India rocket launches asteroid-spotting satellite

Updated 26 February 2013
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India rocket launches asteroid-spotting satellite

BANGALORE: India launched a rocket yesterday carrying seven satellites into orbit, including a Canadian orbiter that will scan for asteroids that could be hurtling toward Earth.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle blasted off from the Sriharikota rocket launch center located on an island off the coast of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The launch, witnessed by Indian President President Pranab Mukherjee at the space mission control center, “was perfect,” Devi Prasad Karnik, an official of the state-run Indian Space Research Organization, said.
The suitcase-sized Canadian satellite, which the Canadian Space Agency calls a “sentinel in the sky,” will circle the globe every 100 minutes, scanning space to pinpoint asteroids that may come close to Earth.
Information from the satellite could help deflect asteroids whose trajectory might threaten Earth, Canadian space officials say Earlier this month, an asteroid whizzed safely past Earth the same day a much smaller, previously undetected meteor hit Russia, injuring nearly 1,000 people.
Near-Earth Object Space Surveillance Satellite or NEOSSat “will be the only space telescope dedicated to searching for asteroids,” Canadian satellite scientist Alan Hildebrand was quoted as saying by India’s Hindu newspaper. The Canadian satellite will also scan for chunks of asteroids, comets and space debris — leftovers from old space missions — that can cause collisions.
The rocket was also carrying an Indo-French satellite called “SARAL,” or Satellite with ARGOS and ALTIKA — two climate monitoring tools developed for analyzing ocean currents and sea surface heights by French space agency CNES.
“We will obtain crucial data for climate models and global ocean currents” from the satellite, said CNES project head Pierre Sengenes. Learning more about global ocean circulation is key in understanding how global warming is affecting the planet, scientists say.
The other satellites being carried into space included another one from Canada, two from Austria and one each from Denmark and Britain.
The Indian mission was the 23rd for the country’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV.
India, which aims to send its first manned flight into space in 2016, has emerged as a significant player in the lucrative global commercial satellite-launch market, according to space experts.
The Indian space agency has launched 35 foreign satellites since 1999 while the maximum number of satellites ever launched by the PSLV in a single mission stands at 10.

Spy arrested
An Indian man has been arrested on charges of spying for Islamabad on military war games staged on India’s border with Pakistan, police said yesterday.
The 35-year-old man is accused of passing on details of the exercises held by the Indian Air Force on Friday in the western desert state of Rajasthan, senior state police officer D.S. Dinkar said.
Dinkar identified the man as an Indian national called Sumaar Khan and said he was allegedly spying for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, “passing information related to Indian defense installations and military activities.”
Police alleged the man used mobile phones and Internet to transmit information but did not say when he was arrested.
Both India’s President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended the drill, codenamed “Iron Fist.”
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan frequently accuse each other of spying on each other’s military activities.


‘Makkah Road Initiative’ to fast-track Malaysian and Indonesian Hajj pilgrims

Updated 14 min 54 sec ago
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‘Makkah Road Initiative’ to fast-track Malaysian and Indonesian Hajj pilgrims

  • Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia join forces to launch the “Makkah Road Initiative"
  • It will help Hajj pilgrims to fast-track journeys to the Holy Land

KUALA LUMPUR: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia have joined forces to launch the “Makkah Road Initiative” this year, a pre-clearance system that will help Hajj pilgrims to fast-track journeys to the Holy Land.
Two flights carrying Hajj pilgrims were commissioned at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to mark the official launch, which was attended by officials from Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.
According to Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office for Islamic Affairs, Dr. Mujahid Yusuf, who also launched the Makkah Road Initiative, pilgrims will no longer have to wait in long queues to finalize documentation such as visa stamps, customs, and health screenings.
“All these will be sorted out in KLIA, and when our (Malaysian) pilgrims arrive (in Madinah), they can just take the bus to the hotel. Their luggage will be managed by the Saudi authorities,” Dr. Yusuf added.
A world first, the initiative has been made possible by multi-agency collaboration within Saudi Arabia, as well as weeks of preparation by officials in the Kingdom, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Makkah Road Initiative will cut time and entrance procedures for pilgrims from Malaysia and Indonesia to Saudi Arabia through a “unified electronic paths” and “pre-clearance procedures” before arrival at Madinah airport, according to officials.
The services provided under the initiative include issuing visas, customs and passport procedures, facilitating health requirements, baggage management, and housing arrangements in Makkah.
The initiative also involves checking off the pilgrims’ entry visas into the Kingdom at the airport when the flight departs. Travel arrangements will be “confirmed electronically”, including health requirements where pilgrims can skip the paper documents on vaccines at the airport in their own country.
Fingerprints and passports are to be taken and stamped “electronically” in their home country before departure. Pilgrims will fly from either the Kuala Lumpur International Airport or the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, and will arrive at the Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz in Madinah.
The pilgrims will check out at the airport arrival hall “like a domestic flight” while their luggage will be sorted to their places of residence by the Ministry of Hajj.
With an increasing number of Muslim pilgrims to Makkah each year, the Saudi Arabian government has made serious efforts to streamline the process.
“We really appreciate this progress by the Kingdom,” said Zainol Rahim Zainuddin, Malaysian ambassador to the Kingdom, adding that the initiative showcased the close partnership between the governments of the Kingdom and Malaysia.
Indonesia, which has the biggest Muslim population in the world, had 221,000 of pilgrims arriving in Makkah last year. Malaysia, a Muslim majority nation, increased its number of pilgrims to 31,300 in 2017 from an initial projection of 30,200.
The Makkah Road Initiative is part of the National Transition Programs (2020). It aims to fulfil the Vision 2030 objective of having well-developed public services and infrastructure throughout the Kingdom.