Isro Looking to Launch INSAT-3DR Weather Satellite on August 28

Isro Looking to Launch INSAT-3DR Weather Satellite on August 28

Preparations for the launch of weather satellite INSAT-3DR with the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV-MkII) next month are progressing at Sriharikota, officials said on Friday.

“The weather satellite INSAT-3DR will be put into orbit by a GSLV rocket August end. Preparations for the launch are going on,” P. Kunhi Krishnan, Director of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), told IANS.

India’s rocket port is located in SDSC in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

It is learnt that the launch is tentatively slated for August 28.

A senior official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) told IANS that the satellite is yet to reach the rocket port.

Normally the satellites reach the rocket port around a couple of weeks before the launch date.

“With improved shock absorbing aspects during the transit, nowadays Indian satellites are first sent to filling of fuel and then to the clean room. We have avoided one testing stage of the satellite and thereby cutting down the launch time,” a senior Isro official told IANS.

“However foreign satellites that Isro launches with its PSLV rockets will be tested in full without skipping even the first clean room,” he added.

In September 2016, Isro will launch ScatSat – a weather monitoring and forecasting satellite – with polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV).

The Indian satellite will be a co-passenger to an Algerian satellite.

Both the satellites will be put into different orbits. So the fourth stage/engine of the rocket will be switched off after ejecting ScatSat first. Then after a gap of around 30 minutes, the engine will be switched on and put the Algerian satellite into its intended orbit.

Alphabet, GlaxoSmithKline Partner on Life Science Unit

Alphabet, GlaxoSmithKline Partner on Life Science Unit

GlaxoSmithKline and Google parent Alphabet’s life sciences unit are creating a new company focused on fighting diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body, jump-starting a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics.

Verily Life Sciences – known as Google’s life sciences unit until last year – and Britain’s biggest drugmaker will together contribute GBP 540 million ($715 million or roughly Rs. 4,772 crores) over seven years to Galvani Bioelectronics, they said on Monday.

The new company, owned 55 percent by GSK and 45 percent by Verily, will be based at GSK’s Stevenage research center north of London, with a second research hub in South San Francisco.

It is GSK’s second notable investment in Britain since the country voted to leave the European Union in June. Last week it announced plans to spend GBP 275 million on drug manufacturing.

Galvani will develop miniaturized, implantable devices that can modify electrical nerve signals. The aim is to modulate irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses.

GSK believes chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma could be treated using these tiny devices, which consist of a electronic collar that wraps around nerves.

Kris Famm, GSK’s head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani, said the first bioelectronic medicines using these implants to stimulate nerves could be submitted for regulatory approval by around 2023.

“We have had really promising results in animal tests, where we’ve shown we can address some chronic diseases with this mechanism, and now we are bringing that work into the clinic,” he told Reuters.

“Our goal is to have our first medicines ready for regulatory approval in seven years.”

GSK first unveiled its ambitions in bioelectronics in a paper in the journal Nature three years ago and believes it is ahead of Big Pharma rivals in developing medicines that use electrical impulses rather than traditional chemicals or proteins.

The tie-up shows the growing convergence of healthcare and technology. Verily already has several other medical projects in the works, including the development of a smart contact lens in partnership with the Swiss drugmaker Novartis that has an embedded glucose sensor to help monitor diabetes.

Grain of rice
Famm said the first generation of implants coming to market would be around the size of a medical pill but the aim eventually was to make them as small or smaller than a grain of rice, using the latest advances in nanotechnology.

Patients will be treated with keyhole surgery and the hope is that bioelectronic medicine could provide a one-off treatment, potentially lasting decades.

Major challenges including making the devices ultra low-power so that they function reliably deep inside the body.

The idea of treating serious disease with electrical impulses is not completely new.

Large-scale electrical devices have been used for years as heart pacemakers and, more recently, deep brain stimulation has been applied to treat Parkinson’s disease and severe depression, while EnteroMedics last year won US approval for a device to help obese people control their appetite.

Galvani, however, is taking electrical interventions to the micro level, using tiny implants to coax insulin from cells to treat diabetes, for example, or correct muscle imbalances in lung diseases.

Galvani will initially employ around 30 scientists, engineers and clinicians.

The company will be chaired by Moncef Slaoui, GSK’s vaccines head, who pioneered the drugmaker’s drive into the bioelectronics field. Slaoui is retiring from GSK next March but will continue to steer Galvani after that date, a spokesman said.

Galvani will be fully consolidated in GSK’s financial statements, following the model of the group’s majority-owned ViiV Healthcare business, which sells HIV medicines.


Nasa Probe Set to Rendezvous With Asteroid ‘Bennu’ in August 2018

Nasa Probe Set to Rendezvous With Asteroid 'Bennu' in August 2018

A near-Earth asteroid that is coming towards our planet after being dislodged by a gravitational pull can indeed strike us and and cause massive destruction but according to experts, it has a one in 2,700 chances of hitting.

Such an event will not take place for 150 years and the people living in the year 2135 would know whether the asteroid named Bennu posed an actual threat to hit Earth, ABC News reported on Monday.

According to Dante Lauretta, professor of planetary science at University of Arizona and the principal investigator on the Osiris-Rex mission, “don’t run out and buy asteroid insurance” yet.

The Osiris-Rex Mission, headed by Nasa and the University of Arizona, plan to launch an unmanned spacecraft on September 8 in the efforts to reach Bennu in August 2018.

Osiris-Rex will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas V 411 rocket during a 34-day launch period starting September 8.

It will orbit the Sun for a year and then use Earth’s gravitational field to assist it on its way to Bennu.

In August 2018, Osiris-Rex’s approach to Bennu will begin.

It will use an array of small rocket thrusters to match the velocity of Bennu and rendezvous with the asteroid.

The spacecraft will begin a detailed survey of Bennu two months after slowing to encounter Bennu.

“The process will last over a year, and, as part of it, Osiris-Rex will map potential sample sites,” said information available on

After the selection of the final site, the spacecraft will briefly touch the surface of Bennu to retrieve a sample.

The sampling arm will make contact with the surface of Bennu for about five seconds, during which it will release a burst of nitrogen gas.

The procedure will cause rocks and surface material to be stirred up and captured in the sampler head.

“In March 2021, the window for departure from the asteroid will open and Osiris-Rex will begin its return journey to Earth, arriving two and a half years later in September 2023,” the website said.

The sample return capsule will separate from the spacecraft and enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

For two years after the sample return, the science team will catalogue the sample and conduct the analysis needed to meet the mission science goals.

Nasa will preserve at least 75 percent of the sample at Nasa’s Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston for further research by scientists worldwide, including future generations of scientists.


SpaceX Wins Second Nasa Contract to Take Astronauts to ISS

SpaceX Wins Second Nasa Contract to Take Astronauts to ISS

The US space agency has ordered a second mission from Elon Musk’s space transport services company SpaceX to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Commercial crew flights from Florida’s Space Coast to the International Space Station will restore America’s human spaceflight launch capability and increase the time US crews can dedicate to scientific research, which is helping prepare astronauts for deep space missions, including the Journey to Mars, Nasa said in a statement on Saturday.

This is the fourth and final guaranteed order Nasa will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts.

Boeing received its two orders in May and December of 2015, and SpaceX received its first order in November 2015.

“The order of a second crew rotation mission from SpaceX, paired with the two ordered from Boeing will help ensure reliable access to the station on American spacecraft and rockets,” said Kathy Lueders, Manager of Nasa ‘s Commercial Crew Programme.

“These systems will ensure reliable US crew rotation services to the station, and will serve as a lifeboat for the space station for up to seven months,” Lueders noted.

SpaceX met the criteria for this latest award after it successfully completed interim developmental milestones and internal design reviews for its Crew Dragon spacecraft, Falcon 9 rocket and associated ground systems, Nasa said.

“We appreciate the trust Nasa has placed in SpaceX with the order of another crew mission and look forward to flying astronauts from American soil next year,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer, said.

Orders under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts are made two to three years prior to actual mission dates in order to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft.

Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before Nasa will give the final approval for flight.


Microsoft’s First Machine Learning Conference to Be Held Next Week in Bengaluru

Microsoft's First Machine Learning Conference to Be Held Next Week in Bengaluru

Software giant Microsoft will host the maiden edition of its Machine Learning and Data Sciences Conference in India this year, highlighting importance of the Indian market in terms of future deployment of these new emerging technologies.

The 2-day event, to be held in Bengaluru on August 8-9, is expected to see participation from over 600 people, including government officials, startups, developers, students and industry executives.

“It is time of transformation at Microsoft as we sharpen our focus around mobile and cloud and lay out ambitious plans that will have a big impact on future of computing as it is experienced by billions of users around the world,” Microsoft India R&D Managing Director Anil Bhansali told PTI.

He added that Machine Learning (ML) is one of the key focus areas, in which Microsoft is making significant inroads, both in terms of R&D breakthroughs as well as real customer impact.

“At the event, we will showcase some of the very latest developments in this area. It will help gain new insights into how the power of analytics and ML can transform businesses and society,” he said.

 ML, which is a type of artificial intelligence (AI), provides computers witthe ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. It detects patterns in data and adjusts program actions accordingly.

An example of ML is Facebook’s News Feed, which uses the technology to personalise each member’s feed. Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana is another such example.

Microsoft is hosting a similar event at Atlanta called Data Science Summit in September this year.

Using these new technologies, Microsoft has developed several apps, including the one that helps farmers in India predict the right sowing dates for particular crops, a predictive analytics app that effectively identifies students at the risk of dropping out of school and one that identifies individuals who are most likely to default on loans taken from the government’s microfinance schemes.

“In addition to large enterprises, government and academia, sessions at the Bengaluru event will be beneficial for startups, including current and future applicants to the Microsoft’s Accelerator programme,” Bhansali said.

He added that India is an important market in terms of future deployment against the background of the government’s initiatives like Digital India and Start Up India.


A New Reason Why We Haven’t Found Alien Life in the Universe

A New Reason Why We Haven't Found Alien Life in the Universe

Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once famously exclaimed “Where is everybody?” We have been trying to answer his paradox –we exist, so aliens should exist too — ever since. According to one new solution, we have not seen or heard from any galactic neighbors because we are still waiting for them to be born. And it will, according to the calculations, be a long time before we can throw other solar systems a baby shower.

If you grade earthlings on a cosmic curve, as recently hashed out by Harvard and Oxford University astrophysicists, we’re at the head of the class.

So says a team of astronomers in a new study, to be published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. The researchers calculated the probability that life as we know it should exist at any given point in the universe. Based on their assumptions, Earthly life is quite likely premature.

“If you ask, ‘When is life most likely to emerge?’ you might naively say, ‘Now,'” according to Avi Loeb, a scientist at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author of the new study, in a press release. “But we find that the chance of life grows much higher in the distant future.”

Should you enjoy hearing that you are exceptional, this scientific narrative might give you a warm fuzzy feeling: By the standards of the universe, humans are some of the earliest intelligent life around. You may have heard of ancient aliens on basic cable television. But, according to cosmic probability, the ancient aliens are us.

For life as we know it to arise, organisms require three things: carbon-based chemistry, liquid water and an energy source, as Loeb and his colleagues wrote. The most crucial source of all three requirements is a star. Stars fuse photons and electrons into carbon and other elements; stars heat up water in the so-called habitable zone; and stars provide a steady sunny stream of radiation.

Stars play such an important role in our understanding of life that they dominate the researchers’ equation. The scientists’ timeline begins about 30 million years after the Big Bang banged, which as far as we can tell was 14.8 billion years ago. Their timeline ends far in the future due to the long-lasting red dwarf stars, which have lengthy wicks that burn for roughly 10 trillion years. (A yellow dwarf, by comparison, has a measly 10 billion years of fuel in the tank.)

Crucially, what red dwarf stars also have going for them is strength in numbers. The Milky Way is chock full of the little slow-cookers. Of the roughly 100 billion stars in the galaxy, some three-quarters are red dwarfs.

Our sun is not a red dwarf. It is a rarer thing, a yellow dwarf, a star 10 times more massive but one that will flare out much sooner. That we exist on around a yellow dwarf, per the scientists’ equation, makes us the true space oddities.

“If it turns out that low-mass stars are able to support life, then we are special because we are one of the early forms of life,” as Loeb told Smithsonian Magazine.

All things being equal, the sheer amount of time a planet could tick around a red dwarf gives those solar systems the astrobiological edge. “Our conclusion is therefore that the most conservative estimate put the probability of our existence before the current cosmic time at 0.1 percent at most,” the authors write. To say that another way, in the far future they believe the chances of life — on a dim red dwarf — increases by a thousandfold.

“Many more stars that all last much longer than our Sun ensures there’s simply more opportunity for life to arise in the future on a small dwarf star than in the last 13 billion years of cosmic time,” as Alan Duffy, an Australian astronomer at Swinburne University of Technology who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

But let us deflate that warm fuzzy feeling with a deep space chill. Namely, most experts do not believe all stars are created equally.

“One possibility is we’re premature,” as Loeb admitted in the press release. “Another possibility is that the environment around a low-mass star is hazardous to life.”

To Charley Lineweaver, an astrobiologist at the Australian National University, the belief that life could equally appear on a yellow dwarf or red dwarf is a “crazy assumption.” He told The Washington Post as much by phone early Wednesday.

Around red dwarfs, “it’s much more believable that life is suppressed,” he told The Post, “based on the assumption that we are an average life form.” (He invoked Princeton University cosmologist J. Richard Gott, whose famous idea is that we are observers plucked at random and therefore we are nothing special.)

“There’s a lot of papers that say that life may be suppressed around those stars,” said James Kasting, a Penn State exoplanet researcher, to Popular Science.

Even where a planet might be in the sweet spot for liquid water around a red dwarf, the other environmental conditions may be grim. Such a world would have to be much closer to the dimmer red stars. The likelihood that the planet is baked in intense radiation therefore increases. So does that chance a planet is tidally locked — that is, one half caught in perpetual day and the other in forever night.

That said, Lineweaver believes the scientific theory in this paper is solid. “The method I like,” he said. “I disagree with the main conclusion.”

Should you subtract the assumption that tiny stars could support life, Lineweaver believes the timeline makes more sense. Duffy — who called the analysis “clever” — is also concerned that the authors ignored issues concerning small stars.

“The authors calculated that if you limit life to stars just 90 percent of the mass of our Sun,” Duffy wrote, “then the most likely time and star to find ourselves in and around is a Sun-like star.”

The conclusions for why we are alone, then, become a bit grimmer. Earth may be in fact be a latecomer to the habitable party, based on Lineweaver’s analysis of metal formation within stars. And as The Post reported in January on another one of his papers, we may be exceptional only because everyone else has already died.

“We don’t know what does matter as we only have only our one Solar System to examine,” Duffy said, “and can’t know yet what makes it, seemingly, unique in harboring life.”


This Company Is Launching the First-Ever Private Mission to the Moon

This Company Is Launching the First-Ever Private Mission to the Moon

For years, the only entities with the power and resources to visit the moon were governments, such as the United States, China and India. But that’s all about to change: On Wednesday, a private spaceflight company announced it will be the first of its kind to conduct an independent moon landing.

The launch by Moon Express Inc., a Florida-based firm started in 2010, marks the first time a commercial entity will be granted permission to leave Earth’s orbit for a destination in outer space. Moon Express – or MoonEx for short – plans to send a robotic lander to the moon, where it will drop scientific instruments that will help researchers study the mysteries of space.

For example, the lander will be carrying several retroreflectors designed to reflect light back to earth; in the past, these devices have led to discoveries about relativity and quantum mechanics and in the future, could yield insights into dark matter, said MoonEx co-founder Bob Richards in an interview.

While on the moon, MoonEx’s lander will also try to win a $20 million (roughly Rs. 133 crores) bounty being offered by Google as part of the Lunar XPRIZE competition. In order to win, a private entity must land on the moon, take off again, land more than 1,500 feet away from its original position, and send high-definition video and images back to earth.

Wednesday’s announcement marks a turning point for the rapidly growing commercial space industry. Firms such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have pioneered private space launches in hopes of making it much cheaper to fling heavy payloads into orbit. But MoonEx said it is the first company to obtain clearance from the US government to venture beyond.

MoonEx secured permission from the Federal Aviation Administration – which oversees space launches that don’t involve Nasa or the Pentagon – on July 20 after roughly three months of meetings with all three agencies, along with the White House, the State Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Because no commercial application process yet exists for visiting the moon, MoonEx had to persuade the government to grant it special permission.

Promising to obey all the same space-related obligations governments must adhere to under international law, MoonEx also agreed to steer clear of any historical moon landing sites, such as the area where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. And MoonEx agreed not to interfere with any ongoing national or international space operations.

In another several years, the process that led to MoonEx’s approval could be streamlined into a “one-stop shop” for businesses that want to visit the moon, said Richards.

“[You’ll] walk up to an office to say, ‘I’d like to go to the moon, please, or an asteroid,’ and the clerk says, ‘No problem – fill out this form,'” said Richards. “Right now, there’s no form and there’s no single authority in the federal government authorized to make such a decision.”

When that process becomes more formalized, MoonEx aims to be far ahead of the competition, looking to make money carrying cargo to the moon and mining the lunar terrain for water and other resources. Then, said Richards, it’ll turn those resources into fuel that can be sold to other explorers, granting humanity even cheaper access to other parts of space.

“Water is the oil of the solar system,” said Richards. “It’s a complete game-changer for the economics, because it makes the moon a gas station in the sky.”


Researchers Create Vitamin-Driven ‘Green’ Battery

Researchers Create Vitamin-Driven 'Green' Battery

Paving the way for cheaper consumer electronics that are easier on the environment, researchers have created a battery that uses a compound from vitamin B2 as the cathode — the part that stores the electricity that is released when connected to a device.

“We’ve been looking to nature for a while to find complex molecules for use in a number of consumer electronics applications,” said Dwight Seferos, Associate professor at University of Toronto.

“When you take something made by nature that is already complex, you end up spending less time making new material,” Seferos said.

While bio-derived battery parts have been created previously, this is the first one that uses bio-derived polymers – long-chain molecules – for one of the electrodes, essentially allowing battery energy to be stored in a vitamin-created plastic, instead of costlier, harder to process, and more environmentally-harmful metals such as cobalt, the study said.

The researchers developed the material while testing a variety of long-chain polymers.

The team created the material from vitamin B2 that originates in genetically-modified fungi using a semi-synthetic process to prepare the polymer by linking two flavin units to a long-chain molecule backbone.

This allows for a green battery with high capacity and high voltage – something increasingly important as the ‘Internet of Things’ continues to link us together more and more through our battery-powered portable devices, said the study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

“It’s a pretty safe, natural compound,” Seferos said.

“If you wanted to, you could actually eat the source material it comes from,” Seferos added.

Vitamin B2’s ability to be reduced and oxidised makes it well-suited for a lithium ion battery that are used in smartphones and laptops, the study said.


Life on Mars May Be Hidden Deep Beneath Surface

Life on Mars May Be Hidden Deep Beneath Surface: Study

Signs of life from under Mars’ surface may not survive in rocks excavated by some meteorite impacts, suggest scientists, adding that life may be present deep underground.

Researchers analysing samples from Mars’ surface have not yet conclusively detected organic compounds that are indigenous to Mars and which would be indicators of past or present life.

Scientists now suggest that a good place to find these organic compounds would be deep underground – from rocks that have been blasted to the surface by meteor impacts.

This is because such rocks have been sheltered from the Sun’s harmful radiation and from chemical processes on the surface that would degrade organic remains.

“We’ve literally only scratched the surface of Mars in our search for life, but so far the results have been inconclusive,” said Professor Mark Sephton, co-author of the research from Imperial College, London.

Rocks excavated through meteorite impacts provide scientists with another unique opportunity to explore for signs of life, without having to resort to complicated drilling missions.

“Our study is showing us is that we may need to be nuanced in our approach to the rocks we choose to analyse,” Sephton added.

The team from Imperial College London and University of Edinburgh has replicated meteorite blasts in the lab.

The aim was to see if organic compounds encased in rock could survive the extreme conditions associated with them being blasted to the surface of Mars by meteorites.

The study, published today in Scientific Reports, suggests that rocks excavated through meteorite impacts may incorrectly suggest a lifeless early Mars even if indicators of life were originally present.

Meteorites often contain organic matter not created by life, which have some similarities in their organic chemistry to land plants. The team infer that they also should also be resistant to blast impacts.

The study could help future missions to Mars determine the best locations and types of blast excavated rocks to examine to find signs of life.

“The study is helping us to see that when organic matter is observed on Mars, no matter where, it must be considered whether the sample could have been affected by the pressures associated with blast impacts,” noted Dr Wren Montgomery from the department of earth science and engineering.

The next steps will see the team investigating a broader range of pressures and temperatures.

This could help future Mars missions further refine the types and locations of rocks that they can analyse for signs of past or present life.


Artificial Intelligence Can Find and Map Poverty, Researchers Say

Artificial Intelligence Can Find and Map Poverty, Researchers Say

  • A team of scientists and satellite experts created a self-updating world map to locate poverty
  • Uses a computer algorithm that recognises signs of poverty
  • Team plans to create a world-wide poverty map that would be publicly available online

A new technique using artificial intelligence to read satellite images could aid efforts to eradicate global poverty by indicating where help is needed most, a team of US researchers said on Thursday.

The method would assist governments and charities trying to fight poverty but lacking precise and reliable information on where poor people are living and what they need, the researchers based at Stanford University in California said.

Eradicating extreme poverty, measured as people living on less than $1.25 US a day, by 2030 is among the sustainable development goals adopted by United Nations member states last year.

A team of computer scientists and satellite experts created a self-updating world map to locate poverty, said Marshall Burke, assistant professor in Stanford’s Department of Earth System Science.

It uses a computer algorithm that recognises signs of poverty through a process called machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence, he said. Results of the two-year research effort have been published in the journal Science.

The system shows an image to a computer, “and the computer’s job is to figure what the image is,” Burke said.

The computer was initially fed data from household surveys by five African nations – Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Malawi and Rwanda – and nighttime satellite imagery of the same countries.

Nighttime images are a basic tool to predict poverty because a higher intensity of nightlight is associated with higher levels of development.

The computer was asked to use the data to spot signs of poverty in a separate set of high-resolution daytime satellite images that contain information from poor regions that otherwise appear dark in night photos.

“The computer learns to find a lot of things that we think are correlated to poverty like roads, urban areas, farmlands and waterways,” said Burke.

Burke said the team plans to create a world-wide poverty map that would be publicly available online.

“We hope our data will be directly useful by governments around the world … to more effectively target their programs,” Burke said.

The project improves upon use of household surveys which tend to sample villages randomly, he said.

“They are able to get only, say, 500 villages in a country as large as Tanzania, which has hundreds of thousands of village,” he said.

Also, according to the World Bank, only 25 of 48 nations in sub-Saharan Africa conducted two household surveys or more between 1990 and 2012.