Current Affairs Today - Current Affairs 2016

ISRO conducts successful test launch of scramjet engine

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for the first time has successfully conducted the Scramjet (or Supersonic Combusting ramjet) engine test.

The test was conducted from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikotta in Andhra Pradesh and has successfully has met all the intended parameters.

Key facts

  • The scramjet engine was test launched on board of RH 560 sounding rocket.
  • RH 560 sounding rocket is two stage Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV).
  • The ATV along with the scramjet engines weighed 3,277 kg at lift-off.
  • During the test, ATV was able to fly at Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound) speeds.
  • The scramjet uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidiser.

With this, India became only the fourth nation in the world to successfully flight-test a scramjet engine after United States, Russia and China.

What is scramjet engine?

The scramjet engine works on the Air-breathing Propulsion System. The system uses natural oxygen present in the atmosphere to burn the fuel stored in the rocket. It reduces the amount of oxidiser to be carried along with the fuel, bringing down launch costs.

Benefits

  • This system would help in reducing the lift-off mass of the vehicle as there will be no need of carrying liquefied oxygen on board the vehicle.
  • In turn help in increasing the energy efficiency of the rocket and also make it cost-effective.
  • Scramjet does not have rotating parts so the chances of failure are also measurably reduced.
  • Currently, ISRO uses rocket launch vehicles like the PSLV to deliver satellites into orbit. But PSLVs are expendable i.e. it can only be used once.

Way forward

The new propulsion system would complement ISRO’s aim to develop a reusable launch vehicle that would have longer flight duration. This system involving the recently tested scramjet engine, would become crucial while sending up the spacecraft.

Special Note

This was not India’s first venture into scramjet technology. DRDO is working with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia to develop the second generation Brahmos cruise missile (dubbed the Brahmos-II) powered by a scramjet . Brahmos-II is being designed to fly 300 odd kilometres at a speed of Mach 7. The current generation Brahmos is propelled using a liquid-fuelled ramjet engine. It makes it possible for the missile propel forward at up to Mach 3 speed, making it one of the fastest for a cruise missile in the world.

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NASA’s Juno probe completes first Jupiter flyby

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft has successfully executed its first flyby of Jupiter, our solar system’s most massive planet.

During its first flyby, Juno passed just 4,200 kilometres above the planet’s clouds. It was the closest contact ever achieved by a man-made probe with Jupiter.

Key Facts

  • During this flyby, it was for the first time Juno had its entire suite of science instruments activated.
  • During this closest approach, Juno passed about 4,200 kilometres above Jupiter’s clouds and travelled at speed of 208,000 kilometres per hour with respect to the planet.
  • There are 35 more close flybys of Jupiter planned during Juno’s mission scheduled to end in February 2018.

About Juno spacecraft

  • The unmanned Juno spacecraft launched on August 5, 2011, from Florida, US. It had arrived at Jupiter on July 4, 2016.
  • Juno is the first solar-powered mission designed by NASA to see beneath Jupiter’s clouds. It had travelled 2.7 billion kilometres since its launch to reach Jupiter.
  • It has nine instruments on board to study atmosphere, gravity, magnetic field and possible existence of solid core in Jupiter.
  • Juno will also map Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields and also track how much water is present in the atmosphere.
  • It will have mission life of 20 months from July 2016 to Feb 2018. In its mission life, the spacecraft will circle the Jupiter 37 times before finally making a death plunge in 2018 in order to avoid accidentally crashing onto one of the planet’s moons.

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Union Government inaugurates IIT in Dharwad

The Union Human Resource Ministry has formally launched Indian Institute of Techonogy (IIT) Dharwad in Karnataka.

It was launched by Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash.

Key Facts

  • IIT-Dharwad is located at Walmi centre on the Dharwad’s outskirts till its permanent campus is built
  • The prestigious higher education institute has already started functioning from this academic year from a temporary structure.
  • Around 2000 students with Science and Maths background have been invited to the inaugural function to sensitise them about the higher learning institute.
  • It is spread over the sprawling 470 acres allocated by the state government at nearby Kelgeri town.

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