ISRO plans to test ground landing of ‘desi’ space shuttle

Agencies
October 7, 2020

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New Delhi, Oct 7: The Indian space agency is likely to test its reusable launch vehicle's (RLV) landing on the ground sometime in November or December 2020, said a senior official.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is targeting to build RLV similar to USA's space shuttle to put into orbit satellites and come back to land for the next mission. This in turn would bring down the satellite launch costs.

The two Indian rockets in service - Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) - and also the upcoming Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) - are expendable ones.

"We are planning to test the Reusable Launch Vehicle's landing in Chitradurga District in Karnataka. We want to do the test in November/December this year," S. Somanath, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) -- part of ISRO said.

As per plans, the RLV will be lifted up by a helicopter and from the height of four km it will be released.

Post release by the helicopter, the RLV will glide and navigate towards the runway and land on its own in an airfield in Chitradurga District deploying its parachute, Somanath said.

According to ISRO, RLV Interface System (RIS) for interfacing with helicopter and Qualification Model of landing gear have been realised.

Simply put, RLV will ascend to orbit, stay there, re-enter and land on a runway like an aircraft. The technology has the challenges of meeting the complexities of both -- a rocket and an aircraft.

According to Somanath, about 30-40 ISRO officials have to be taken to Chitradurga and stay there for about two weeks.

In 2016, ISRO successfully tested RLV's descent from an altitude of 65 km, its atmospheric re-entry at around Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound).

According to ISRO, the vehicle's navigation, guidance and control system accurately steered the vehicle during this phase for safe descent.

After successfully surviving high temperatures of re-entry with the help of its Thermal Protection System (TPS), the vehicle successfully glided down to the defined landing spot over Bay of Bengal, at a distance of about 450km from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

Total flight duration from launch to landing of this mission lasted for about 770 seconds.

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News Network
October 19,2020

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Houston, Oct 19: A 14-year-old Indian-American girl has won a USD 25,000 young scientist challenge for a discovery that could provide a potential treatment for Covid-19.

Anika Chebrolu, an eighth-grader from Frisco in Texas, won the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, regarded as the US' premier middle school science competition, for her work using in-silico methodology for drug discovery to find a molecule that can selectively bind to the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 virus in an attempt to find a cure for the coronavirus pandemic, according to the 3M Challenge website.

3M is an American manufacturing company based in Minnesota.

Chebrolu decided to take part in the Young Scientist Challenge after she battled a severe influenza infection last year. She wanted to find a cure for influenza. However, that all changed after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the website said.

“I was drawn towards finding effective cures for influenza disease after a severe bout of the infection last year,” Chebrolu said.

“I would like to learn more from 3M scientists to pursue my drug development and with their help, would like to conduct in-vitro and in-vivo testing of my lead drug candidate,” she said.

Chebrolu was one of the 10 finalists in this year’s 3M Young Scientist Challenge. In addition to the prize money, she was also awarded an exclusive 3M Mentorship.

As a finalist, she worked with 3M Corporate Scientist Dr Mahfuza Ali, who mentored Chebrolu one-on-one throughout the summer. Together, they transformed her idea from concept to reality.

Dr Ali helped Chebrolu perfect her innovation through the scientific method, and she presented her project to a judging panel of scientists and leaders. Each finalist was evaluated on a series of challenges and the presentation of their completed innovation.

"I am extremely humbled at being selected America's Top Young Scientist as all of the finalists had amazing projects and were extremely well-rounded individuals," Chebrolu said.

"Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go understand it fully," said Chebrolu, who wants to become a medical researcher and professor.

Talking to CNN, Chebrolu said, "The last two days, I saw that there is a lot of media hype about my project since it involves the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives soon."

Chebrolu said she was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the US despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs on the market.

"Chebrolu has an inquisitive mind and used her curiosity to ask questions about a vaccine for Covid-19," Dr Cindy Moss, a judge for the competition, told CNN.

"Her work was comprehensive and examined numerous databases. She also developed an understanding of the innovation process and is a masterful communicator. Her willingness to use her time and talent to help make the world a better place gives us all hope," Moss said.

Chebrolu said that winning the prize and title of top young scientist is an honour, but her work isn't done.

Her next goal, she says, is to work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to "control the morbidity and mortality" of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus.

"My effort to find a lead compound to bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus this summer may appear to be a drop in the ocean, but still adds to all these efforts," she told CNN.

"How I develop this molecule further with the help of virologists and drug development specialists will determine the success of these efforts," she said.

Denise Rutherford, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at 3M in his congratulatory message said that amidst the challenges of a global pandemic, quality STEM education for all has become an even more urgent need.

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