Genome India Project


  • On 7th February, 2020, the government gave clearance to an ambitious gene-mapping project- Genome India Project (GIP), which has been described as the “first scratching of the surface of the vast genetic diversity of India”.

Need            

  • Indian ethnicity is under-represented in genomic datasets currently according to experts and the diverse population of the country interest’s genome-mining researchers across the globe.
  • This has been found necessary as over 95% of the genome samples available, which are the basis of new, cutting-edge research in medicine and pharmacology, use the white, Caucasian genome as the base.
  • Mapping of India's genetic landscape is critical for next generation medicine, agriculture and for biodiversity management.

About Genome India Project

  • The GIP will be spearheaded by the Centre for Brain Research at Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science as the nodal point of about 20 institutions, each doing its bit in collecting samples, doing the computations, and then the research.
  • The project hopes to form a grid after collecting 10,000 samples in the first phase from across India, to arrive at a representative Indian genome.
  • To support this development, government will initiate two new national level Science Schemes, to create a comprehensive database.

Genome

  • A genome is an organism’s complete set of Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA), including all its genes.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • In humans, a copy of the entire genome — more than 3 billion DNA base pairs — is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

Impact of GIP

Building Indian Reference Genome

  • The GIP will help vastly to add to the available information on the human species and advance the cause, both because of the scale and the diversity of the Indian population.
  • Its aim is to ultimately build a grid of the Indian “reference genome”, to understand fully the type and nature of diseases and traits that comprise the diverse Indian population. For example, if the Northeast sees a tendency towards a specific disease, interventions can be made in the region, assisting public health, which make it easier to battle the illness.

Healthcare Genomics

  • The most obvious use would be in personalized medicine, anticipating diseases and modulating treatment according to the genome of patients.
  • For instance, cardiovascular disease generally leads to heart attacks in South Asians, but to strokes in most parts of Africa.
  • If such propensities to disease can be mapped to variations across genomes, it is believed public health interventions can be targeted better, and diseases anticipated before they develop.

Agriculture Genomics

  • It would help to develop a better understanding of the genetic basis of susceptibility to blights, rusts and pests and to improve and design crops with enhanced resistance.
  • Further, it may become possible to deter them genetically, and reduce dependence on chemicals.

Contribution to Global Science

  • Global science would also benefit from a mapping project in one of the world’s most diverse gene pools, which would provide data useful for the mapping of the spread and migration of a range of life forms in the Old World, from plants to humans.

Issues Involved

Medical Ethics: In a project that aims only to create a database of genetic information, gene modification is not among the stated objectives. Recently China-based scientist, who helped create the world’s first gene-edited babies, was sentenced to three years in prison exposes the risk of doctors privately running away with the idea of fixing genetic issues.

Data & Storage Issue: Anonymity of the data and questions of its possible use and misuse is another challenge which would need to be addressed. Keeping the data on a cloud is fraught with problems and would raise questions of ownership of the data.

India is yet to pass a Data Privacy Bill with adequate safeguards. Launching a Genome India Project before the privacy question is settled could give rise to another set of problems.

Social Issues: India has been plagued with the question of heredity and racial purity and more scientific studies of genes and classifying them could reinforce stereotypes and allow for politics and history to acquire a racial twist. A Genome India Project would further add a genetic dimension to the ongoing debate of being indigenous and non-indigenous.


Genome Mapping
 

  • Genome mapping essentially means figuring out the location of a specific gene on a particular region of the chromosome and also determining the location of and relative distances between other genes on that chromosome.
  • The first ever genetic map was created by Alfred Strutevant while he worked on Drosophila melanogaster with Thomas Hunt Morgan.
  • Genome mapping provided a critical starting point for the Human Genome Project.
  • A Centimorgan is a unit used to measure genetic linkage. One centimorgan equals a one percent chance that a marker on a chromosome will become separated from a second marker on the same chromosome due to crossing over in a single generation.

Types

  • Genetic Mapping: It looks at how genetic information is shuffled between chromosomes or between different regions in the same chromosome during meiosis (a type of cell division).
  • Physical Mapping: It looks at the physical distance between known DNA sequences (including genes) by working out the number of base pairs (A-T, C-G) between them.

Human Genome Project (HGP)

HGP was an international programme that led to the decoding of the entire human genome.

Beginning on October 1, 1990 and completed in April 2003, the HGP gave us the ability, for the first time, to read nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.

The project was able to identify the locations of many human genes and provide information about their structure and organisation.

ELSI Program

The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) program was founded in 1990 as an integral part of the HGP.

The mission of the ELSI program was to identify and address issues raised by genomic research that would affect individuals, families, and society.

Four Focus Areas

  • Privacy and fairness in the use of genetic information, including the potential for genetic discrimination in employment and insurance.
  • The integration of new genetic technologies, such as genetic testing, into the practice of clinical medicine.
  • Ethical issues surrounding the design and conduct of genetic research with people, including the process of informed consent.
  • The education of healthcare professionals, policy makers, students, and the public about genetics and the complex issues that result from genomic research.


Difference between Genome Mapping and Genome Sequencing

  • The main difference between gene mapping and gene sequencing is that the gene mapping identifies the locus of genes and their relative distance within the genome whereas the gene sequencing spells out the order of the nucleotides, which makes up the genes in the genome.
  • Furthermore, gene mapping results in a less-detailed outcome while gene sequencing results in a fully-detailed outcome.


Polycrack Technology


  • On 23rd January, 2020, Indian Railways commissioned the country's first governmental waste to energy plant in Mancheswar Carriage Repair Workshop at Bhubaneswar, Odisha under the East Coast Railway zone.
  • The plant will use Polycrack technology to process the scrap and convert waste into energy to produce light diesel oil in 24 hours.
  • This is the first such plant of the Indian Railways network and the third such plant across the country.
  • The first plant was a small one with a capacity of 50 kg a day set up by Infosys at Bangalore in 2011. The second came up at Moti Bagh in Delhi in 2014 and the third one was set up at Hindalco in 2019 with 50 kg capacity per batch.

Need

  • A big chunk of non-ferrous scrap is generated in Indian Railways workshops for which there is no efficient method of disposal and treatment. As a result, the scrap is sent to landfills, which is environmentally hazardous as its treatment is difficult.

What is Polycrack Technology?

  • Polycrack technology, the first patented heterogenous catalytic process, converts non-ferrous scraps into hydrocarbon liquid fuels, gas, carbon and water and doesn’t require pre-segregation of waste for their processing.

Waste Used

  • All types of plastic
  • Petroleum sludge
  • Un-segregated MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) with moisture up to 50 percent,
  • e-waste, automobile fluff
  • Organic waste including bamboo, garden waste, jatropha fruit and palm bunch
  • Sludge from Edible Oil Industry
  • De-oiled Cake from Edible Oil Industry

Features

  • Polycrack’s strength includes not requiring pre-segregation of waste, allowing waste as collected to be directly used. With a high moisture tolerance, drying of waste is not required.
  • The process is a closed cycle system and does not release dangerous pollutants into the atmosphere.
  • All constituents are converted into valuable energy thereby making it Zero Discharge Process.
  • The flammable, non-condensed gases are reused to supply the entire system with energy. The only emission comes from the combustion of gaseous fuels.
  • Gas generated in the process is re-used to provide energy to the system thereby making it self-reliant of its energy requirement and also bring down the operating cost.

Advantages

  • Fully automated system requires minimum man power.
  • Low capital cost and low operating cost.
  • Operates at around 450 degrees, making it a low temperature process when compared with other options.
  • Excellent air quality surrounding the plant.
  • Biological decomposition is not allowed as the Waste is treated as it is received.
  • The foot print of the WTE plant is small hence the area required for installing the plant is less when compared with conventional method of processing.
  • There is no atmospheric emission during the process unlike other conventional methods except for combustion gases which have pollutants less than the prescribed norms the world over.
  • Safe and efficient system with built-in safety features enables even an unskilled user to operate the machine with ease.

Waste to Energy

  • Waste-to-Energy (WTE) refers to a variety of treatment technologies that convert waste to electricity, heat, fuel, or other usable materials, as well as a range of residues including fly ash, sludge, slag, boiler ash, wastewater and emissions, including greenhouse gases.
  • It provides a safe, technologically advanced means of waste disposal that reduces greenhouse gases, generates clean energy and recycles metal.
  • It offers recovery of energy by conversion of non-recyclable materials through various processes including thermal and non-thermal technologies:

Thermal Technologies

  • Gasification
  • Pyrolysis
  • Thermal Depolymerization
  • PGP (Plasma Arc Gasification)

Non-thermal Technologies

  • Anaerobic Digestion
  • Mechanical biological treatment(MBT)
  • MBT + Anaerobic digestion
  • Ethanol Production
  • MBT to Refuse Derived Fuel

Benefits

  • Production and Use of Energy: Electricity and heat can be generated from waste, which provide an alternative and more environment-friendly source of energy.
  • Alternative to Fossil Fuels: Waste-to-energy is one of the most robust and effective alternative energy options to reduce CO2 emissions and replace fossil fuels.
  • Reduction of Waste Going to Landfill: Waste that would have normally gone to landfills is diverted to an energy processing unit thereby saving valuable land.
  • Help in Climate Change Mitigation: WTE is widely recognized as a technology that can help mitigate climate change. WTE facilities are the only form of energy generation that actually reduces greenhouse gases. When waste is delivered to a WTE facility, the methane that would have been generated if it were sent to a landfill is avoided.
  • Domestic Production of Energy: Plenty of waste is generated locally and hence there is no requirement of transportation of materials or this process from far out.
  • Benefit to Local Community and Economy: As waste to energy plants are generally setup locally it creates jobs, the local community benefits and materials are sourced locally.

Challenges

  • High Operating Cost: Effective waste management is expensive, often comprising 20 per cent to 50 % of municipal budgets.Despite all the subsidies, the electricity produced from WTE plants is the most expensive. Compared to Rs 3-4 per kWh from coal and solar plants, WTE plants sell electricity at about Rs 7/kWh.
  • Sustainability Issue: Most wastes sent to the WTE plants are un-segregated which impacts the power generation by the plant and leads to pollutants. Moreover, the leftover burnt material is not suitable for brick making, which then has to be disposed off in landfills, further increasing pollution.
  • Feasibility Issue: WTE plants do not get many buyers for the power they generate due to cheaper alternatives being available and high maintenance costs. This is because of a high capital cost, high operation & management expenses, low calorific value of the fuel used and the additional fuel used to burn the waste.
  • Health Issue: Because these plants have to handle a vast quantity of mixed waste, the housekeeping is extremely challenging leading to a lot of odour and visual pollution.

Enzyme Technology For Cheaper Bio-fuel


  • Recently, the scientists from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi, received a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office for the enzymes that enhances the production of biofuels from agricultural waste.

About the Technology

  • The scientists disrupted a control mechanism found in the fungus penicillium funiculosum (PF) that regulates its metabolic activity.
  • Disrupting this mechanism called carbon catabolite repression helped the scientists to increase the production of enzymes that are involved in converting cellulose into sugars and, thus increased the production of biofuels.

Reason for Opting penicillium funiculosum (PF)

  • The scientist chose PF as it was found to produce five times more active enzyme (known as CBH1) in breaking down cellulose as compared to its fungal cousin Trichoderma reesei, more commonly used in industrial enzyme cocktails.

Significance

  • Providing Better Alternative: It is likely to provide a better alternative for making commercial cellulase enzyme that can be used for production of second generation (G2) biofuel.
  • Increased 2G Ethanol Production: It can help to produce higher quantities of 2G ethanol from agricultural waste materials including rice and wheat straws leading to less dependency on fossil fuels.

Challenges

  • Limited Availability of Enzyme and High Cost: Currently, there is very limited availability of commercial cellulase enzyme preparation in the market for 2G ethanol, causing less production of biofuels and this is often stated as the major reason for the higher cost of 2G ethanol.

 

International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB)

  • It is a unique intergovernmental organisation initially established as a special project of United Nations Industrial Development Organization(UNIDO).
  • Fully autonomous since 1994, it runs 46 state-of-the-art laboratories, in Trieste, Italy, New Delhi, India and Cape Town, South Africa and forms an interactive network with over 65 Member States.

Functions

  • It plays a key role in Biotechnology worldwide for excellence in Research, Training and Technology Transfer to industry to contribute in concrete terms to the achievement of sustainable global development and operates within the United Nations System.

 

Biofuels

  • Bio-fuels are produced from renewable resources and are used in place of or in blend with diesel, petrol or other fossil fuels for transport, stationary, portable and other applications.

Classification

  • Biofuels are classified into following generations-

   

Source: Researchgate

Government Initiatives

Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN Yojana

  • Launched in February, 2019, the scheme focuses to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support this nascent industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and increasing Research & Development in this area.
  • Under this Yojana, 12 Commercial Scale and 10 demonstration scale Second Generation (2G) ethanol Projects will be provided a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) support in two phases:
  • Phase-I (2018-19 to 2022-23): wherein  six  commercial  projects  and five demonstration projects will be supported.
  • Phase-II (2020-21 to 2023-24): wherein remaining six commercial projects and five demonstration projects will be supported.

National Policy on Biofuels-2018

  • It envisages an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of bio-diesel in diesel by 2030.
  • The Policy categorises biofuels as "Basic Biofuels" viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and "Advanced Biofuels" - Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.

GOBAR (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources) DHAN Scheme

  • Launched in 2018, under the Swachh Baharat Mission (Gramin), it  aims to positively impact village cleanliness and generate wealth and energy from cattle and organic waste.

India Plans To Launch Its Own Space Station


Why is it in News?

The Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said on 13 June that India is planning to have its own space station and the details of the project will be worked out after the first manned mission, Gaganyaan, scheduled in 2022.

Relevance of the News: It signifies India’s vision and future plans of accessing the space and indigenization of Indian space activities.

About the Mission:

  • The proposed space station would probably have a weight of 20 tonnes and will serve as a facility where astronauts can stay for 15-20 days.
  • The space station would be placed in an orbit 400 km above earth and the time frame for its launch is 5-7 years after Gaganyaan.
  • As a part of preparation of space station, ISRO would launch a small module for microgravity experiments.

Gaganyaan:

  • Gaganyaan is a crewed orbital spacecraft which is expected to carry three people into the space for seven days. The project is expected to be completed and launched by 2022 and Rs 10000 crore have been approved for it.
  • The spacecraft would be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400 km.
  • With this, India could potentially become the fourth country to send a man to space, after the erstwhile USSR, the US and China.
  • Gaganyaan would be launched with a ‘GSLV Mk-III’ which is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle.
  • Prior to the main launch, two unmanned missions would be undertaken, one in December 2022 and the second, six months after that.

DRDO Successfully Tests HSTDV


Why is it in News?

On 12th June, 2019, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully carried out the maiden test of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) and other technologies.

Relevance of the News: HSTDV exhibits India’s advance in space science, technology and research.

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV):

  • The HSTDV is an indigenously developed technology demonstrator unmanned vehicle. It is developed by the DRDO and supported by Israel and Russia.
  • It has been launched on a missile and it aims to prove India’s capability in a number of critical technologies.
  • In the test, a missile containing the technology demonstrator vehicle was launched and the vehicle was released only after the missile reaches a certain altitude and velocity. The HSTDV project aims to demonstrate the performance of a scram-jet engine at an altitude of 15 km to 20 kms.
  • The vehicle that can cruise up to a speed of Mach 6 (or six times the speed of sound) and rise up to an altitude of 32 km in 20 seconds.

Uses of HSTDV:

  • A successful test of a hypersonic technology transporter vehicle is likely to bolster the development of a hypersonic Brahmos II cruise missile currently under development and based on scramjet technology.
  • It can be used in making the missiles of the future, and energy-efficient, low cost and reusable satellite-launch vehicles.

Scramjet 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.

All-Weather Radar Imaging Satellite


Why is it in News?

RISAT-2B satellite was launched on May 22 from Sriharikota and it marked the resumption of a vital ring of Indian all-seeing radar imaging satellites. Two were launched earlier in 2009 and 2012.At least a half-dozen could be launched in the near future. These would provide reconnaissance capability from about 500 km in space and a comprehensive vigil over the country.

 

Benefits of radar satellites:

  • When it is cloudy or dark, regular remote-sensing or optical imaging satellites which work like a light-dependent camera cannot perceive hidden or surreptitious objects on the ground.
  • However, radar satellites are equipped with an active sensor, the synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which can sense or ‘observe’ Earth in a special way from space day and night, rain or cloud which makes them special for security forces and disaster relief agencies.
  • Radar imaging satellites pick up structures, new bunkers very well, and sometimes help to count them, too.
  • In India radar imaging is used for crop estimation because the main crop growing season of kharif is in May-September when it rains and gets cloudy. Radar data has been used extensively for forestry, soil, land use, geology and during floods and cyclone.

About RISAT-2B

  • It has a mass of 615 kg and will orbit at 555km distance from the earth and is built for a 5-year operational lifetime.
  • The satellite will be capable of monitoring weather day and night, in all weather conditions.

INS Vishal


Why is it in News?

Budgetary woes has put India’s supercarrier INS Vishal on hold.

About INS Vishal:

  • INS Vishal, also known as Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 2 (IAC-2), is a planned aircraft carrier to be built by Cochin Shipyard Limited for the Indian Navy.
  • It is intended to be the second aircraft carrier to be built in India after INS Vikrant (IAC-1), and the first supercarrier to be built in India.

What is the Present Issue with INS Vishal?

  • INS Vishal was conceived as a 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier, embarking 55 aircraft and costing Rs 60,000 crore. After the MoD objected to the cost, the navy downsized the proposal to a 50,000-tonne carrier costing about Rs 50,000 crore. But the MoD remains unwilling to accord funding or sanction. Navy has time and again pointed that it needs INS Vishal to counter the aggressiveness of China in Indian Ocean Region.

INS Imphal


Why is it in News?

The Indian Navy has launched Guided Missile Destroyer INS Imphal from Mazagon Dock Mumbai.

About INS Imphal:

  • INS Imphal is the third ship to be launched under Project 15B (first was INS Vishakhapatnam & 2nd was INS Mormugao).
  • The warships built under the project are propelled by four gas turbines to achieve speed of 30 knots approximately.
  • They have a length of 163 metres and 17.4 metres at the beam and a displacement of 7.300 tonnes.
  • The ship was named in recognition of the Indian soldiers who fought in Battle of Imphal during World War II. It is the first Indian Navy ship named after a city in Northeast India.

What is Project 15B?

  • It is a project to develop world class warships for Indian Navy.
  • Government of India in 2011 had sanctioned four 15B ships at the cost of Rs. 29,700 crore to develop a class of stealth guided missile destroyers for the Indian Navy.
  • The Project 15B missile destroyers are modern warships equipped with latest weapons package in continuation of lineage of the highly successful Delhi and Kolkata Class ships.
  • The first ship of the project 15B was INS Vishakhaptnam which was launched on April 20, 2015.


Source: Business Standard

National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT)


Why is it in News?

The appointment committee of Cabinet has given nod for the appointment of 32 members to the NCLT.

About NCLT:

  • NCLT is the outcome of the Justice Eradi Committee.
  • The NCLT was established under the Companies Act 2013 and constituted in 2016.
  • It is a quasi judicial body that adjudicates the issues related to Indian companies.
  • All proceedings under the Companies Act, including proceedings relating to arbitration, compromise, arrangements and reconstruction and winding up of companies and issues related to Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 is being dealt by the National Company Law Tribunal.

National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT):

  • The NCLAT was established under the Companies Act 2013 to hear the appeals against the order of NCLT and is functional since 2016.
  • NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) and by Competition Commission of India (CCI).


Source: TH, IE

Nirbhay Missile


Why is it in News?

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test fired the first subsonic missile ‘Nirbhay’ from Chandipur coast of Odisha.

About the Nirbhay Missile System:

  • It is a two stage missile system that has been indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • It is a long range subsonic missile system that can be launched from multiple platforms and is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.
  • It is capable of cruising at an altitude as low as 0.1 km and has a range of around 1000km.
  • It is capable of carrying warheads of up to 300kg at a speed of 0.6 to 0.7 Mach number.

Mach Number:

  • It is a non-dimensional number which is a ratio of velocity of object to the velocity of sound.
  • Mach 1 means the speed of object is same as the speed of sound.
  • Mach<1 implies speed of object is less than the speed of sound.
  • Mach>1 implies speed of object is more than the speed of sound.
  • If Mach number is greater than 5, it is generally referred to as hypersonic flow.


Source: The Diplomat, IE

PSLV C45


Why is it in News?

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the PSLV-C45 rocket on 1st April 2019 that carried one Indian (EMISAT) and 28 international satellites into space.

What is so Unique about this Mission?

This flight was unique in many ways, but some features which stand out are:-

1. It was the first time that ISRO launched a rocket that injected satellites in three different orbits (by PSLVC-37, satellites have been ejected in two different orbits at the most).

2. The fourth and last stage of the rocket will function as a satellite itself for some time, instead of being rendered junk after ejecting its payloads.

3. Earlier, rockets used to have 2 or 6 strap-on motors, but in this mission it had 4 strap motors which provided the much needed thrust along with reduced weight.

What Strap-on Motors do?

Strap-ons are booster rockets attached externally to the main rocket, and provide additional thrust, or energy, by firing themselves midway during the flight.

How did this PSLV C-45 inject the Satellites in Three Different orbits?

On most previous occasions, the primary satellite was taken to its orbit, while the others were ejected, or sprayed in quick succession either before or after that into different trajectories. There used to be only a marginal difference in the vertical distances between satellites. The entire operation used to be over in a few minutes.

PSLV C-45 did something very different. It placed the primary satellite, EMISAT, a piece of surveillance equipment to be used by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), to the 748 km sun-synchronous polar orbit. It then made one complete revolution around Earth, over the poles, while lowering its orbit to 504 km height, after which it deposited the 28 international customer satellites — 24 from the US, two from Lithuania, and one each from Switzerland and Spain.

It then made a further round of Earth while attaining an even lower orbit of 485 km, where the fourth stage of the rocket will continue for some time (it is being described as ‘orbital platform’).

What was this EMISAT Satellite for?

  • EMISAT is a DRDO surveillance satellite (436kg) that is placed at a distance of 748 km in sun synchronous orbit that will detect and gather electronic intelligence from enemy countries.
  • EMISAT has been developed under DRDO's Project Kautilya which aims to boost India's space surveillance capacity (the project is named after the ancient Indian economist and philospher in Mauryan period who emphasised the importance of spying for a king to protect his kingdom).

What will this Orbital Platform do?

The fourth stage (Orbital Platform) is carrying three kinds of equipment to carry out some measurements and experiments, and a solar panel to provide power to these equipments and enable communication with ground stations. The experiments that will be carried are:-

  • Sturdy structure and composition of Ionosphere
  • Maritime satellite applications
  • It has equipments that will assist the amateur radio operators.

In future, such an ‘orbital platform’, as it is being described, can also be used to inject smaller satellites into orbits.

About Ionosphere:

  • It is a layer of atmosphere whose height varies from 65 km to 400 km from earth’s surface. The ionization occurs in this region because of ultraviolet light rays of the sun which are absorbed by the air molecules present in this layer.
  • The degree of ionization varies with the height of Ionosphere.
  • The maximum degree of ionization is seen in the intermediate layer and not in the upper layer.

But why so?

At great height the solar radiation is intense but the density of air is less, while at low heights the air density is high but sun’s intensity is low. The maximum ionization occurs at intermediate layer where both the conditions (sunlight & air density) are in optimal state.

Anti-Satellite Missile Test (ASAT) - Mission SHAKTI


Why is it in News?

India became the 4th country in the world to have the Anti-satellite Missile System.

What is ASAT Missile Test?

  • It is the technological capability to hit and destroy satellites in space through missiles launched from the ground. India on 27th March 2019 hit the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite Microsat-R which was placed at 300 km from Earth.

But why does a Country need to have this Capability to destroy a Satellite in the Space?

  • Satellites are extremely critical infrastructures of any country these days. A large number of crucial applications are now satellite-based. These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, land and ocean mapping and monitoring tools, and military applications.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless. It can cripple enemy infrastructure, and bring it down on knees, without causing any threat to human lives.

Is India the only one to have this Capability?

  • No, India is the 4th country after US, Russia and China to have this capability.

Why did India hit the Satellite placed in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) only?

  • The major problem with the destruction of satellite is that, once it gets destroyed in space it creates space debris; when a satellite in LEO is destroyed it creates less space debris and these debris are likely to fall back in the Earth’s atmosphere within a span of few weeks.

Why is Space Debris a big issue for the Scientists?

The problem with the space debris is that it collides with the operational satellites and makes them dysfunctional. It is similar to garbage that humans generate on the Earth.

Is this test by India not the Violation of Outer Space Treaty of 1967?

  • Outer Space Treaty prohibits the placement of weapons of ‘mass destruction’ (not ordinary weapons) in the outer space. India has neither placed the weapon of mass destruction nor deployed any weapons, so the criticism by few countries is not tenable at all.

Note: India is signatory to the Outer Space Treaty and has ratified this in 1982.

Why are some Experts Criticizing the ASAT Missile Test?

Some experts are of the opinion that destroying the satellite of enemy country in the war is a very traditional approach. In the present scenario there are better ways by which damage can be caused to the enemy country for example:-

  • Technologies have been developed to jam the communication from the satellites by interfering with its radio signals. This can be attempted during the uplink or the downlink.
  • The other option is the possible use of ground-based lasers to ‘dazzle’ the sensors of the satellites and make them at least ‘partially blind’ so that they are unable to work efficiently.

Some Associated Terms:

Low Earth Orbit (LEO)

  • A Low Earth Orbit is an Earth-centered orbit with an altitude of 2,000 km or less.
  • Most of the manmade objects in space are in LEO.

Kessler Syndrome

  • The Kessler syndrome, proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.

Source: IE

Mrinal


Why is it in News?

Celebrated by the ISRO, February 21 marks the 50th anniversary of India’s first solid rocket propellant.

About Mrinal:

  • It was named after a famous Classical Dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai, wife of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.
  • It was the first totally indigenous composite propellant manufactured using locally available raw materials.
  • On Feb 21, 1969, this propellant was used to fly Rohini series RH-75 sounding rocket, which was designated Dynamic Test Vehicle (DTV), from Thumba.
  • At present, India is one of the pioneers in field of Solid Rocket Propellants, but the kick start was provided by Mrinal Solid Rocket Propellant.

Raw Materials used in Mrinal:

  • Polyester resin
  • Ammonium Perchlorate
  • Aluminium Powder along with Nitro-glycerine

What are Composite Materials?

  • A composite material is a material made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties that, when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components.
  • The individual components remain separate and distinct within the finished structure, differentiating composites from mixtures and solid solutions
  • Composite materials are light in weight and possess better structural and thermal properties, making them suitable materials to realize structural and ablative products for launch vehicle applications.

Source: www.isro.gov.in

Rotavirus Vaccine


Why is it in News?

It is for the very first time that a vaccine (Rotovac) that has been developed from scratch in India has been “pre-qualified” by the World Health Organization.

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in children worldwide, and vaccination is the best way to prevent severe rotavirus illness. According to a recent study, 37 percent of the hospitalization of children is caused due to Rotavirus.

About ROTOVAC:

This vaccine has been developed locally in India by a Hyderabad based ‘Bharat Biotech’. ROTAVAC was licensed by the Drugs Controller General of India in early 2014.

Has this Vaccine been introduced by the Government in its Immunization Programme?

  • India began a phased introduction of the vaccine in its national immunization program starting in 2016, and Bharat Biotech has supplied approximately 36 million doses of ROTAVAC to the Indian government.
  • A dose costs between Rs 55-65, according to the reports of the company.

What does Pre-qualification by WHO mean?

To be “pre-qualified” means that the vaccine can be sold internationally to United Nations Organizations and several countries in Africa & South America (which have less access to medicare).