India successfully launches first privately made rocket

India successfully launches first privately made rocket
The 545-kg rocket, developed by space startup Skyroot, took off from the Indian space agency’s launch site near Chennai and hit a peak altitude of 89.5 kilometers (km). (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 18 November 2022

India successfully launches first privately made rocket

India successfully launches first privately made rocket
  • The Skyroot rockets are named after Vikram Sarabhai, an Indian physicist and astronomer

BENGALURU: India successfully launched its first privately developed rocket, the Vikram-S, on Friday, a milestone in the country’s effort to create a commercial space industry and to compete on cost.
The 545-kg rocket, developed by space startup Skyroot, took off from the Indian space agency’s launch site near Chennai and hit a peak altitude of 89.5 kilometers (km).
The rocket has the capability of reaching Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound — and carrying a payload of 83 kg to an altitude of 100 kilometers, the company said.
The Skyroot team had set a target of 80 km for its first launch, a benchmark some agencies define as the frontier of space. The Karman line — set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space — is at 100 km altitude.
Video footage showed the rocket taking off from the space center, leaving a plume of smoke and fire in its trail. It splashed down in the Bay of Bengal about 5 minutes after launch, officials said.
“I’m happy to announce the successful completion of Mission Prarambh, the beginning,” said Pawan Goenka, who chairs the Indian government agency that coordinates private-sector space activities.
Skyroot, which was started by Pawan Chandana and Bharath Daka, has set a target of cutting development costs by up to 90 percent versus existing platforms to launch small satellites.
It expects to achieve that cost savings by using a rocket architecture that can be assembled in less than 72 hours with composite materials. It plans launches capable of delivering satellites starting next year.
“Innovation and cost efficiency should be the two drivers for the industry. Cost efficiency has already been achieved, and now we should look at cutting edge technology,” Chandana said.
The Indian government has been pushing to develop a private space industry to complement its state-run space program known for its affordable launches and missions.
India’s unmanned Mars mission in 2014 cost only $74 million, and made headlines for costing less than the Academy Award winnning film “Gravity.”
Until now, the state-run ISRO has had a monopoly on launching rockets in India.
The Skyroot rockets are named after Vikram Sarabhai, the Indian physicist and astronomer considered the father of India’s space program.
Hyderabad-based Skyroot, founded in 2018 and backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, was the first space startup to sign an agreement to use Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launch and test facilities after the government opened the door to private companies in 2020.
It has raised 5.26 billion rupees ($64.42 million) so far and employs about 200 people. Close to 100 people have been involved in its maiden launch project, the company said. ($1 = 81.6550 Indian rupees)


NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials

NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials
Updated 26 November 2022

NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials

NASA Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials
  • “The orbit is distant in that Orion will fly about 40,000 miles above the Moon,” NASA said

WASHINGTON: NASA’s Orion spacecraft was placed in lunar orbit Friday, officials said, as the much-delayed Moon mission proceeded successfully.
A little over a week after the spacecraft blasted off from Florida bound for the Moon, flight controllers “successfully performed a burn to insert Orion into a distant retrograde orbit,” the US space agency said on its web site.
The spacecraft is to take astronauts to the Moon in the coming years — the first to set foot on its surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
This first test flight, without a crew on board, aims to ensure that the vehicle is safe.
“The orbit is distant in that Orion will fly about 40,000 miles above the Moon,” NASA said.
While in lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor key systems and perform checkouts while in the environment of deep space, the agency said.
It will take Orion about a week to complete half an orbit around the Moon. It will then exit the orbit for the return journey home, according to NASA.
On Saturday, the ship is expected to go up to 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, a record for a habitable capsule. The current record is held by the Apollo 13 spacecraft at 248,655 miles (400,171 km) from Earth.
It will then begin the journey back to Earth, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean scheduled for December 11, after just over 25 days of flight.
The success of this mission will determine the future of the Artemis 2 mission, which will take astronauts around the Moon without landing, then Artemis 3, which will finally mark the return of humans to the lunar surface.
Those missions are scheduled to take place in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

 


Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars
Updated 25 November 2022

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars

Singing street marshals are Qatar World Cup’s surprise stars
  • The unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals
  • They point visitors in the right direction on their search for public

DOHA: The World Cup 2010 in South Africa had Shakira. The 1998 tournament in France had Ricky Martin.
For many fans, the unofficial soundtrack of the World Cup in Qatar is fast becoming the incessant chanting of street marshals, better known as Last Mile Marshals.
Seated all over Doha on high chairs more commonly used by lifeguards at swimming pools, these migrant workers have become a staple of the Middle East’s first World Cup.
They point visitors flooding into this Arabian Peninsula nation in the right direction on their search for public transportation. It’s an important crowd control measure as some 1.2 million fans are expected to inundate Qatar, a country home to 3 million people.
The vast majority of the marshals come from Kenya and Ghana. They say they responded to job ads in August and September, ahead of the World Cup.
After a monotonous start, some marshals now sing or chant their instructions to fans. Bullhorns they carry blast out the recorded message again, and again, and again.


The instructions spark laughter among fans who often join in with the chants.
“Which way?” the fans chant.
“This way,” ushers respond, pointing a giant foam finger toward a station on Doha’s new massive underground metro built for the tournament.
The exchange then finds its rhythm and turns into almost a song: “Metro, metro, metro, this way, this way, this way.”
Abubakar Abbas of Kenya says it all started as a way of easing boredom during his first days of work.
“The fans were just passing by without any engagement,” Abbas said from his high chair outside the Souq Waqif metro station, “So I decided to come up with an idea where I can engage the fans and be interesting at the same time. That’s how I came up with the idea and thank God it is trending now.”
Qatar’s World Cup has already produced memorable moments on the pitch, including Argentina’s surprise defeat to Saudi Arabia and Germany’s loss to Japan.
Outside the stadiums, the marshals trance-like chant is stuck in people’s head.
“Even when I sleep at night, I hear ‘metro, metro, metro’ ringing in my head,” he said.


Huge horde of Celtic gold coins stolen from German museum

The Celtic-Roman Museum is pictured in the evening light, in Manching, Germany, Tuesday Nov. 22, 2022. (AP)
The Celtic-Roman Museum is pictured in the evening light, in Manching, Germany, Tuesday Nov. 22, 2022. (AP)
Updated 23 November 2022

Huge horde of Celtic gold coins stolen from German museum

The Celtic-Roman Museum is pictured in the evening light, in Manching, Germany, Tuesday Nov. 22, 2022. (AP)
  • The German news agency dpa reported that authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed about 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), at several million euros (dollars)

BERLIN: A huge horde of ancient gold coins dating back to around 100 B.C. has been stolen from a museum in southern Germany, police said Tuesday.
Bavarian state police said it was stolen early Tuesday from the Celtic and Roman Museum in Manching, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Munich.
The 483 coins were discovered in 1999 during excavations of an ancient settlement in Manchning and are considered the biggest trove of Celtic gold found in the 20th century.
The German news agency dpa reported that authorities estimate the value of the coins, which together weighed about 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds), at several million euros (dollars).
“The loss of the Celtic treasure is a disaster,” it quoted Bavaria’s Minister of Science and Arts, Markus Blume, saying. “As a testament to our history, the gold coins are irreplaceable.”
He said the thieves had shown “incredible criminal energy.”
Police are appealing for witnesses who might have seen suspicious individuals near the museum or have other information that could lead to the recovery of the treasure.

 


Saudi-backed Lucid EV cars get global launch

Saudi-backed Lucid EV cars get global launch
Updated 23 November 2022

Saudi-backed Lucid EV cars get global launch

Saudi-backed Lucid EV cars get global launch
  • The Lucid Air has already been named the MotorTrend Car of the Year and honored as one of Time Magazine’s 200 Best Innovations of 2022

BEVERLY HILLS: Just a few weeks after Lucid Motors opened their first Middle East studio in Riyadh, and four years after the Saudi government made its initial investment of $1 billion, the vehicle manufacturer held the global launch event for their debut line of electric sedans. 

And Saudi support has been influential in bringing the vehicle to fruition, according to Derek Jenkins, senior vice-president of design at Lucid.

“We wouldn't be here today without the support from the Saudi Public Investment Fund,” he said. “It allowed us to really develop our technology, not just at a concept level, but all the way through the production and deliver it to customers worldwide.” 

The Lucid Air has already been named the MotorTrend Car of the Year and honored as one of Time Magazine’s 200 Best Innovations of 2022.

With the full line now launched and more planned for 2023, Lucid is working to stand out in the electric car market.

“It's a relentless obsession on efficiency as well as performance and taking the technology of electric cars to an entirely new level,” Jenkins said.

“The Lucid Air is really just the first step at that. Then we go into our SUV and then more mainstream models later on, and we really want to be at the very pinnacle of the technology.”

As they premiere their cars worldwide, Lucid has an eye on the Middle East, hoping to boost the prominence of electric vehicles in the region. They revealed plans in May for the construction of a world-class Lucid production factory in Saudi Arabia with a capacity of 155,000 electric vehicles. The plant will be located in the King Abdullah Economic City.

Jenkins continued: “The car looks amazing on the road over there. And we have a lot of people, not just from Saudi Arabia but all over the Middle East, that are fans of Lucid, and they're following Lucid very closely. So we're super excited about that.” 


NASA capsule buzzes moon, last big step before lunar orbit

This handout from NASA TV shows NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the moon on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP)
This handout from NASA TV shows NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the moon on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP)
Updated 22 November 2022

NASA capsule buzzes moon, last big step before lunar orbit

This handout from NASA TV shows NASA's Orion spacecraft approaching the moon on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP)
  • The capsule accelerated well beyond 5,000 mph (8,000 kph) as it regained radio contact, NASA said. Less than an hour later, Orion soared above Tranquility Base, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on July 20, 1969

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA’s Orion capsule reached the moon Monday, whipping around the far side and buzzing the lunar surface on its way to a record-breaking orbit with test dummies sitting in for astronauts.
It’s the first time a capsule has visited the moon since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago, and represents a huge milestone in the $4.1 billion test flight that began last Wednesday.
The close approach of 81 miles (130 kilometers) occurred as the crew capsule and its three wired-up dummies were on the far side of the moon. Because of a half-hour communication blackout, flight controllers in Houston did not know if the critical engine firing went well until the capsule emerged from behind the moon, 232,000 miles (370,000 kilometers) from Earth.
The capsule’s cameras sent back a picture of the world — a tiny blue orb surrounded by blackness.
“Our pale blue dot and its 8 billion human inhabitants now coming into view,” said Mission Control commentator Sandra Jones.
The capsule accelerated well beyond 5,000 mph (8,000 kph) as it regained radio contact, NASA said. Less than an hour later, Orion soared above Tranquility Base, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on July 20, 1969.
“This is one of those days that you’ve been thinking about and talking about for a long, long time,” flight director Zeb Scoville said.
Earlier in the morning, the moon loomed ever larger in the video beamed back, as the capsule closed the final few thousand miles since blasting off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, atop the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA.
Orion needed to slingshot around the moon to pick up enough speed to enter the sweeping, lopsided lunar orbit. Flight controllers evaluated the data pouring back, to determine if the engine firing went as planned. Another firing will place the capsule in that elongated orbit Friday.
This coming weekend, Orion will shatter NASA’s distance record for a spacecraft designed for astronauts — nearly 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers) from Earth, set by Apollo 13 in 1970. And it will keep going, reaching a maximum distance from Earth next Monday at nearly 270,000 miles (433,000 kilometers).
The capsule will spend close to a week in lunar orbit, before heading home. A Pacific splashdown is planned for Dec. 11.
Orion has no lunar lander; a touchdown won’t come until NASA astronauts attempt a lunar landing in 2025 with SpaceX’s Starship. Before then, astronauts will strap into Orion for a ride around the moon as early as 2024.
NASA managers were delighted with the progress of the mission. The Space Launch System rocket performed exceedingly well in its debut, they told reporters late last week.
The 322-foot (98-meter) rocket caused more damage than expected, however, at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad. The force from the 8.8 million pounds (4 million kilograms) of liftoff thrust was so great that it tore off the blast doors of the elevator.