rocket will be taken to a circular orbit in space for carrying out certain experiments by the scientists.
    • Normally, the fourth stage is kept deserted in space after the injection of the satellites. This time, it will be kept ‘live’ for carrying out innovative studies.

    IAFTX- 2019

    GS 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

    Why in News?

    The joint exercise named ‘India-Africa Field Training’ is being conducted with an aim to synergise United Nations peacekeeping operations.

    IAFTX 2019:

    • Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and Uganda will be participating in the joint military exercise. It scheduled to be conducted at Aundh Military Station and College of Military Engineering, Pune from 18 March to 27 March 2019. The joint training exercise is being conducted with more than a dozen African countries & India.
    • The IAFTX-2019 is a positive step towards growing political and military ties with the member nations of African continent.
    • It aims at synergizing humanitarian mine action and joint peace operations.
    • It will boost the already strong strategic cooperation between the countries.

    IIT-HYDERABAD TO LAUNCH FULL-FLEDGED BACHELOR’S PROGRAMME IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

    Why in News?

    The Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) has announced the launch of a full-fledged bachelor’s programme in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology from the new academic session, which is a first for the country and only the third globally.

    Highlights:

    The Institute was already offering a Masters in Technology programme in AI-Machine Learning (ML). Besides IIT- Hyderabad, only Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), both of which are in the US, offer full-fledged B.Tech programmes in AI.The new course will have 20 seats and the eligibility will include clearing the JEE-Advanced test.The AI solutions are particularly promising for India, given the availability of a large corpus of data, where it can have a major positive impact on several critical domains such as healthcare, crop and soil management, weather prediction, surveillance and security, and defence.However, the demand for professionals trained in this area exceeds the current supply.Hence, the B.Tech programme in AI is a step in the direction of addressing this highly skewed demand-supply scenario.The course will focus on application verticals such as healthcare, agriculture, smart mobility, among many others.The students pursuing other degrees such as B.Tech in Chemical Engineering or Mechanical Engineering will be able to do a minor in AI as well from the coming academic year.

    UNNATI– UNISPACE NANOSATELLITE ASSEMBLY & TRAINING PROGRAMME

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology.

    Why in News?

    Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space inaugurated the UNNATI-(Unispace Nanosatellite Assembly & Training) programme organized by ISRO in Bengaluru.

    UNNATI programme:

    • UNNATI, a capacity building programme on Nano satellite development, is an initiative by ISRO to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations conference on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space (UNISPACE-50).
    • The programme provides opportunities to the participating developing countries to strengthen in assembling, integrating and testing of Nanosatellite. UNNATI programme is planned to be conducted for 3 years by U.R. Rao Satellite Centre of ISRO in 3 batches and will target to benefit officials of 45 countries. U.R. Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), Bengaluru is the lead centre of ISRO for design, development and integration of satellites for communication, remote sensing, navigation and scientific studies.

    Objectives:

    • The primary objectives of the programme are:
      • To offer a simplified and increased exposure to satellite fabrication technologies, as part of the UNISPACE initiative. To provide theoretical course on satellite technology.
      • To provide intensive course on nano satellite realisation, covering mission aspects, design, fabrication, assembly, integration & testing.
      • To provide hands-on training to assemble, integrate and test a low cost, modular nano satellite.

    UNOOSA:

    • UNOOSA (United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs) works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses and exploration of space.
    • It also promotes the utilisation of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.
    • The Office assists any United Nations Member State to establish legal and regulatory frameworks to govern space activities.

    DD SCIENCE AND INDIA SCIENCE.

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

    Why in News?

    The Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with Doordarshan (DD), Prasar Bharati today launched two science communication initiatives, DD Science and India Science.

    Highlights:

    • DD Science is a one-hour slot on Doordarshan National channel, which will be telecast Monday to Saturday from 5 pm to 6 pm, India Science is an Internet-based channel, which is available on any internet-enabled device, and will offer live, scheduled play and video-on-demand services. The two channels will have science-based documentaries, studio-based discussions, and virtual walkthroughs of scientific institutions, interviews and short films and will be completely free to access. The two science communication platforms are National level initiatives to elevate science into a celebration and bring it close to everyday life. It also helps in developing the scientific temper of our society.
    • DST and DD aim to make them jewels in the crown of the country for serving humanity for the furtherance of science.

    ULTIMA THULE: FARTHEST OBJECT EVER VISITED

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

    Why in news?

    • Recently NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft carried out a historic flyby of a distant object called Ultima Thule followed by beaming back of the first images.
    • It is the most distant object ever visited, which is one of the reasons that make the mission special.

    Ultima Thule:

    • Officially named (486958) 2014 MU69, it earned the nickname Ultima Thule following a public contest in 2018.
    • It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a disc in the outer Solar System (beyond Neptune) that consists of small bodies including Pluto.
    • 2014 MU69 was discovered in June 2014 by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope but is so distant that many of its characteristics remain to be understood.

    Peculiarity of the object:

    • Located about 6.5 billion kilometres from Earth, 2014 MU69 is believed to be a peanut-shaped space rock about 32 km long and 16 km wide.
    • Its shape has given rise to the theory that it might actually be two rocks moving in tandem. It orbits the Sun once every 298 years. In March 2018, NASA invited suggestions for a nickname for 2014 MU69. Out of 34,000 submissions, NASA chose Ultima Thule, which means “beyond the borders of the known world”.
    • In July 2018, scientists calculated that they would be able to see the object’s shadow from the southern tip of Argentina.

    The mission:

    • New Horizons, a space probe that was launched in 2006, became the first mission to visit Pluto in 2015.
    • Travelling farther into the Kuiper Belt, the nuclear-powered space probe has come within 3,500 km of Ultima Thule.
    • Images taken revealed that the object may have a shape similar to a bowling pin, or “snowman”, or a peanut spinning end over end, or could be two objects orbiting each other.
    • Flyby data showed that Ultima Thule is spinning like a propeller with the axis pointing approximately toward New Horizons.
    • NASA released a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager.

    Importance of the Probe:

    • The mission will look for more exact details of the object’s size, shape, orbit and environment.
    • The probe is important because it holds remnants from the birth of the Solar System.
    • Many Kuiper Belt objects have remained unchanged for billions of years, and could provide clues to the history of the Solar System, and possibly the conditions that led to the evolution of a habitable world like Earth.

    Kuiper Belt:

    • Kuiper belt is a region of the solar system beyond the planets, extending from the orbit of Neptune. It consist mainly small bodies or remnants from the solar system’s formation.
    • It is similar to the asteroid belt, although it is far larger 20 times as wide and 200 times as massive.
    • The Kuiper belt objects (KBO) are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed ‘ices’), such as methane, ammonia and water.
    • Kuiper belt is home to at least three dwarf planets Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
    • Pluto, discovered in 1930, is considered its largest member.

    SETTING UP OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY PARK AND MUSEUMS

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

    Why in News?

    The ISRO (Department of Space) has planned to set up Space Galleries in various parts of the country.

    Highlights:

    • The Space Galleries are expected to disseminate the knowledge about space science and technology amongst the citizens of our country.
    • The Gallery will consist of interactive methods/ models describing the principles of Space science and technology.
    • Space Galleries are planned to be established at Birla Science Centre at Hyderabad, Nehru Science Centre at Mumbai and National Science Centre at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi.
    • ISRO has taken initiatives to establish space gallery in all the national museums/science centres (under Ministry of Culture) across the country in a phased manner.
    • ISRO is also planning to establish Knowledge centres, mobile exhibitions, competitions amongst students and various talks/ lectures on Space Science/ technology related aspects.

    World’s First Floating Nuclear Power Plant becomes operational

    Why in news?

    • On December 11, 2018, Russia’s Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) has become operational.
    • The Russian atomic energy corporation Rosatom announced that the plant has been brought to 10% of its capacity.

    Akademik Lomonosov FNPP:

    • Akademik Lomonosov was constructed by Russian state nuclear power firm Rosatom.
    • It has length of 144 metres and width of 30 metres.
    • It has a displacement of 21,500 tonnes and crew of 69 people.
    • For power generation, it has been fitted with two modified KLT-40 naval propulsion nuclear reactors (each of 35 MW capacity) together providing up to 70 MW of electricity and 300 MW of heat.
    • It is named after Russian Academician Mikhail Lomonosov.
    • It has the latest security systems and is considered as one of safest nuclear installations in the world.
    • However, environmentalists have dubbed it as ‘Nuclear Titanic’ or ‘Chernobyl on ice’.
    • It will be primarily used to power oil rigs in remote areas of Artic region where Russia is pushing to drill for oil and gas.

    Significance of this nuclear power plant:

    • The low-capacity, mobile (floating) nuclear power plant can produce enough electricity to power town of 200,000 residents living in Russia’s far-flung northernmost Artic region where large amounts of electricity is not needed and construction of conventional power station based on coal, gas and diesel is complicated and costly.
    • It can save upto 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
    • The project is part of Russia’s greater aims to secure rich deposits of oil and gas in North Pole region in Artic.
    • Due to climate change, new shipping routes are opening up in Russia’s north and as result, it is strengthening its military position in the region.

    Microsoft India signs pact with NITI Aayog for AI tools in agriculture, healthcare

    Why in news?

    • Microsoft India has signed an agreement with NITI Aayog to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to address challenges in agriculture and healthcare.

    Highlights:

  • Microsoft India will support NITI Aayog by combining the cloud, AI, research and its vertical expertise for new initiatives and solutions across several core areas.
  • Microsoft will also accelerate the use of AI for the development and adoption of local language computing.
  • Under the agreement, Microsoft will provide NITI Aayog advanced AI-based solutions to address challenges in agriculture and healthcare.
  • It will include farm advisory services, healthcare screening models at Primary Health Centres, and building capacity for AI through education.
  • Additionally Microsoft will promote STEM education in the areas of AI studies and data sciences for young women in institutes identified by NITI Aayog.
  • Gaganyaan Programme

    Why in news?

    • The Union Cabinet has approved the Gaganyaan Program with demonstration of Indian Human Spaceflight capability to low earth orbit for a mission duration ranging from one orbital period to a maximum of seven days.

    Gaganyaan Programme:

    • A human rated GSLV Mk-lll will be used to carry the orbital module which will have necessary provisions for sustaining a 3-member crew for the duration of the mission.
    • The total fund requirement for the Gaganyaan Programme is within Rs.10,000 crore and includes cost of technology development, flight hardware realization and essential infrastructure elements.
    • Gaganyaan Programme will establish a broader framework for collaboration between ISRO, academia, industry, national agencies and other scientific organizations.
    • This will allow pooling in of diverse technological and industrial capabilities and enable broader participation in research opportunities and technology development benefitting large number of students and researchers.
    • It is expected to generate employment and train human resources in advanced technologies.
    • It will inspire large number of young students to take up science and technology careers for national development.
    • Gaganyaan Programme is a national effort and will involve the participation of the Industry, Academia and National Agencies spread across the length and breadth of the country.
    • Human spaceflight programme will provide a unique micro-gravity platform in space for conducting experiments and test bed for future technologies.
    • The programme is expected to give impetus to economic activities within the country in terms of employment generation, human resource development and enhanced industrial capabilities.

    China Launched its First Satellite for Space-Based Broadband Services

    Why in News?

    • China on December 22 launched its first communication satellite to provide broadband internet services worldwide in an apparent bid to rival Google and other international firms.

    Hongyun Project:

    • The Hongyun project, started in September 2016, aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in the underserved regions.
    • The satellite was launched from a Long March 11 carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north-western China.
    • It is the first in the Hongyun project planned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).
    • The spacecraft is tasked with verifying basic designs of Hongyun satellite and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies.
    • Weighing 247 kilograms, the satellite works in a sun-synchronous orbit about 1,100 kilometres above earth.
    • It is powered by solar arrays and has a design life of one year, but is expected to operate longer.
    • CASIC plans to launch four mass-production Hongyun satellites in future.

    Space-Based Broadband Service:

    • The concept of running a low-cost, high-performance satellite network to provide space-based communications and internet services has become popular globally among industry players.
    • Currently, many foreign tech companies, including Google, SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat, have already launched plans to use satellites to provide free internet access.
    • The US’ SpaceX launched two experimental satellites last month to test technologies for its Starlink project, in which tech tycoon Elon Musk proposes to put a total of nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit by the mid-2020s.
    • Similarly, US firm, OneWeb, plans to launch a satellite constellation of 648 low-Earth orbit microsatellites by the end of 2019, though few developments have been reported. Last month, a Chinese internet technology firm unveiled the first satellite in a constellation plan comprising of 272 satellites to provide free WiFi service worldwide.

    India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile

    Why in news?

    • India successfully test-fired nuclear strategic ballistic missile Agni-IV from Dr Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast as a part of user trial by the Army.
    • This is the seventh trial of Agni-IV missile.

    Agni-IV missile:

    • The Agni-IV missile was designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It has a strike range of 4,000 km.
    • It is 20 metres long and weighs 17 tonnes and has many cutting-edge technologies which can meet global standards including Pershing missile of US.
    • Agni-IV missile is equipped with advanced Avionics, 5th generation On Board Computer and distributed architecture.
    • It has the latest features to correct and guide itself for in-flight disturbances.
    • It encompasses most accurate ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RINS) which is supported by highly reliable redundant micro navigation system (MINGS).

    Agni Series:

    • Agni-1 with 700 km range
    • Agni-2 with a 2,000-km range
    • Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500-km range
    • Agni-5 with a strike range of 5,000 km

    International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography at INCOIS

    Why in news?

    • The UNESCO Category 2 Centre – International Training Centre for Operational Oceanography (ITCOocean) Complex is established as a training facility at Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad.

    ITCOocean:

    • The Ministry of Earth Sciences had established ITCOocean at INCOIS, Hyderabad to provide training to scientists/ researchers/government officers/disaster managers/decision makers, etc in 2013.
    • Accordingly, it started conducting short term training programmes for wide variety of participants from India and abroad.
    • Later, in order to assist UNESCO and its Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) India offered to establish the ITCOocean as a UNESCO Category 2 Centre.
    • The General Conference of UNESCO approved the offer of Government of India to establish ITCOocean as a UNESCO Category 2 Centre in November 2017.

    Objective:

    • The mission of the Centre is to assist the Member States of IOC/UNESCO in developing oceanographic scientific base, related technology and information systems.
    • It aims to create a pool of trained ocean scientists, technologists and managers to cater the growing demands of operational oceanographic services and better management of oceans.
    • It will give an opportunity to the South Asian and African states bordering the Indian Ocean and the small island nations in the Pacific to benefit from the expertise and experience of INCOIS in the areas of ocean science and management.,/li>

    Role of INCOIS:

    • INCOIS is already playing its part as a leading operational oceanography institute in the region.
    • Tsunami early warnings from the institute are delivered to 25 countries on the Indian Ocean Rim on real-time basis, since IOC/UNESCO designated the Centre as Regional Tsunami Service Provider (RTSP) in October 2012.
    • Under the aegis of Regional Integrated Multi-hazard Early warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES), INCOIS is also providing ocean state forecast and other related warnings to 5 countries (Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar and Cameroon).

    INCOIS:

    • Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is an autonomous organization of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
    • INCOIS is mandated to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to society, industry, government agencies and the scientific community through sustained ocean observations and constant improvements through systematic and focussed research.

    National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

    Why in news?

    • French IT services firm Atos has won a three-year contract to build the first phase of supercomputers under India’s Rs 4,500-crore National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

    National Supercomputing Mission (NSM):

    • The Mission envisages empowering national academic and R&D institutions spread over the country by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
    • These supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN).
    • The NKN is another programme of the government which connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high speed network.
    • The Mission includes development of highly professional High Performance Computing (HPC) aware human resource for meeting challenges of development of these applications.
    • India looks forward to create a cluster of machines for weather forecasting, drug discovery and data mining.

    Implementation:

    • The NSM is divided into two key tracks, build and buy, which are being spearheaded by the C-DAC and Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science respectively.
    • Atos has won the contract for the ‘build’ part of the NSM for which it will partner CDAC in all three phases of the project.
    • While Phase I involves assembling of the supercomputers, in Phase II, certain components like the motherboards would be manufactured locally, and in the third phase, the supercomputer would be designed in India by C-DAC.
    • In Phase II, it will be an aggregate of 10 petaflop, but the number of computers is yet to be decided.
    • In the first phase, IIT-Kharagpur will have a 1.3 petaflop machine and IISER Pune and IIT-BHU will have a 650 teraflop computer each.
    • The Mission would be implemented and steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) over a period of seven years.
    • The tender to build these high performance computers (HPC) had been floated by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
    • Atos would be deploying its energy efficient Direct Liquid Cooled Bull Sequana supercomputers in India.

    NITI Aayog launches Global Hackathon on Artificial Intelligence

    Why in News?

    • NITI Aayog is partnering with Perlin – a Singapore-based AI start up – to launch the ‘AI 4 All Global Hackathon’, With the vision to further expand the idea of‘Artificial Intelligence, AI for All’ articulated in the National AI Strategy.

    Objective:

    • The objective of this hackathon is to promote awareness and subsequently develop solutions that deliver the twin benefit of efficient computing to address the infrastructure challenges, while also not compromising on privacy of data for training AI algorithms.

    Highlights:

    • The Hackathon was announced at the AI conference organised by NITI Aayog, in partnership with the ORF, held in Mumbai in November 2018.
    • The first stage will invite ideas for use cases of multi-party computation in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, urbanisation and financial inclusion.
    • The second stage will call for these ideas to be matured and developed, with a focus on privacy preserving AI and distributed computing.
    • The participants will also get mentorship and support from the hackathon co-sponsors, including the opportunity to scale and implement their AI applications.
    • The AI for All Hackathon underscores the commitment of NITI Aayog to supporting meaningful social, economic and technological advancements directed at making people’s lives better.
    • The government’s policy think tank organised its first hackathon, ‘MoveHack’ in August, on the sidelines of the Global Mobility Summit 2018, with the aim of garnering cutting-edge mobility applications. Over 2,000 submissions were received out of which the top 10 teams were awarded at the summit.

    National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 6, 2018 approved the launching of National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS).
    • The mission will be launched by the Department of Science and Technology at an expected cost of Rs 3660 crore for a period of five years.

    Objective:

    • The mission addresses the ever-increasing technological requirements of the society and takes into account the international trends and roadmaps of leading countries for the next generation technologies.

    National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS):

    • The NM-ICPS is a comprehensive Mission which would address technology development, application development, human resource development & skill enhancement, entrepreneurship and start-up development in CPS and associated technologies.
    • The Mission addresses the ever increasing technological requirements of the society, and takes into account the international trends and road maps of leading countries for the next generation technologies.
    • It would be a Pan India Mission and covers entire gamut of India that includes Central Ministries, State Governments, Industry and Academia.
    • The Mission will feed the Central Ministries/ Departments and State Govts and also the Industry to effectively use the CPS technologies in their projects and schemes for the benefit of the society.
    • The mission implementation would develop and bring:
      o Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and associated technologies within reach in the country,
      o Adoption of CPS technologies to address India specific National / Regional issues,
      o Produce Next Generation skilled manpower in CPS,
      o Catalyse Translational Research,
      o Accelerate entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development in CPS etc.

    Significance:

    • CPS is an integrated system of upcoming technology, which in turn is being taken up on priority basis by countries in the race for development.
    • CPS will indeed bring a paradigm shift in entire skill sets requirement.
    • The proposed Mission would act as an engine of growth that would benefit national initiatives in health, education, energy, environment, agriculture, strategic cum security, and industrial sectors, Industry 4.0, SMART Cities, SDGs etc.
    • The job opportunities will be enhanced through the Mission by imparting advanced skills and generating skilled manpower as per the requirement of the industry/ society.
    • As Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Start-up Ecosystem is an integral part of the proposed NM-ICPS, the start-ups will also create a number of technology driven job opportunities in CPS and allied areas.

    Cyber Physical System:

    • CPSs are systems that link the physical world (e.g., through sensors or actuators) with the virtual world of information processing.
    • They are composed from diverse constituent parts that collaborate together to create some global behaviour. These constituents will include software systems, communications technology, and sensors/actuators that interact with the real world, often including embedded technologies.
    • In short these types of systems blend human and compute power, and integrating mechanical systems with human physical interaction giving both a form of “super powers.

    Combined Guided Weapon Firing Exercise

    Why in News?

    • This was a first of its kind Exercise undertaken by the Indian Air Force in which firing of four different class of missiles – AKASH, SPYDER, OSA-AK-M and IGLA was successfully carried out during day and night in an integrated networked environment.

    AKASH:

    • Akash (means sky in English) is a mid-range surface-to-air missile (SAM). It is medium range nuclear capable supersonic missile. It has been indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).
    • It is multi target, multi directional, all weather air-defence missile system consisting of surveillance and tracking radars for defending vulnerable areas against medium range air targets penetrating from low, medium and high altitudes. It has supersonic speeds ranging from Mach 2.8 to 3.5.
    • It has capability to carry 55- kg fragmentation warhead that is triggered by proximity fuse. It can engage aerial targets up to range of approximately 25 kms. It can reach high altitude of 18 kms and as low as 30 meters.

    Spyder:

    • Spyder (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) is an acquired missile system from Israel which is a short-range, quick reaction surface-to-air missile.
    • It comprises two missiles- Python and Derby, with an active onboard radar which makes the Spyder system more lethal. Both the missiles are smokeless which makes it harder to detect them visually.
    • It can neutralise enemy targets up to a distance of 15 km and at heights between 20 and 9000 metres.
    • Besides aircraft and UAVs, it can also neutralise low-level cruise missiles.
    • It is an all-weather missile which has an automatic process of engaging an aggressive aircraft or missile.
    • Spyder is shorter than India’s indigenously developed surface-to-air ‘Akash’ missile, which has a strike range of 25 km.

    OSA-AK-M:

    • It is a highly mobile, low-altitude, short-range tactical surface-to-air missile system.
    • The SA-8 was the first mobile air defense missile system incorporating its own engagement radars on a single vehicle, an all-in-one 9A33 transporter erector launcher and radar (TELAR) vehicles which can detect, track and engage aircraft independently or with the aid of regimental surveillance radars
    • The 9M33M2 “Osa-A” missile extends the ranges out to 1,500–10,000m (1–6.2 miles) and engagement altitudes to 25–5,000 m (82–16,400 ft).

    IGLA-S (SA-24):

    • It is latest model of Russian MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense system) technology. It offers superior performance over earlier supplied SA-18 missiles to India.
    • It is designed for use against visible aerial targets at short range such as tactical aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs), cruise missile, head-on or receding, in presence of natural (background) clutter and countermeasures.
    • As per requirements of Indian Army, it will have maximum range of 6km, altitude of 3km along with all-weather capability.
    • Igla-S missile system will replace the existing Igla in service which is in urgent need of replacement.

    Reusable Rocket Technology

    Why in News?

    • ISRO is working on reusable technology for reducing the cost of access to space including the development of a winged body unmanned reusable launch vehicle (RLV) for launching payloads into low earth orbits.

    ISRO’s Prototype RLV:

    • ISRO has successfully developed a scaled down (1:5) technology demonstration version of Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) vehicle.
    • It has successfully carried out the first experimental mission on May 23, 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
    • In this mission, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control and reusable thermal protection system have been successfully demonstrated.

    Highlights:

    • Development of Reusable Launch Vehicles is a technical challenge and it involves the development of many cutting edge technologies.
    • A series of technology demonstration missions would be required to validate these technologies.
    • In the next phase, an autonomous runway landing experiment is planned releasing the RLV-TD vehicle from a helicopter to demonstrate the runway approach and landing capability.
    • This will be followed by an end-to-end orbital re-entry mission demonstration using a Technology Demonstration Vehicle boosted by propulsion systems.

    Tamil Nadu fishermen get NavIC-powered ISRO Gadgets

    Why in news?

    • The Tamil Nadu government has distributed 200 NavIC- powered satellite-enabled communication devices developed by ISRO to 80 fishing boat groups in Tamil Nadu. These gadgets will help the Tamil Nadu fishermen to get cyclone and weather updates on a real-time basis.

    NavIC Gadgets:

    • These gadgets, which are of the size of a soapbox, are basically ‘receivers’ which will produce a beep when alerts are received by the device.
    • They are Bluetooth enabled and the alerts received can be read on the NavIC App which can be downloaded on an android phone.
    • The alerts will be in the Tamil language so that the fisherman find it easy to understand.
    • The gadgets have been given free of cost and there is no recurring cost associated with these devices.
    • Last year several fishermen went missing in the cyclone Ockhi and Tamil Nadu government had to face severe criticism for not providing timely weather alerts to fishermen.
    • For this reason, the Tamil Nadu government had declared giving these gadgets free of cost to fishermen in this year’s state budge.

    NavIC:

    • NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation) can be understood as the Indian version of the American GPS (Global Positioning System).
    • The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System constellation consists of eight satellites.
    • NavIC provides accurate real-time position, navigation and timing services over India and region extending 1,500 km around Indian borders.

    Artificial intelligence in Healthcare

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

    Why in news?

    • Artificial intelligence (AI) systems poses an opportunity for medical professionals to learn more than before, the enormous amount of medical information can overwhelm the decision-making processes.

    AI in healthcare:

    • AI in healthcare can help to leverage technology to deploy efficient, impactful interventions at exactly the right moment in a patient’s care.
    • Artificial intelligence can provide insights into diagnostics, care processes, treatment variability, and patient outcomes.
    • AI systems can bring in better standardisation of processes, and therefore subjectivity in interpreting information will be reduced.
    • AI-assisted robotic surgery, where robots are able to analyse pre-op medical data and guide a surgeon’s instrument during surgery, ensures patients develop fewer complications than otherwise.
    • AI is that it can significantly improve efficiency, while reducing wastage and costs.

    Significance:

    • Low doctor-patient ratio.
    • To deliver remote medicine and create virtual access in an effective manner.
    • Doctors with AI can treat and monitor patients across geographies .
    • Healthcare organisations can plan policies, guidelines, strategies and infrastructure to address health needs in a precise manner, thereby optimising the resources and delivery.
    • The State can prioritise plans, budgetary allotments with greater understanding and in optimal utilisation.
    • The auto diagnosis tool is an AI-powered tool that runs on actual diagnostic tests results and provides probable risks factors.
    • It also suggests users change their lifestyle by recommending diet and exercise plans.
    • Further investigations (if any) and a list of repetitive examinations for regular health tracking and monitoring are also suggested.

    ISRO successfully launches hyperspectral imaging satellite HysIS

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

    Why in news?

    • The ISRO has successfully launched the PSLV-C43/HysIS mission from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota late.
    • This mission, the sixth one this year that will use a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV), will see the launch of HysIS – India’s own earth observation satellite.
    • The satellite will be accompanied by 29 other satellites developed by various nations, including 23 from the US.

    PSLV-C43 mission:

    • The PSLV launcher has a total length of 39.4m and consists of a four-stage rocket, that has alternating solid and liquid stages.
    • PSLV-C43 is a core-alone version of the launch vehicle, and the lightest one in operation. The combined weight of the satellites is 641.5kg.
    • PSLV-C43 mission’s payload consists of the HysIS satellite, one micro-satellite and 29 nano satellites.
    • While the 30 foreign satellites will be launched at an altitude of 504 km from the Earth’s surface, ISRO’s HysIS satellite will be launched at an altitude of 636 km.
    • The satellite will be put into a polar synchronous orbit, which sets it in motion along the axis that runs along the Earth’s geographic North and South Pole.

    HysIS:

    • HysIS stands for Hyper Spectral Imaging Satellite.
    • The objective of the probe is to provide observations within the visible, near infrared and shortwave infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum.
    • The imaging tools will help the HysIS satellite monitor atmospheric activity and climate change, while also assisting studies of Earth’s magnetic field.
    • These observations will have a host of applications, prime among which relate to agriculture, forestry, water management, and coastal patterns.
    • The satellite’s payload also consists of a 730W power backup, and a 64Ah Li-ion battery.
    • It will continue to make observations till 2023, when the mission ends.
    • After this launch, the next big event for the Indian space organisation will be its awaited mission to the moon – Chandrayaan-2 – in early 2019.

    World’s standard definition of kilogram now redefined

    Why in news?

    • The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was held during November at Palais des Congréss, Versailles, France.
    • In the meeting, the members have voted for the redefinition of 130 years old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant (h).
    • The new definitions will come into force on 20 May 2019.

    Why to redefine standards?

    • In a world where accurate measurement is now critical in many areas, such as in drug development, nanotechnology and precision engineering – those responsible for maintaining the international system had no option but to move beyond Le Grand K to a more robust definition.
    • The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the main executive body of CGPM has the responsibility of defining the International System of Units (SI).
    • This revision of the SI is the culmination of many years of intensive scientific cooperation between the National Metrology Institutes (The national Physical Laboratory for India) and the BIPM.
    • The dissemination of SI units for the welfare of society and industries in the country is the responsibility of Legal Metrology, Department of Consumer Affairs, GoI.

    How effective is the new system?

    •    Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.
    • So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).
    • The fluctuation is about 50 parts in a billion, less than the weight of a single eyelash. But although it is tiny, the change can have important consequences.

    Planck’s constant:

    • There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.
    • But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.
    • By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.

    New Universal System of standard:

    • After the kilogram’s definition is changed officially- on 20th May, 2019, also known as World Metrology Day- most people will never notice the difference.
    • It would not change baking ingredients on a kitchen scale, or even have an effect on the tons of goods shipped globally every day.
    • For astronomers calculating the movements of stars and galaxies or for pharmacologists trying to define doses of medications sown to the molecule, the new standard of measurement could change the way they work.
    • The metric system was intended to be rational, universal set of units “for all people, for all time”.
    • The SI unit will finally be truly universal system, free of any human artifacts.

    Impact Based Forecasting Approach

    GS 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

    Why in news?

    • A new technology has been developed by IMD to assess the rise of water level in rivers and reservoirs by rain and can help state governments to minutely monitor the impact of rainfall.

    Impact Based Forecasting Approach:

    • The technology shows “pre-event scenario which can help authorities in taking real-time decisions.
    • With this the government can be able to generate a scenario where it can take decisions to release water or not release it.
    • It will be helpful for every state authority to take a decision.
    • There is another technology which would help in identifying warm ocean segments that are contributing to the rapid intensification of the systems.

    Recent Kerala Floods:

    • This system will help to avoid a disastrous situations similar to Kerala floods.
    • The heavy downpour which had ravaged Kerala in August 2018, had caused death of around 500 people and economic damages worth over Rs 40,000 crore.
    • Excessive rainfall had led to floods in Kerala and was the result of climate change.
    • State Government had blamed IMD for lapses in its part for wrong rain forecast.
    • IMD had forecasted estimated 98.5 mm rain in the state between 9 and 15 August, 2018 but Kerala received was 352.2 mm of rainfall resulting in severe flooding.

    India Meteorological Department (IMD):

    • It is the national meteorological service of the country and chief government agency dealing in everything related to meteorology, seismology and associated subjects.
    • It was formed in 1975.
    • It functions under Ministry of Earth Sciences.
    • It is headquartered in New Delhi.

    Mandate of IMD:

  • Undertake meteorological observations and provide current information and forecasting information for most favourable operation of weather-dependent activities such as irrigation, agriculture, aviation, shipping etc.
  • Offer warning against severe weather phenomenon such as tropical cyclones, norwesters, dust storms, heat waves, cold waves, heavy rains, heavy snow, etc
  • Provide met-related statistics needed for agriculture, industries, water resources management, oil exploration, and any other strategically important activities for the country.
  • Engage in research in meteorology and allied subjects.
  • Detect and locate earthquakes and evaluate seismicity in various parts of the country for developmental projects.
  • IIT’s researchers devise programme to maximise LPG connections

    Why in news?

    • ·         Researchers from IIT Kharagpur have devised decision support system (DCS) to help maximise LPG connections in BPL (below poverty line) households Pradhan MantriUjjwalaYojana.
    • ·         It is a first of its kind for analysis of a national level energy policy, it said.

    Decision Support System (DSS):

    • ·         A decision support system (DSS) is a computer programme that helps in making sound rational decisions using mathematical programming and operation research techniques.
    • ·         The DSS for such policies can provide us the exact values of important parameters over the prescribed policy time period, which in turn will help us to take important measures to ascertain the proper functioning (monitoring) of the policy towards the desired goal.
    • ·         The DSS devised at the IIT uses mixed integer linear programming to mathematically formulate the policy using input parameters, decision variables and their relationships.
    • ·         The mathematical model has found the optimum number of total (BPL) connections required in a region, number of dealerships that need to be commissioned in a region over the policy time frame.
    • ·         The research has done sensitivity analysis with the mathematical model — change in a decision variable with respect to the change in parameter.

    Significance of the System:

    • ·         With this, they can predict not only how the number of household connections can be increased but also the critical region that contributes most in each zone of LPG distribution.
    • ·         The DSS for such policies can provide the exact values of important parameters over the prescribed policy time period.
    • ·         This in turn will help researchers to take important measures to ascertain the proper functioning (monitoring) of the policy towards the desired goal.
    • ·         This kind of DSS can be developed for various federal and state level policies for various commodities like solar panels distributions, agricultural commodities and so on.

    India joining as Member of Advanced Motor Fuels Technology Collaboration Programme

    Why in News?

    • The Union Cabinet has been apprised of India joining as Member of Advanced Motor Fuels Technology Collaboration Programme (AMF TCP)under International Energy Agency (IEA).

    Key Facts:

    • The primary goal of joining AMF TCP by Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) is to facilitate the market introduction of Advanced motor fuels/ Alternate fuels with an aim to bring down emissions and achieve higher fuel efficiency in transport sector.
    • Provides an opportunity for fuel analysis, identifying new/ alternate fuels for deployment in transport sector and allied R&D activities for reduction in emissions in fuel intensive sectors.
    • Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India has joined AMF TCP as its 16th member on 9th May, 2018.
    • The other member Countries of AMF TCP are USA, China, Japan, Canada, Chile, Israel, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Republic of Korea, Switzerland and Thailand.

    The benefits:

    • The shared costs and pooled technical resources.
    • The duplication of efforts is avoided
    • National Research and Development capabilities are strengthened
    • The information exchange about best practices, network of researchers and linking research with practical implementation
    • After becoming member, India will initiate R&D in other areas of its interest in advanced biofuels and other motor fuels in view of their crucial role in substituting fossil fuel imports.

    AMF TCP:

    • It an international platform for co-operation among countries to promote cleaner and more energy efficient fuels & vehicle technologies.
    • The activities of AMF TCP relate to R&D, deployment and dissemination of Advanced Motor Fuels and looks upon the transport fuel issues in a systemic way taking into account the production, distribution and end use related aspects.
    • The R&D work in AMF TCP is carried out within individual projects called “Annex”.

    Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services

    GS 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

    Why in news?

    • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved continuation of the nine sub-schemes of the umbrella scheme “Atmosphere & Climate Research-Modelling Observing Systems & Services (ACROSS)” during 2017-2020.
    • It will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences through its institutes namely India Meteorological Department (IMD), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Service(INCOIS).

    Objective:

    • As the objective of the ACROSS scheme is to provide a reliable weather and climate forecast for betterment of society, the scheme will aim at improving skill of weather and climate forecast through sustained observations, intensive R & D.
    • This scheme involves multi-institutes wherein each unit has a designated role for accomplishing the aforesaid tasks. As a result, all these schemes with specific objectives and budget are implemented in an integrated manner and are put together under the umbrella scheme “ACROSS”.

    ACROSS Scheme:

    • ACROSS scheme pertains to the atmospheric science programs of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
    • It addresses different aspects of weather and climate services, which includes warnings for cyclone, storm surges, heat waves, thunderstorms etc.
    • Each of these aspects is incorporated as nine sub-schemes under the umbrella scheme “ACROSS” and is implemented in an integrated.
    • The ACROSS scheme consists of nine sub-programmes which are multi disciplinary and multi institutional in nature and will be implemented in an integrated manner.

    Significance of the Scheme:

    • ·The scheme will provide improved weather, climate and   ocean   forecast and services, thereby ensuring transfer of commensurate benefits to the various services.
    • It will also provide a sizable number of scientific and technical staff along with requisite administrative support, thereby generating employment.
    • To ensure last-mile connectivity of the weather based services to the end -user, a large number of agencies like the KrishiVigyanaKendras of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Universities and local municipalities are roped in thus generating employment opportunities to many people.

    Arihant – Nuclear Triad

    Why in News?

    • India achieved a significant milestone in its strategic nuclear posture when it announced the completion of its survivable nuclear triad by adding maritime strike capability to land and air-based delivery platforms for nuclear weapons
    • With the country’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, completing its maiden “deterrence” patrol, India joined the select group of five — US, Russia, China, France and UK — which can boast of this capability

    Importance of INS Arihant’s deterrence patrol:

    • A deterrence patrol, as the term signifies, is meant to deter the adversary from conducting the first nuclear strike, as a nuclear ballistic missile submarine provides India with an assured second-strike capability.
    • The success of INS Arihant gives a fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail.
    • As a nation committed to “no first use” (NFU), it is of critical importance that an adversary contemplating a nuclear (first) strike should never be in doubt about the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrent and the assurance of a swift, devastating response.
    • Given the kind of transparency provided by satellites and other technical means, the land-based legs of our nuclear triad (missile sites and air-bases) remain exposed to enemy attack.
    • Once the submarine disappears underwater, it becomes virtually impossible to locate and can remain on patrol for months, with its ballistic missiles ready for launch on the PM’s orders.
    • This is the kind of credibility that Arihant and other submarines will provide to India’s nuclear deterrence in the future.

    Some shortcomings still present:

    The issue of missile ranges:

    • From a submarine patrol area in mid-Bay of Bengal, Islamabad is 2,500 km, while Beijing and Shanghai are over 4,000 km.
    • Therefore, to target cities and nuclear forces deep inside China or Pakistan, from a “safe haven”, India needs a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) of 6,000-8,000-km range.
    • The missile, reportedly, carried by the Arihant is the K-15, whose range falls below 1,000 km.

    Lack of coordination:

    • India has, so far, followed an unorthodox system, in which the National Command Authority (NCA) manages the nuclear deterrent through a “troika” consisting of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), the Department of Atomic Energy and DRDO.
    • While scientists are the custodians of nuclear warheads and help mate them with the SFC’s missiles and IAF fighter-bombers, the MoD and RakshaMantri remain out of the loop.
    • Since Arihant and her sisters will carry “cannisterised” missiles, with pre-mated warheads, scientists have been eliminated from the chain, with custody and control of weapons devolving on the submarine’s captain.
    • Although “fail-safe” electronic permissive action links (PAL) have been installed to ensure instant compliance with an authorised “launch” command from the NCA, while preventing accidental launch, structural and doctrinal changes are also urgently required.

    Effective command and control structure:

    • The Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) is, notionally, a key functionary in the nuclear command chain, responsible to the PM for the functioning of the SFC.
    • With the operationalisation of Arihant, his role assumes greater criticality.
    • Under existing rules, the appointment of chairman is tenable by the senior-most service chief who may (depending on his retirement date) serve for durations, varying from 30 days to 18 months.
    • He discharges this duty on a part-time basis, in addition to running his own service.
    • No other nuclear weapon state has such a farcical arrangement, and this impinges on the credibility of our deterrent.
    • Given the gravity and magnitude of his responsibilities, in the context of the nuclear triad, the Chairman COSC, in his current avatar, needs to be urgently replaced either by a Chief of Defence Staff or a Permanent Chairman COSC, with an independent charter and a fixed tenure.

    Need of more submarines:

    • The nuclear-reactors of our SSBNs will need re-fuelling (with fresh Uranium rods) every few years.
    • The process being a rather lengthy one, India would require an inventory of at least 3-4 SSBNs to maintain one on deterrent patrol off each seaboard.
    • A small force of nuclear attack submarines (SSN) would be required for the protection of SSBNs and other roles.
    • Thus, in a 50-60 year perspective, India should be looking at a nuclear submarine force of 8-12 SSBNs and SSNs.
    • INS Arihant’s role in Make in India:
    • Apart from its strategic significance, the Arihant is a live manifestation of PM Modi’s “make in India” vision.
    • A number of major private-sector companies contributed to the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme by mastering esoteric technologies to design and fabricate systems for the vessel.
    • This Navy-managed DRDO project has also spawned a huge country-wide indigenisation process by which small and medium industries, have contributed components manufactured to high precision and reliability specifications.

    Way forward:

    • India’s nuclear triad and its accessories are going to cost the nation trillions of rupees in the decades ahead.
    • It would be delusionary to imagine that a large military, and nuclear weapons, just by themselves, can assure India’s security and bequeath “great power” status on it.
    • A grand-strategic vision that integrates military power with a national security doctrine will certainly achieve both.

    Indian Navy’s Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV)

    Why in News?

    • The Indian Navy has inducted a Submarine Rescue System with a Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) along with associated equipment.

    Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV):

    • The Indian DSRV has the capability to rescue personnel from a distressed submarine (DISSUB) up to a depth of 650 m and it is the latest in terms of technology and capabilities.
    • It has been designed and supplied to meet unique requirements of our submarines by M/s James Fishes Defence, UK.
    • This System has a Side Scan Sonar for locating the position of the submarine in distress at sea.
    • It will be providing immediate relief by way of posting Emergency Life Support Containers with the help of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) for the rescue.
    • To ensure early mobilization, the System permits rapid transportation of the Rescue System from the base to the exact location of the distressed submarine by transportation using air/land/sea vessels.

    Indian Navy inducts its first Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle

    Why in News?

    • Indian Navy has inducted its first Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) which is deployed to rescue downed or disaster-struck submarines at high sea.
    • The DSRV that was inducted by India can be mobilized from the naval base in Mumbai to nearest mounting port by air, land and sea.
    • With the move, India joined a select list of international navies with the ability to search, locate and provide assistance to downed or disaster-struck submarines at high sea.

    Significance of DSRV:

    • The vessels have played a significant role in saving lives as well as submarines during emergencies.
    • Most of these are capable of rescuing 24 people at depths of up to 600m in one go.
    • Besides for rescue operation, the vessels are also deployed for various other missions including to lay cables on the sea bed.

    Key Highlights:

    • The DSRV can reportedly be deployed at short notice for providing assistance to submarines in distress.
    • The rescue vessel, completes with an associated kit in fly away configuration, can be crucial in quickly locating submarines through the vast expanse of sea and can be mobilised by air and water for rapid rescue.
    • Some DSRV vessels are air transportable in very large military cargo.
    • With this, India joined select list of international navies (United States, China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore UK, Sweden and Australia) with ability to search, locate and provide assistance to downed or disaster-struck or distressed submarines at high sea.
    • The second DSRV is expected to be inducted at Visakhapatnam in 2019.

    Satish Dhawan Space Science Center

    Why in News?

    • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed an MoU with the Central University of Jammu (CUJ) in Jammu for setting up of the Satish Dhawan Center for Space Science in the University.

    Space Sciences:

    • Space Sciences is a multidisciplinary subject which involves basic sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, geology, planetary science, mathematics, atmospheric sciences, geography, space engineering and even space law.

    Highlights:

    • To create awareness about space research.
    • To motivate young minds to take up research related to space, astronomy, geology, atmospheric sciences and related fields, a two-day workshop was also inaugurated at the CUJ campus.
    • Tapping potential of Space Applications for the region of J&K in various fields like disaster management, health, education, communication, weather forecasting, land use planning, etc.
    • Particular interest to J&K and the larger Himalayan region as its economy and habitations are affected by vegetation cover, forest area, snow, landslides, avalanches, ground water, cloud cover, atmospheric conditions etc. which can be easily monitored from space through remote sensing.
    • It will have facilities for Geospatial Data analysis that will help in sustainable use of natural resources and planning land-use pattern.
    • It will have ground-based observations for Atmospheric Studies, research lab for astrophysics, Atmospheric Sensing and Glacier studies Lab for better use of large quantity of water stored in the form of seasonal snow, ice and glaciers in the rivers of North India.

    IAF successfully conducts trials of Astra BVR-AAM

    Why in News?

    • Indian Air Force (IAF) has successfully undertaken a series of flight trials of Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVR-AAM) from September 26 to October 3, 2018.

    Astra BVR-AAM Missle Test:

    • The tests were conducted at Integrated Test Range (ITR), Balasore, Odisha as part of the final development trials of the missile.
    • The missile was tested in a combination of complex tests for engagement of pilotless target in different modes of manoeuvring, off-boresight, medium and long ranges.
    • These tests make the missile ready for induction in service in 2019.

    Astra Missile:

    • Astra is an air to air beyond visual range air-to-air indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
    • More than 50 private and public sector industries are involved in development and production of different sub-systems of the missile.
    • It is one of the smallest weapon systems developed by DRDO, having a length of 3.8-metre and weighing 154kg.
    • It is a single stage solid fuelled missile and has a payload capacity of 15 kg conventional explosives.
    • It can be launched from different altitudes and is capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes at both short-range targets (up to 20 km) in tail-chase mode and longrange targets (up to 80 km) in head-on mode.
    • It is a radar homing supersonic missile having a maximum speed of Mach 4 (four times speed of sound).
    • It possesses high Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP), making it highly reliable. It is an allweather missile with active radar terminal guidance, excellent electronic counter-counter measure (ECCM) features, smokeless propulsion and process improved effectiveness in a
      multi-target scenario.
    • It has an advance on-board electronic counter-measures that jam the radar signals from enemy radar, making tracking of the missile difficult.
    • It is fitted with terminal active radar-seeker and an updated mid-course internal guidance system that helps missile to locate and track targets.
    • The missile can be integrated with all fighter aircraft of IAF including Sukhoi-30 MKI, Mirage-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

    National orientation workshop on national e-VIDHAN application (NEVA)

    Why in News?

    • Inaugural Session of the two-day National Orientation workshop on National e-Vidhan Application (NeVA) and new website and app of NeVA was organized by Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
    •  The focus of the workshop would be to encourage all State Legislatures to move towards e-Vidhan platform.
    • This will help bringing in transparency, accountability and responsiveness in their conduct of business, through the use of technology.

    National e-Vidhan Application:

    • NEVA is a member-centric, decentralized digital application that makes information available on digital platform about day to day functioning of Legislative Houses covering various businesses of the Houses.
    • The application would host a secure page for each Member of the House for submitting Questions & other Notices.
    •  The mNeVA (NeVA-mobile app) is a device neutral and user friendly app that has made information on conduct of business in Legislatures accessible anytime, anywhere to everyone.
    • It is a work-flow based app deployed in Cloud (Meghraj) which helps the Chair of the House to conduct the proceedings of the House smoothly and the members to carry out their duties in the House efficiently.
    •  NeVA has made live for Rajya Sabha in respect of Monsoon Session 2018 and information in respect of Lok Sabha is being updated.

    e-Vidhan Project:

    •  e-Vidhan is a Mission Mode Project to digitize and make the functioning of State Legislatures paperless.
    •  This is part of Digital India programme and Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, being the Nodal Ministry for this project.
    • It desires to roll out e-Vidhan as NeVA covering all 40 Houses including two Houses of Parliament and thereby putting all them on a single platform and proving the theory of ‘One Nation One Application’.
    •  It is to be used by the Legislatures as well as all the Government Departments.
    • This journey began with a pilot project executed in Himachal Pradesh with the central assistance of Rs.8.12 crores which made the Shimla Legislative Assembly the first Assembly in India to go paperless in 2014.
    •  This project resulted into overall savings of about Rs.5.08 crores annually on account of expenditure on papers, printing, manpower costs and conservation of forests/ trees as ancillary benefits.

    Successful flight test of PRAHAR

    Why in News?

    • DRDO successfully flight tested the indigenously developed surface-to-surface tactical missile ‘Prahar’, from Launch Complex-III, ITR, Balasore.

    Prahar Missile:

    • Prahar (“Strike”) is an Indian solid-fuel road-mobile tactical ballistic missile developed by DRDO.
    •  Prahar is expected to replace the Prithvi-I short-range ballistic missile in Indian service.
    • It is capable of filling the gap between the multi-barrel rocket system ‘Pinaka’ and medium-range ballistic missile ‘Prithvi’.
    • The missile is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation, guidance and electromechanical actuation systems with advanced on board computer.
    •  It is a quick-reaction, all-weather, all-terrain, highly accurate battlefield support tactical weapon system.
    • The missile fills the short-range tactical battlefield missile role as required by the Indian Army to take out strategic and tactical targets.
    •  ‘Prahar’ is a contemporary weapon system capable of carrying multiple types of warheads and neutralizing a wide variety of targets.
    •  It can be launched from a road-mobile launch platform, which can carry six missiles at a time.
    • It can be fired in all directions from the launcher. It could be used for striking both tactical and strategic targets.
    •  The indigenously developed Prahaar missile is expected to further strengthen the defence capabilities of the Indian Army.

    ASTRA BVR AIR-TO-AIR MISSILE – FLIGHT TEST

    Why in News?

    • Astra, the indigenously developed Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM), was successfully test fired by the IAF from Su-30 aircraft.
    •   The missile successfully engaged a maneuvering target with high precision meeting the mission objectives.

    Astra Missile:

    • ·Astra is an all-weather beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, India.
    •    It is the first air-to-air missile developed by India.
    •   It features mid-course inertial guidance with terminal active radar homing.
    • Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets at a distance of 20 km (12 mi) and long-range targets up to a distance of 80 km (50 mi).
    •  Astra has been integrated with Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI and will be integrated with Dassault Mirage 2000 and Mikoyan MiG-29 in the future.

    Prithvi defence vehicle (PDV) mission

    Why in News?

    •  India successfully conducted an interceptor missile test off the Odisha coast on Sunday night, achieving a major milestone in developing a two-layer Ballistic Missile Defence

    Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) Mission:

    • This PDV mission is for engaging the targets in the exo-atmosphere region at an altitude above 50 km of the earth’s atmosphere.
    • Both the PDV interceptor and the target missile were successfully engaged.
    •  In an automated operation, radar-based detection and tracking system detected and tracked the enemy’s ballistic missile.
    • The computer network with the help of data received from radars predicted the trajectory of the incoming ballistic missile.
    • The interceptor guided by high-accuracy Inertial Navigation System (INS) supported by a Redundant Micro Navigation System moved towards the estimated point of the interception.
    • Once the missile crossed the atmosphere, the Heat Shield ejected and the IR Seeker dome opened to look at the target location as designated by the mission computer.
    • With the help of Inertial Guidance and IR Seeker the missile moved for interception.
    • All events were monitored in real-time by the Telemetry/Range Stations, at various other locations.

    ISRO to set up an integrated control room for emergency response

    Why in News?

    • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on September 20, 2018 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for setting up the state-of-the-art Integrated Control Room for Emergency Response (ICR-ER) in Ministry of Home Affairs.

    Integrated Control Room for Emergency Response (ICR-ER):

    • ISRO will render its technical expertise for setting up of proposed ICR-ER whereas the project will be executed under overall supervision of MHA.
    • The ICR-ER will cater to the requirement of Disaster Management as well as Internal Security.
    •  ICR-ER will address the requirement of receipt of information on near real-time basis, strategic level monitoring, situation awareness, command and control.
    •  This will improve preparedness and response in the diverse internal security situation and disaster related emergencies.
    • Resultantly, it will increase the operational effectiveness and will be helpful in rendering timely response and assistance during various emergency situations.

    DAC approves procurement of equipment

    Why in News?

    • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Raksha Mantri accorded approval for the procurement of equipment for the Defence Forces valued at over Rs 9,100 crores.

    Upgraded Akash Missile Systems:

    •  Pursuing the goal of indigenization and self-reliance, the DAC approved procurement of two Regiments of Akash Missile Systems under ‘Buy (Indian)’
    • The Missile to be procured is an upgraded version of the previously inducted Akash missiles.
    • The DRDO developed Akash as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme initiated in 1984.
    •  It is made by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).
    • Akash has a range of 25 km and can engage multiple targets at a time in all-weather conditions.
    • It has a large operational envelope, from 30 metre to a maximum of 20 km.

    Individual Under Water Breathing Apparatus (IUWBA):

    •  The DAC also accorded approval for progressing Design and Development of Individual Under Water Breathing Apparatus (IUWBA) for T 90 Tanks.
    • Developed by DRDO Lab DEBEL, the IUWBA is used by the crew of Tanks as a safety gear and is required by the Tank crew for emergency escape when negotiating water obstacles while deep fording.
    • The DAC also accorded approval for Design and Development of Test Equipment for Guided Weapons System of T 90 Tank.
    •  The equipment is being developed by DRDO and will give an indigenous solution to the Test Equipment used for checking the Guided Weapon System of Tank T 90.

    Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):

    • To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister.
    • The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
    •  The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.

    C-DAC information media server (CIMS)

    Why in News?

    • MEITY launches C-DAC Information Media Server (CIMS) for enhancing Good Governance.

    C-DAC Information Media Server (CIMS):

    • It is a dedicated computer appliance having specialized application software to provide audio and video on demand.
    • This low-cost affordable system is built with single board computer having powerful and energy efficient multi-core processor.
    •   It does not require any special purpose internet service provider or data connectivity.
    • The common feature includes displaying text, images for viewing, video streaming, e-brochure; for viewing or downloading for offline reference.

    Utility of CIMS:

    • CIMS is very easy to setup and configure for deployments at locations such as-
    •  Parliament (Today in Rajya Sabha, Members details),
    • Education Institutes (eBooks, Timetable, news of the day, notices),
    •  Railways (Train running information, station layout maps),
    • Hospitals (Doctors on duty, patient records).
    • A user can connect via any smart device with WiFi capability and freely access the available information.
    • Web pages are retrieved and deliver it across the Internet.
    • In the simplest case, the video file is embedded in a web page and stored on the same host as the other components of the page.

    Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC):

    • The C-DAC is an Autonomous Scientific Society of Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India.
    • It is headquartered in Pune.
    •  The setting up of C-DAC in 1988 was to built Supercomputers in context of denial of import of Supercomputers by USA.
    • Since then C-DAC has been undertaking building of multiple generations of Supercomputer starting from PARAM with 1 GF in 1988.

    Medical cyclotron facility cyclone-30

    Why in News?

    • Cyclone-30 equipment used for generating radio-isotopes became operational at a VECC, Kolkata, a Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) unit.
    • Cyclone-30 commissioning re-emphasises the capability of Indian scientists and engineers to deliver at the highest level of science and technology.

    Cyclone-30:

    • Cyclotrons are used to produce radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic use for cancer care.
    • Radiations from these isotopes are used to destroy cancer cells.
    • Cyclone-30, the biggest cyclotron in India for medical application became operational this month when 30 MeV beam reached the Faraday Cup for the first time last week.

    Isotopes to be produced:

    • Subsequently, beam from this facility was used to produce 18F (Fluorine-18 isotope) for the preparation of 18 Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), a radio-pharmaceutical.
    • Presently it produces liquid target (for FDG production) and solid targets (production of Germanium-68, Palladium-103 and other isotopes).
    • Later on installation of Iodine isotope [1-123] production target, material study target and Accelerator Driven System target will also be taken up.

    Importance of the project:

    • This facility will provide for affordable radio isotopes and related radiopharmaceuticals for the entire country especially, for Eastern India.
    •  It will also have export potential for Germanium-68/Gallium-68 generator for in-situ production of Gallium-68 and Palladium-103 isotopes, used for breast cancer diagnosis and prostate cancer treatment, respectively.

    Face recognition – ‘Boarding Pass’ in Airports

    Why in News?

    • Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru is set to become the first airport in Asia next year to use face recognition as the boarding procedure for passengers to board flights and move across different sections of the airport.

    Implementation details:

    • Vision Box, a Portuguese software firm, signed an agreement to this effect to introduce face recognition technology at the airport from 2019.
    •  Voice Box, according to its website, showcased the face recognition-based passage system for the first time for Lufthansa which used a biometric boarding procedure instead of boarding passes.
    • The first implementation will be completed in the first quarter of 2019, with Jet Airways, Air Asia and SpiceJet passengers as first users.

    Importance of the Project:

    • The goal of the programme is to simplify the journey by making it paperless from registration to boarding.
    • Biometric technology will identify passengers by their face as they move across the airport, avoiding stops and the repeated presentation of boarding passes, passports or other physical identity documents.
    • This is the first end-to-end face recognition-based walk through experience in Asia and the largest in the world.
    •  It is also one of the most significant steps towards the Digital India campaign endorsed by the Government.

    Draft Rules on Sale of Drugs by E-Pharmacy

    Why in News?

    • Ministry of health and family welfare has issued a draft notification recently on the sale of drugs by E-Pharmacies. The notification is about the amendment of Drugs and Cosmetics Rules amendment to enable registration of the e pharmacies and monitoring of their functioning.

    Significance of these rules:

    •  With this, Rs 3000 crore online pharma business will be regularised from the day of final notification.
    • These rules have been proposed to ensure accessibility and availability of drugs to the people across India.
    • After the rules are finalised, people will be able to get genuine drugs through these online pharmacies.

    Registration Mandatory for e-Pharmacy:

    • The draft states that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through e-pharmacy portal unless registered.
    • Any person who intends to conduct business of e-pharmacy shall apply for the grant of registration to the Central Licensing Authority in Form 18AA through the online portal of the Central Government.
    • The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), the country’s apex drug regulator and central licensing authority is the nodal agency.
    • The application will have to be accompanied by a sum of Rs 50,000 while asserting that an e-pharmacy registration holder will have to comply with provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000).
    • The supply of any drug shall be made against cash or credit memo generated through the e-pharmacy portal and such memos shall be maintained by the e-pharmacy registration holder as record.
    • The registration will remain valid for a period three years from the date of its issuance and a renewal of registration will have to be done.

    Patients Privacy:

    • The details of patient shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person other than the central government or the state government concerned, as the case may be.

    Certain Restrictions:

    • Sale of tranquillisers, psychotropic drugs, narcotics and habit-forming drugs have been prohibited through these portals.
    • The premises from where the e-pharmacy business is conducted shall be inspected, every two years, by a team of officers authorised by the Central Licensing Authority.
    • It would be binding on the e-pharmacies to deliver the drugs in the specific time that will be told to the patient during the time of purchase.
    • The e-portals are mandatorily required to have 24/7 call centres.
    • No e-pharmacy shall advertise any drug on radio or television or internet or print or any other media for any purpose if it contravenes any provision of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

    NITI Aayog To Join Hands with CII To Develop A Roadmap For Global Innovation Index

    Why in News?

    • NITI Aayog has proposed to join hands with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to develop a Roadmap for Top 10 Rank in Global Innovation Index (GII).
    • Global Innovation Index 2018 has placed India at the 57th position among 130 countries.

    Boosting Innovation in India:

    • The India Innovation Index was launched by NITI Aayog, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) along with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in collaboration with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).
    • India’s rank on the Global Innovation Index (GII) has improved from 60 in 2017 to 57 in 2018
    • India has been consistently climbing the GII ranking for the past two years.

    Importance of GII:

    • It provided an opportunity to look at examples from similar economies from across the world and understand how they effected change in their countries.
    • We can also draw a distinction between Innovation and Invention and emphasized the role of pure science in building scientific temper in the country.
    • Ratan Watal, Principal Adviser of NITI Aayog underlined the need to- Transform India’s Innovation Ecosystem by formulating a New Innovation Policy to attract R&D investment into cutting edge technologies and build appropriate infrastructure and institutions.
    • Tap Global hotspots of Innovation in latest technologies like AI, Blockchain and Robotics etc.
    • Connect Tinkering labs in schools with start-ups, business and high end educational institutions.
    • Target efficient, productive and outcome driven R&D in the Government Sector.

    GII 2018:

    • The GII 2018 marks the 11th edition of the GII, and the beginning of its second decade providing data and insights gathered from tracking innovation across the globe.
    • This year’s edition, is dedicated to the theme of Energizing the World with Innovation. It analyses the energy innovation landscape of the next decade and identifies possible breakthroughs in fields such as energy production, storage, distribution, and consumption.
    • It also looks at how breakthrough innovation occurs at the grassroots level and describes how small-scale renewable systems are on the rise.

    Performance of India:

    • This year, India has moved up 3 places as compared to 60th rank in GII 2017 and emerged as top-ranked economy in Central and South Asia.
    • India is a top performer in the lower middle-income group, where it is ranked at fifth position. It is the most innovative country in its region of central and southern Asia.
    • In the indicators that capture the quality of innovation inputs and outputs, India is ranked second after China in the lower and upper middle-income group combined.
    • However, India has fared badly on indicators such as ease of starting business, political stability and safety, overall education and environmental performance.

    Global Innovation Index:

    • The Global Innovation Index (GII) is an annual ranking of countries by their capacity for, and success in, innovation.
    • GII is jointly released by Cornell University, INSEAD and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO). GII ranks 126 economies based on 80 indicators.
    • It is based on both subjective and objective data derived from several sources, including the International Telecommunication Union, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
    • The index was started in 2007 by INSEAD and World Business, a British magazine.
    • The GII is commonly used by corporate and government officials to compare countries by their level of innovation.

    Ballistic Missile Interceptor AAD Successfully Flight Tested

    Why in News?

    • Defence Research and Development Organisation conducted a successful test of the supersonic endo-atmospheric interceptor missile from Abdul Kalam Island (earlier known as Wheeler Island) Odisha.

    Missile test:

    • The interceptor missile was launched against multiple simulated targets of 1,500 km class ballistic missile.
    • The mission objectives of the test were successfully met.
    • One of its target was selected on real time and the weapon system radars tracked the target and locked the missile on to it and intercepted it in mid-air on sea surface with high degree of accuracy.
    • The complete test including engagement and interception was tracked by a number of electro-optical tracking systems, radars and telemetry stations.
    • This test validated some improved features incorporated in the interceptor missile while its major health parameters including its ‘kill’ effect already have been validated in earlier tests.

    Interceptor Missile:

    • The endo-atmospheric interceptor missile is yet to get a formal name.
    • It has been developed as part of indigenous efforts to have multi-layer ballistic missile defence system, capable of destroying incoming hostile ballistic missiles.
    • It is 7.5-metre long and is capable of intercepting incoming targets at an altitude of 15 to 25 km.
    • It is a single stage solid rocket propelled guided missile.
    • It is equipped with a navigation system, a hi-tech computer and an electro-mechanical activator.
    • It has its own mobile launcher, secure data link for interception, independent tracking and homing capabilities and sophisticated radars.

    Background:

    • The Research Centre Imarat (RCI) of the DRDO has played pivotal role in the development of all strategic missiles, spearheaded under the India’s double-layered ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme.
    • The BMD consists of two interceptor missiles, Advanced Area Defence (AAD) missile for endo-atmosphere or lower altitudes and Prithvi Defence Vehicle for exo-atmospheric ranges.
    • The DRDO expects deployment of BMD shield by 2022.
    • India will be fourth country in the world after the US, Russia and Israel to successfully built effective anti-ballistic missile system.

    India’s Moon Mission CHANDRAYAAN-2

    Why in News?

    • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has postponed Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to Moon to January 2019.
    • This will be the second time the mission has been postponed.

    Background- timeline of the mission:

    • Chandrayaan 2’s journey has been rather slow so far. Although the mission was envisioned way back in November 2007, as a joint mission between India and Russia, it had faced a series of setbacks.
    • As per the tie-up, Russia was supposed to provide the lander for the mission, while India would develop the rover and orbiter. ISRO had its prototype ready for a 2013 launch but Russia delayed delivering the lander. Later, Russia said it would not be able to provide a lander for ISRO.
    • India then called off the deal and decided to make the Chandrayaan mission completely indigenous. The development has taken time, and given that it is the first time India is developing a lander, the programme has faced many glitches like the present one.
    • The ambitious mission was earlier planned to be launched in April 2018 and was later fixed for October 2019.
    • With this delay, India may lose fourth position in the world for soft-landing on the Moon to Israel as it too is planning to launch a Moon mission in December 2018.

    Chandrayaan 2 Mission:

    • Chandrayaan-2 is India’s most challenging and India’s second mission to Moon.
    • It is an advanced version of the previous Chandrayaan-1 mission (launched in 2008) which only involved orbiting around Moon, Chandrayaan-2 is a much complicated mission as it involves an orbiter, lander and rover.
    • The mission components have been completely developed indigenously by ISRO and consists of Orbiter, Lander and Rover configuration.
    • In this mission, ISRO will for the first time attempt to land a rover on Moon’s south-pole.
    • The mission involves soft-landing on the lunar surface and the rover will walk and analyze the content on the Moon’s surface.
    • Chandrayaan 2 will be launched on board of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV-F10).
    • It will be ISRO’s first inter-planetary mission to land a rover on any celestial body.
    • The spacecraft (orbiter) weighs around 3,290 kg and it will orbit around Moon and perform objectives of remote sensing the Moon.
    • Once GSLV-F10 put the spacecraft in 170 km x 20,000 km elliptical orbit, the orbiter will be manoeuvred towards the 100-km lunar orbit by firing thrusters and then the lander housing the rover will separate from the orbiter.
    • The six wheeled rover will move on an unexplored lunar surface and collect soil or rock samples for on-site chemical analysis to gather scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.
    • The data will be relayed to Earth through the orbiter.
    • The rover will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands.
    • The soft-landing on the surface of the Moon will be the most complex part of Chandrayaan 2 mission.
    • Only US, Russia and China have been able to soft-land a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

    Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-Smart) Scheme

    Why in News?

    • ·The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, has given its approval for the umbrella scheme “Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART)”, aimed at stepping up ocean research and setting up early warning weather systems.
    • The scheme encompasses a total of 16 sub-projects addressing ocean development activities such as Services, Technology, Resources, Observations and Science.

    O-SMART Scheme:

    • The services rendered under the O-SMART will provide economic benefits to a number of user communities in the coastal and ocean sectors, namely, fisheries, offshore industry, coastal states, Defence, Shipping, Ports etc.
    • Currently, five lakhs fishermen community are receiving this information daily through mobile which includes allocation of fish potential and local weather conditions in the coastal waters.
    • This will help in reducing the search time for fishermen resulting savings in the fuel cost.
    • It seeks to address issues relating to SDG-14, which aims to conserve use of oceans, marine resources for sustainable development.
    • It also provides necessary scientific and technological background required for implementation of various aspects of Blue Economy.
    • The State of Art Early Warning Systems established Scheme will help in effectively dealing with ocean disasters like Tsunami, storm surges.
    • The technologies being developed will help in harnessing the vast ocean resources of both living and non-living resources from the seas around India.
    • A fleet of research vessels viz., Technology Demonstration vessel SagarNidhi, Oceanographic Research Vessel SagarKanya, Fisheries and Oceanographic Research Vessel SagarSampada and Coastal Research Vessel SagarPurvihave been acquired to provide required research support.

    Objectives of the Scheme:

    • The important deliverables during the next 2 years envisage include-
    • Strengthening of Ocean Observations and Modelling.
    • Strengthening of Ocean Services for Fishermen
    • Setting up Marine Coastal Observatories for monitoring marine pollution in 2018
    • Setting up Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Plant (OTEC) in Kavaratti
    • Acquisition of 2 Coastal Research Vessels for Coastal research
    • Continuation of Ocean Survey and Exploration of Minerals and Living Resources
    • Technology Development for Deep Ocean Mining- Deep Mining System and Manned Submersibles and
    • Setting up Six Desalination Plants in Lakshadweep

    Other Ocean related activities:

    • India has been accorded pioneer status on deep-sea mining of Poly-Metallic Nodules [PMN] in an area of in the Central Indian Ocean [CIO] allotted by International Sea Bed Authority [ISBA]
    • India’s ocean related activities are now extended from the Arctic to the Antarctic region covering large ocean spaces which have been monitored through a wide spectrum of in situ and satellite-based observations.
    • India has also established a state-of-the art early warning systems for ocean disasters, viz, tsunami, cyclones, storm surges etc.
    • India had also signed the Antarctic Treaty System and joined Commission of Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) for harnessing the resources.
    • Besides, the ministry has been monitoring the health of coastal waters of India including shoreline changes and marine ecosystem.
    • The others like Remotely Operated Submersible and soil tester, both capable of operation upto 6000 m. water depth, shallow bed mining systems are some of the cutting edge technologies developed.

    Successful Flight tests of smart anti airfield weapon (SAAW) and ATGM ‘HELINA’

    Why in News?

    • Indigenously designed and developed guided bombs Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) were successfully flight tested from IAF aircraft at Chandan range while indigenously developed Helicopter launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile “HELINA” has been successfully flight tested from Army Helicopter at 1400 hours in the range of Pokhran.

    Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW):

    • Indigenously designed and developed guided bombs Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) were successfully flight tested from IAF aircraft at Chandan range.
    • The weapon system was integrated with live warhead and has destroyed the targets with high precision. The telemetry and tracking systems captured all the mission events.
    • This weapon is capable of destroying variety of ground targets using precision navigation.
    • The weapon has undergone eight developmental trials till date and performance of system for different ranges under multiple launch conditions has been demonstrated.

    HELINA:

    • Indigenously developed Helicopter launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile ‘HELINA’ has been successfully flight tested from Army Helicopter at 1400hrs in the ranges of Pokhran.
    • The weapon system has been tested for its full range.
    • The ‘HELINA’ weapon system released smoothly from the launch platform has tracked the target all through its course and hit the target with high precision.
    • All the parameters have been monitored by the telemetry stations, tracking systems and the Helicopters.
    • The Missile is guided by an Infrared Imaging Seeker (IIR) operating in the Lock on Before Launch mode.
    • It is one of the most advanced Anti-Tank Weapons in the world.

    Significance:

    • Cheap and specialized: SAAW is India’s attempt at building an indigenous weapon for the specialized operation. These precision-guided glide bombs are cheaper than conventional missiles since they do not have the complex propulsion systems that are the norm for cruise missiles.
    • Enhancing the capacity of Indian forces: Depending on the operational requirements, these missiles could also be used against other ground targets to give Indian forces enhanced area-denial capabilities such as taking out bridges or other ground infrastructure

    ATAL Rankings for Higher Education Institutions

    Why in News?

    • The Centre announced another annual ranking of higher educational institutions, based on how they fare in terms of innovation.
    • The new ranking – named Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) – will be formally launched on October 15, the birth anniversary of former President APJ Abdul Kalam.

    Significance:

    • ARIIA ranking will help inspire Indian institutions to reorient their mindset and build ecosystems to encourage high-quality research, innovation and entrepreneurship.
    • More than quantity, ARIIA will focus on the quality of innovations and will try to measure the real impact created by these innovations nationally and internationally.
    • The ranking system will also set the tone and direction for institutions for future development for making them globally competitive and in the forefront of innovation.

    Objective:

    • ARIIA has been launched to systematically rank education institutions and universities primarily for innovation output based on all major indicators and parameters that are used globally.

    ARIIA:

    • The ARIIA will primarily focus on 5 main parameters:
    • Budget expenses and revenue generated through innovation and entrepreneurship development
    • Facilitating access to advance centres/ facilities and entrepreneurial support system
    • Idea to Entrepreneurship
    • Development of Innovation Ecosystems supported through teaching and learning
    • Best innovative solutions developed in-house for improving governance of your institution

    Key Highlights:

    • All recognised Indian education institutions are eligible to participate in the ARIIA ranking.
    • The ARIIA parameters have been primarily organised in 5 broad heads, which will be further elaborated into suitable sub-heads.
    • Each broad head will have an overall weight assigned to it and accordingly, the various subheads will be assigned appropriate weight distribution.
    • To ensure transparency in the ranking system, an attempt will be made to identify the relevant data needed to suitably measure the performance score under each sub-head.
    • The main emphasis will be on identifying the data that the institution can easily provide or which is easy to obtain from third-party sources and easily verifiable, wherever verification is necessary.
    • The overall score will be calculated based on the weights allotted to each head. The maximum value of the score will be 100.
    • The institutions will be issued ranks on the basis of their overall score.

    Innovation Cell:

    • The main objective of the cell would be to encourage, inspire and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas and processes resulting in innovative activities in their formative years, which will be fostered through a network of innovation clubs in higher educational institutions.

    Key Details:

    • The cell has been established at the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in New Delhi to systematically foster the culture of innovation in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country.
    • It would be headed by a scientist and will comprise a senior ministry official and a host of young professionals.
    • The cell’s establishment comes after India’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index ranking improved significantly from 66 in 2016 to 57 in 2018, among a total of 127 countries.

    CHANDRAYAAN-1 Data Confirms Presence of Ice on Moon

    Why in News?

    • The NASA scientists, using data from the Chandrayaan-I spacecraft, on August 21, 2018 confirmed that there are frozen water deposits in the darkest and coolest parts of Moon’s Polar Regions. The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
    • The Chandrayaan-I spacecraft was launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

    NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) is testimony:

    • M3, aboard the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, launched in 2008 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was uniquely equipped to confirm the presence of solid ice on the Moon.
    • Scientists used data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument to identify three specific signatures that definitively prove there is water ice at the surface of the Moon.
    • It collected data that not only picked up the reflective properties we would expect from ice, but was also able to directly measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light, so it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice.

    National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)- Study:

    • Scientists have directly observed definitive evidence of water ice in the darkest and coldest parts of Polar Regions of the Moon.
    • At the southern pole, most of the ice is concentrated at lunar craters, while the northern pole’s ice is more widely and lightly spread.
    • The ice deposits are patchily distributed and could possibly be ancient.
    • Most of the newfound water ice lies in the shadows of craters near the poles, where the warmest temperatures never reach above minus 156 degrees Celsius (-250 degrees Fahrenheit).
    • Due to the very small tilt of the Moon’s rotation axis, sunlight never reaches these regions.

    Importance of the discovery:

    • Previous observations indirectly found possible signs of surface ice at the lunar South Pole, but these could have been explained by other phenomena, such as unusually reflective lunar soil.
    • Learning more about this ice, how it got there, and how it interacts with the larger lunar environment will be a key mission focus for NASA and commercial partners, as humans endeavour to return to and explore the Moon.
    • This brings scope for presence of surface water accessible as a resource for future expeditions to explore and even stay on the Moon.