SPR 2022 | Science and Technology Current Affairs Compilation for Prelims 2022

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Table of Contents

Space:

GSLV-F10

Context:

  • ISRO’S GSLV-F10 flight in August last year failed because of a malfunctioning valve that led to insufficient pressure in the liquid hydrogen tank in the cryogenic upper stage of the launch vehicle – National-level failure analysis committee.

Background:

  • ISRO launched its GSLV F10 mission on August 12, 2021, with the GISAT-1 Earth-observation satellite. The mission failed 10 minutes after liftoff.

EOS-03:

  • EOS-03 was a state-of-the-art agile Earth observation satellite that was supposed to be placed in a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit by GSLV-F10.
  • It was meant to provide almost real-time images of large parts of the country that could be used for monitoring natural disasters like floods and cyclones, water bodies, crops, vegetation and forest cover.
  • The SSLV is designed to cater to the increasing demand for the launch of small satellites, mainly from businesses and universities; it costs much less and consumes less energy.

Sea Animals at the International Space Station (ISS)

Context: NASA has announced that it will carry 128 glow-in-the-dark juvenile squids and 5,000 tardigrades (commonly known as water bears) to the International Space Station for scientific purposes.

More about the news

  • On SpaceX's 22nd cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, the aquatic animals will be launched.
  • They're participating in experiments that could help scientists design stronger safety procedures for astronauts on long-duration space flights.
  • The experiments also want to learn more about how beneficial microbes interact with animals, which could lead to improvements in global human health.

Why are sea animals required on the ISS?

  • Water bears and bobtail squid will be among the animals tested aboard the floating laboratory.
  • When they arrive, they will be semi-frozen and will be thawed, revived, and developed in a particular bio-culture system.
  • The researchers will be able to examine water bear hardiness up close, possibly pinpointing the genes that allow them to be so tough.
  • Better tactics for keeping humans healthy on long-duration space flights could be created by examining how water bears thrive in zero gravity.
  • The researchers want to explore how microgravity impacts the relationship between the bobtail squid and helpful bacteria as part of a project called Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions (UMAMI).
  • Microbes are necessary for the proper development of animal tissues and for human health.
  • As a result of this research, scientists will have a better understanding of how beneficial microorganisms interact with animals in the absence of gravity.
  • In the human body, microorganisms play a variety of activities, including digestion, immune system development, and toxic detoxification.
  • The discoveries will help space agencies devise more effective techniques to protect astronauts on long-duration missions against detrimental host-microbe alterations.

More about Tardigrades

  • They're tiny eight-legged creatures who've travelled to the farthest reaches of the universe and are likely to survive the end of the world.
  • They have the appearance of sweet little bears.
  • They're classified as aquatic since they need a thin layer of water to keep from becoming dehydrated.
  • Grasshoppers, praying mantises, and other insects with whom they are related have a thick cuticle covering their exoskeletons.
  • They're extremophiles or animals that can survive in environments where most other animals can't.
  • They can also survive in -196°F or more than boiling temperatures, at pressures six times that of the ocean's deepest caverns, and in space.
  • They prefer to live in the silt at the bottom of the lake, on moist moss, and in other damp environments.

Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment-2 (CIBER-2)

Context: CIBER-2 recounts the total of stars in the Universe.

About CIBER-2

  • CIBER-2 is one of a number of active initiatives aimed at observing integrated lights across the universe, which will aid in determining and locating the true figures of the stars.
  • The equipment will be launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration atop a sounding rocket (NASA).
  • Once above the Earth's atmosphere, the sensor will study an area of the sky that will contain dozens of galaxies clustered together.
  • It won't actually count individual stars; instead, it'll detect the extragalactic background light (EBL).
  • The CIBER-2 will focus on a part of the EBL known as Cosmic Infrared Background (CIB), which is emitted by some of the most distant stars.
  • By looking at how bright are those lights, scientists will be able to estimate the number of stars out there.

What is EBL?

  • EBL is a background glow created over time by the cumulative photons produced in the universe.
  • It was used in the first CIBER mission to calculate the total light from stars on a scale ranging from optical to ultraviolet.

What are sounding rockets?

  • The word “sounding rocket” comes from the nautical verb “to sound,” which implies “to take measurements.”
  • They are solid-propellant rockets with one or two stages that are used for investigating the upper atmosphere for space research.

EnVision Mission

Context: European Space Agency (ESA) has announced the mission EnVision to Venus.

What is Mission EnVision?

  • EnVision is an ESA-led Venus orbiter mission with NASA support that is expected to launch after 2030
  • It will be the successor of the ESA-led Venus Express mission, which discovered volcanic hotspots on the planet's surface from 2005 to 2014.

About Venus

  • Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system because of the heat that is trapped by its thick cloud cover.
  • It is the second-brightest object in the sky after the moon because of its thick cloud cover that reflects and scatters light. 
  • Venus, the second closest planet to the Sun, is called the Earth’s twin because of their similar sizes.
  • The planet moves forward on its orbit around the Sun but spins backwards around its axis slowly. This means on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the East.
  • One day on Venus is equivalent to 243 Earth days because of its backward spinning, opposite to that of the Earth’s and most other planets. 
  • Venus does not have a moon and no rings.

Fast Radio Bursts (FRB)

Context: Hundreds of mysterious radio bursts detected in space by CHIME Telescope.

What is an FRB?

  • FRBs are dazzling bursts of radio waves that last milliseconds before fading without a trace, as found in 2007.
  • Their origins are unknown, and their look varies greatly.

About the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Telescope

  • It is a big radio telescope that is permanently installed in British Columbia, Canada.
  • While typical radio astronomy involves swiveling a big dish to focus light from different parts of the sky, CHIME just stares at the sky and utilizes a correlator to focus incoming signals.
  • Between 2018 and 2019, it identified roughly 535 new rapid radio bursts in its first year of operation.
  • The CHIME partnership includes the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Pune and the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA).

 

 

Suborbital Flight

Context:

  • Virgin Group founder Richard Branson became the first billionaire to fly to the edge of space and back, riding aboard his own Virgin Galactic spacecraft in a suborbital flight.

What is Suborbital Flight?

  • When an object travels at a horizontal speed of about 28,000 km/hr or more, it goes into orbit once it is above the atmosphere.
  • Satellites need to reach that threshold speed in order to orbit Earth.
  • Such a satellite would be accelerating towards the Earth due to gravity, but its horizontal movement is fast enough to offset the downward motion so that it moves along a circular path.
  • Any object travelling slower than 28,000 km/hr must eventually return to Earth.
  • These are suborbital flights because they will not be travelling fast enough to orbit Earth once they reach there.
  • Such a trip allows space travellers to experience a few minutes of “weightlessness”.

Analogical example

  • For an analogy, consider a cricket ball thrown into the air.
  • Given that no human hand can give it a speed of 28,000 km/hr (about 8 m/sec), the ball will fly in an arc until its entire kinetic energy is swapped with potential energy.
  • At that instant, it will lose its vertical motion momentarily, before returning to Earth under the influence of gravity.
  • A suborbital flight is like this cricket ball, but travelling fast enough to reach the “edge of space”, and yet without enough horizontal velocity to go into orbit.
  • If an object travels as fast as 40,000 km/hr, it will achieve escape velocity, and never return to Earth.

Why the buzz?

  • With Branson and Jeff Bezos kicking off private space flight, several companies are looking for customers wanting to go on suborbital or even orbital journeys.
  • At Branson’s Virgin Galactic, around 600 people have already paid deposits for tickets that are priced up to $250,000 (Rs 1.86 crore).
  • However, Bezos’s Blue Origin, which uses the reusable New Shepard rocket, is yet to announce commercialization plans, according to the BBC.
  • There is also excitement among scientists who want to use suborbital flights for microgravity research.
  • Such flights would be far less expensive than carrying experiments and people to the International Space Station.
  • Suborbital flights could also be an alternative to parabolic flights in aeroplanes that space agencies currently use to simulate zero gravity.

Safety concerns

  • The Branson flight comes seven years after his company’s first rocket, called Enterprise, crashed during a test flight, killing one of the pilots on board.
  • The other survived after parachuting out.
  • The current rocket is also not certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration, which is prohibited to do so by law until 2023.
  • This is because the US government does not want to burden companies like Virgin Atlantic with regulations during their “learning” period when they can innovate by trying out different designs and procedures.
  • Passengers who go on such trips need to sign “informed consent” forms, similar to the ones before going for skydiving or bungee jumping.

Gaganyaan

  • Context:
    • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch the first uncrewed mission in December, as part of the human spaceflight programme ‘Gaganyaan’. It is facing challenges due to the adverse impact of the COVID-19-induced lockdowns that has disrupted hardware delivery schedules.
    • As part of the mandate of Gaganyaan, two uncrewed flights are planned to test the end-to-end capacity for the manned mission.

When was it announced?

  • The formal announcement of the Gaganyaan programme was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day address on August 15, 2018.
  • The initial target was to launch human spaceflight before the 75th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15, 2022.

Objectives:

  • The objective of the Gaganyaan programme is to demonstrate the capability to send humans to low earth orbit onboard an Indian launch vehicle and bring them back to earth safely.

Preparation and launch:

  • Four Indian astronaut candidates have already undergone generic space flight training in Russia as part of the Gaganyaan Programme.
  • ISRO’s heavy-lift launcher GSLV Mk III has been identified for the mission.

Relevance of a Manned Space Mission for India:

Boost to industries:

  • The Indian industry will find large opportunities through participation in highly demanding Space missions. Gaganyaan Mission is expected to source nearly 60% of its equipment from the Indian private sector.
  • Employment: According to the ISRO chief, the Gaganyaan mission would create 15,000 new employment opportunities, 13,000 of them in private industry and the space organisation would need additional manpower of 900.
  • Spurs research and development: It will thrust significant research in areas such as materials processing, astrobiology, resources mining, planetary chemistry, planetary orbital calculus and many other areas.
  • Motivation: Human space flight will provide that inspiration to the youth and also the national public mainstream. It would inspire the young generation into notable achievements and enable them to play their legitimate role in challenging future activities.
  • Prestige: India could potentially become the fourth country to launch a human space mission. The Gaganyaan will not only bring about prestige to the nation but also establish India’s role as a key player in the space industry. 
  • “Unity 22” will be Virgin Galactic's next rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShip- VSS Unity.

About the mission:

  • As part of the mission, the crew will be flying to the edge of space on July 11 onboard the ‘Unity’ rocket ship developed by Virgin Galactic.
  • This will be the 22nd mission for VSS Unity.
  • This will be Virgin Galactic’s fourth crewed spaceflight.
  • It will also be the first to carry a full crew of two pilots and four mission specialists in the cabin, including Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, who will be testing out the private astronaut experience.

Objectives of the mission:

  • Unity 22 will focus on testing the cabin and customer experience.
  • Currently, two additional test flights remain before the Virgin Galactic plans to commence commercial service in 2022.

Significance for India:

  • Sirisha Bandla, an astronaut born in India, will be a part of the crew.
  • This is significant as she will be the third woman of Indian origin to go to space after Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams.
  • Rakesh Sharma is another Indian who went into space prior to Bandla.

The uniqueness of VSS Unity Spaceship:

  • Virgin Galactic's suborbital spacecraft is air-launched from beneath a carrier aircraft ‘White Knight Two’. The space vehicle can climb to an altitude of around 90 kilometres, enough to give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth’s curvature from the edge of space.

North Eastern Space Applications Centre

  • Context:
    • In news NESAC (North Eastern Space Applications Centre) Society Meeting was recently held at NESAC, Shillong, Meghalaya. 
    • NESAC has released North Eastern Spatial Data Repository (NeSDR) with about 950 datasets. 
    • These datasets are related to infrastructure, land and water resources, disaster management support inputs. 
    • All the States are to take advantage of these data sets by signing MoUs with NESAC for specific activities such as detecting encroachments, and epidemic planning. 
  • What are the focused areas of NESAC?
    • Activities of NESAC are focused on the practical applications of space technology in agriculture and allied fields like silk farming where it can help in the early detection of diseases,
  • What are the achievements of NESAC?
    • NESAC (North Eastern Space Applications Centre) has enabled the States to address issues and challenges of the North Eastern region with the support of space technology.
    • The organisation can also provide the required strategic inputs for the entire region for its overall development and strategic planning.
    • NESAC has helped preserve forests by assessing forest fires and protecting endangered wildlife such as rhinos by studying the changing land cover. 
    • NESAC has used satellite communication for telemedicine, and tele-education 
    • NESAC has helped in weather prediction, and forecasting thunderstorms, lightning, and providing early flood warnings.

CST-100 Starliner

  • Context:
    • CST-100 Starliner is a space capsule of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which failed its first test flight. Its objective was to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • About:
    • The capsule CST-100 Starliner was built by Boeing.
    • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) relies on Russia to get its astronauts on the space station. This failure is likely to push back further NASA’s attempt at resuming human spaceflight from the United States.
    • NASA has contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to build spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
    • SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch in 2020. It will be a crewless flight, and if it succeeds, SpaceX could be in a position to send astronauts into space.
  • International Space Station:
    • The International Space Station (ISS) is a habitable artificial satellite – the single largest man-made structure in low earth orbit.
    • It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day.
    • The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies:
      • NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada) but its ownership and use have been established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
    • Its first component was launched into orbit in 1998 and its development and assembly still continue.
    • It serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
    • Continuous presence at ISS has resulted in the longest continuous human presence in the low earth orbit.
    • It is expected to operate until 2030.

Inspiration4

  • Context:
    • SpaceX announced that ‘Inspiration4’, its first all-civilian, non-governmental spaceflight, is on track for launch on September 15.
  • About:
    • Inspiration4 is the world’s first all-civilian mission to orbit.
    • The flight will be privately operated by SpaceX (US Private Space Company) using a previously-flown Crew Dragon capsule launched to low Earth orbit.
    • Inspiration4 will blast off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on September 15.
    • The mission involves circling the Earth for three days and then splashing down into the Atlantic Ocean.
    • Inspiration4 will orbit the Earth at 575km, higher than the International Space Station (408km) and the Hubble space telescope (547km).
    • This will be the farthest distance travelled by a crewed mission since 2009, when astronauts last went to repair the Hubble.
    • The mission will raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US.
  • Other facts:
    • SpaceX company’s Ax-1 mission, also planned for the end of 2021, hosts a crew of four private astronauts paying $55 million each for an eight-day trip to the ISS.
    • In 2018, Elon Musk also announced Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will take a ride around the moon on SpaceX’s new rocket system Starship, which is under development.
    • Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond.

Hycean Worlds: Exoplanets

  • Context:
    • Recently, some astronomers have identified a new class of exoplanets – Hycean worlds.
  • About:
    • The word Hycean comes from the words hydrogen and ocean. Planet-wide oceans and hydrogen-rich atmospheres might cover these worlds.
    • They are also uniquely alien, up to 2.6 times the diameter of Earth, with temperatures up to 200 degrees celsius and thick hydrogen atmospheres. This places them somewhere between Earth and giant planets like Neptune or Uranus.
    • With no analogues in the Solar System, these planets are variedly classed as super-Earths or mini-Neptunes depending on inferences about their bulk compositions based on their densities.
    • These planets, unlike most mini-Neptunes, may have solid surfaces, like Earth. Many of the known Hycean candidates are larger and hotter than Earth, but still would be able to host large oceans.
    • Some Hyceans orbit is so close to their stars that they're tidally locked, with one hot dayside and one eternally dark nightside. And some orbit very far away, receiving very little stellar radiation. But life could exist even on such extreme Hyceans.
    • Tidal locking is the name given to the situation when an object’s orbital period matches its rotational period.
  • Exoplanets:
    • An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet outside the Solar System. The first confirmation of detection of exoplanets occurred in 1992.
    • More than 4,400 exoplanets have been discovered till now.
    • They are very hard to see directly with telescopes. They are hidden by the bright glare of the stars they orbit. So, astronomers use other ways to detect and study exoplanets such as looking at the effects these planets have on the stars they orbit.

ATL Space Challenge 2021

  • Context:
    • Recently, NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) in collaboration with ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) has launched 'ATL Space Challenge 2021’.
    • Earlier, the Union cabinet in June 2020 decided to open up the space sector for private sector participation, and cleared the creation of a new entity, the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe), to encourage private companies to use India’s space infrastructure.
  • About:
    • This is to ensure that students of classes 6 to 12 are given an open platform where they can innovate and enable themselves to solve digital age space technology problems.
    • Students from both ATL (Atal Tinkering Labs) and non-ATL schools can submit their entries in the space challenge. School teachers, ATL In-charges and mentors may support the student teams.
    • Under the ATL initiative, schools receive a grant for setting up such labs to encourage students to give shape to their ideas and come up with innovative experiments on their own in these laboratories.
    • It aligns with the World Space Week 2021 which is observed from 4th -10th October each year, to celebrate the contributions of space science and technology.
    • This comes against the backdrop of India’s push to move up in the Global Innovation Index (GII, released by the World Intellectual Property Organisation) rankings.
  • Atal Innovation Mission:
    • AIM is the Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country.
    • Its objective is to develop new programmes and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of the economy, provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness and create an umbrella structure to oversee the innovation ecosystem of the country.
  • Major Initiatives:
    • Atal Tinkering Labs: Creating a problem-solving mindset across schools in India.
    • Atal Incubation Centers: Fostering world-class startups and adding a new dimension to the incubator model.
    • Atal New India Challenges: Fostering product innovations and aligning them to the needs of various sectors/ministries.
    • Mentor India Campaign: A national mentor network in collaboration with the public sector, corporates and institutions, to support all the initiatives of the mission.
    • Atal Community Innovation Center: To stimulate community-centric innovation and ideas in the unserved /underserved regions of the country including Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities.
    • Atal Research and Innovation for Small Enterprises (ARISE): To stimulate innovation and research in the MSME industry.

Planetarium Innovation Challenge

  • Context:
    • Recently, MyGov India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), launched the Planetarium Innovation Challenge for Indian start-ups and tech entrepreneurs.
  • About Planetarium Innovation Challenge:
    • The Indian Space Research Organization conducted the ISRO Quiz competition which was Inspired by the Chandrayaan mission in collaboration with MyGov, where several schools, parents and enthusiastic mentors made it memorable through their active participation. 
    • Planetarium Innovation Challenge was launched looking forward to a repeat of the ISRO Quiz.
    • The challenge invites applications from start-ups and tech entrepreneurs to develop state-of-the-art technology for Planetariums.
    • It perfectly aligns with the objective of the nation’s progressive digital transformation under the larger umbrella of Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
    • Evaluation Parameters: Approach towards problem-solving, Product Idea, Degree of Innovation, Novelty of Approach, Innovation, Replicability, Scalability, Usability, and Ease of deployment/roll-out and potential risks involved in the implementation of the solution.
  • Aims:
    • To bring together the tech firms and Startups (based out of India) with the potential to build an indigenous planetariums system software using the latest technologies including Augmented Reality (A.R.), Virtual Reality (V.R.) and Merged Reality (M.R.)especially for smaller cities and rural areas, all Made in India.
  • Awards and Opportunities:
    • The first winner, second winner and third winner under the contest will get the cash prizes of Rs.5 lakh, Rs.3 lakh and Rs.2 lakh respectively. 
    • The winners and participants will get the opportunity to meet peers in the field and get to know the latest advancement in the Ecosystem. 

Microchip: Smallest Man-Made Flying Structure

  • Context:
    • Recently, Northwestern University (US) has created an Electronic Microchip or Microflier with the capability of flight. It is the smallest-ever human-made flying structure.
  • About:
    • It is about the size of a grain of sand and does not have a motor or engine.
    • It catches flight on the wind — much like a maple tree’s propeller seed — and spins like a helicopter through the air toward the ground.
  • Idea Behind the Design:
    • The engineers optimised their design by studying maple trees and other types of wind-dispersed seeds and fashioned the micro flier such that when dropped from a height it would fall at a slow velocity in a controlled manner.
    • This behaviour stabilizes its flight, ensures dispersal over a broad area and increases the amount of time it interacts with the air.
    • They designed many different types of micro fliers, including one with three wings, resembling the wings on a tristellateia seed.
  • Significance:
    • It can be packed with ultra-miniaturised technology, including sensors, power sources, antennas for wireless communication and embedded memory to store data.
    • Miniaturization is the trend to manufacture ever-smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products and devices.
    • It is ideal for monitoring Air Pollution and Airborne Disease.

Dark Energy

  • Context:
    • Recently, an international team of researchers made the first direct detection of dark energy. The experiment named XENON1T, is the world’s most sensitive dark matter experiment and was operated deep underground at the INFN Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso in Italy.
    • Dark energy is the mysterious form of energy that makes up about 68% of the universe and has intrigued physicists and astronomers for decades.
  • About the Experiment:
    • The XENON1T is a dark matter research project, operated at the Italian Gran Sasso National Laboratory.
    • It is a deep underground research facility featuring increasingly ambitious experiments aiming to detect dark matter particles.
    • The experiments aim to detect particles in the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) by looking for rare interactions via nuclear recoils in a liquid xenon target chamber.
  • Other Dark Matter and Energy Experiments:
    • LUX-Zeplin – a next-generation dark matter experiment located at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, US.
    • PandaX-xT – project at China Jinping Underground Laboratory.
  • Dark Matter And Dark Energy:
    • While dark matter attracts and holds galaxies together, dark energy repels and causes the expansion of our universe.
    • Despite both components being invisible, a lot more is known about dark matter, since its existence was suggested as early as the 1920s, while dark energy wasn’t discovered until 1998.
  • About Dark Energy:
    • The Big Bang occurred nearly 15 billion years ago and expanded. Earlier, astronomers believed that eventually the expansion of the Universe will slow down because of gravity and it will recollapse.
    • However, data from the Hubble Telescope suggested that the Universe's expansion is accelerating.
    • The astronomers theorize that the faster expansion rate is due to a mysterious, dark force or energy that is pulling galaxies apart.
    • The term ‘dark’ is used to denote the unknown.
    • The following diagram reveals changes in the rate of expansion since the universe's birth 15 billion years ago.
  • Possible Explanations of Dark Energy:
    • Property of Space:
      • Albert Einstein was the first person to realize that empty space is not anything.
      • One version of Einstein's gravity theory, the version that contains a cosmological constant, implies that “empty space” can possess its own energy.
      • Because this energy is a property of space itself, it would not be diluted as space expands. As more space comes into existence, more of this energy-of-space would appear. As a result, this form of energy would cause the universe to expand faster and faster.
    • Quantum Theory of Matter:
      • Another explanation for how space acquires energy comes from the quantum theory of matter.
      • In this theory, “empty space” is actually full of temporary (“virtual”) particles that continually form and then disappear.
    • Fifth Fundamental Force:
      • There are four fundamental forces in the universe, and speculative theories have proposed a fifth force – something that can’t be explained by the four forces.
      • To hide or screen this fifth force, many models for dark energy use special mechanisms.
      • Some theorists have named this “quintessence,” after the fifth element of the Greek philosophers.
      • However, none of the theories has been proved. Due to this, Dark energy has been noted as “the most profound mystery in all of science”.

Landsat 9

  • Context:
    • Recently, NASA has launched an earth monitoring satellite called Landsat 9 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The satellite is a joint mission of NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS).
    • This satellite is referred to as NASA's new eye in the sky that will help study climate change.
  • Background:
    • Landsat-9 is the continuation of a series of Earth-observing spacecraft stretching back almost 50 years.
    • The first Landsat satellite was launched in 1972 and since then, Landsat satellites have collected images of earth and helped understand how land usage has changed over the decades.
    • In 2008, it was decided that all Landsat images will be free and publicly available and the policy has helped scores of researchers, farmers, policy analysts, glaciologists, and seismologists.
    • Landsat images have been used to study the health of forests, coral reefs, monitor water quality and melting glaciers.
  • About Landsat 9:
    • The Landsat 9 joins Landsat 8 that was launched in 2013 and the satellites together will collect images of Earth’s surface.
    • It takes 8 days to capture the whole Earth.
    • Landsat 9 carries instruments similar to the other Landsat satellites, but it is the most technologically advanced satellite of its generation.
    • The instruments aboard Landsat 9 are the Operational Land Imager 2 (OLI-2) and the Thermal Infrared Sensor 2 (TIRS-2).
  • OLI-2:
    • It captures sunlight reflected off Earth’s surface and studies the visible, near-infrared, and short wave infrared portions of the spectrum.
  • TIRS-2:
    • It has a four-element refractive telescope and photosensitive detectors that capture thermal radiation and help study the Earth’s surface temperature.
    • Along with the European Union’s Sentinel-2 satellites, the Landsat Satellite will provide a better estimation of the extent of climate change.

NASA’s VIPER Mission

  • Context:
    • NASA has chosen a landing site for the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER).
    • The site is on the western edge of the Nobile crater, near the lunar south pole. The crater was named after Italian polar explorer Umberto Nobile.
  • Background:
    • NASA, in July 2021, announced that it will launch its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, in 2023.
    • NASA is undertaking the mission to understand if it is possible for human life to sustain there, by using locally available resources.
  • About the mission:
    • VIPER is a mobile robot.
    • It is the first resource mapping mission on any other celestial body.
    • NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) will be providing the launch vehicle and lander for what’s going to be a 100-day mission.
  • Objectives of the mission:
    • To explore the Moon’s South Pole region.
    • Help create lunar resource maps.
    • Evaluate the concentration of water as well as other potential resources on its surface.
  • Significance of the mission:
    • VIPER’s findings will inform “future landing sites under the Artemis program by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested” to sustain humans over extended stays.

 

NASA's asteroid hunter LUCY soars into the sky with diamonds

  • Context:
    • NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) launched a spacecraft namedLucy on a 12-year mission to explore Jupiter's Trojan asteroids and gather new insights into the solar system's formation.

  • About the LUCY mission:
    • In January 2017, Lucy mission was chosen as a part of NASA’s Discovery Program. 
    • Started in 1992, NASA’s Discovery Program is a series of solar system exploration missions.
    • The Lucy mission is named after the fossilized human ancestor (called “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution.
    • Objectives:
      • To investigate a group of rocky bodies that are circling the Sun in two swarms – one preceding Jupiter and the other trailing behind it.
      • These asteroids are believed to be the remnants of the early solar system, and studyingthem will help scientists understand its origins and evolution, and why it looks the way itdoes.
      • Lucy is the first space mission launched to study the Trojan asteroids.
      • The total cost of the mission is USD 981 million.
    • Trajectory:
      • Lucy spacecraft was launched on 16th October 2021, and it will go on a 12-year journey.
      • Lucy's first encounter will be in 2025 with asteroid Donald Johanson in the Main Belt, between Mars and Jupiter.
      • The asteroid is named after the discoverer of the Lucy fossil.
      • Between 2027 and 2033, it will encounter seven Trojan asteroids – five in the swarm that leads Jupiter, and two in the swarm that trails the planet.
      • The Spacecraft will fly by its target objects within 400 kilometres of their surfaces.
      • Lucy will become the first solar-powered spacecraft to venture so far from the Sun, and will observe more asteroids than any probe before it – eight in total.
    • Payload: 
      • Lucy Thermal Emission Spectrometer (L’TES) – An instrument that will measure the surface temperature of the Trojan asteroids by observing the thermal infrared spectrum, helping to understand the physical properties of the surface material.
      • Lucy Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (L’LORRI) – A high resolution, panchromatic visible camera that will provide the most detailed images of the surface of the Trojan asteroids.
      • L’Ralph Linear Etalon Imaging Spectral Array (LEISA) – An infrared imaging spectrometer that will reveal the absorption lines that serve as the fingerprints for different silicates, ices and organics that may be on the surface of the Trojan asteroids.
      • L’Ralph Multi-spectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) – It will take colour images of the Trojans to help determine their composition.
    • What are Trojan asteroids?
      • The major group of Asteroids in our Solar System are found in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
      • However, there is another group of Asteroids called Trojans that share an orbit with a larger planet.
      • Jupiter has the largest number of Trojan asteroids discovered to date.
      • Neptune, Mars and Earth also have Trojan asteroids.
      • The Trojan Asteroids in orbit around the planet do not collide with the parent planet because they arelocated in places known as Lagrange points where the gravitational pull ofthe Sun and the planet are balanced.

China's hypersonic glide vehicle test

  • Context:
    • According to a report (London-based Financial Times), China recently tested a nuclear-powered hypersonic glide vehicle that has circled the globe before moving towards its target.
  • About the Hypersonic Weapons:
    • Hypersonic speed: In aerodynamics (study of the motion of air), a hypersonic speed is one that exceeds 5 times the speed of sound (= 343 meter per second in the air), starting at speeds of Mach 5 and above.
    • The ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound (in the same medium) is called the object's Mach number.
    • Missiles moving at or above Mach 5 speed are known as hypersonic weapons.
    • Types of hypersonic weapons:
      • On the basis of necessary thrust (required to propel themselves to distant targets), they produce, hypersonic weapons that can be classified as boost-glide weapons and hypersonic cruise missiles.
    • Boost-glide missiles: 
      • They consist of gliding vehicles mounted on the front of rocket boosters, much like those that launch spacecraft into orbit.
      • These boosters contain large quantities of propellant (fuel and a chemical oxidizer), required to accelerate the missile to high speeds.
      • Once they run out of propellant (after a few minutes into flight), these rockets detach from the glider and fall back to Earth.
      • The glider continues towards its target in unpowered flight (without an engine or propellant), taking advantage of aerodynamic forces to generate lift and maneuver.
      • Because boost-glide weapons carry their rocket boosters for only a short time, these boosters can be quite large and heavy.
      • The use of large rockets allows boost-glide weapons to achieve very high speeds (up to more than 20 times the speed of sound), making them the fastest hypersonic weapons.
    • Some examples of Boost-glide weapons: The US, Russia and China are all developing hypersonic weapons, including glide vehicles.
      • Russia’s Avangard, an intercontinental-range hypersonic boost-glide missile, is deployed as a nuclear-armed system.
    • China’s DF-17 missile, which carries the DF-ZF hypersonic glider, is designed to carry either conventional or nuclear explosives (according to sources).
  •  Countries having Hypersonic boost glid missiles:
    • Apart from China, the US and Russia are working on the technology. While this would be China’s first such test for the capability.
    • Hypersonic technology has a dual-use character, as it can be used for non-military purposes like space launch and spacecraft retrieval.
    • A hypersonic glide vehicle is launched by a rocket that moves in the Earth’s lower orbit, at more than five times to 25 times the speed of sound.
    • The vehicle is capable of carrying nuclear payloads, which gives the launching country the strategic capacity to attack almost any target across the world.

India’s Agni 5 ballistic missile

  • Context:
    • India’s Agni 5 ballistic missile was tested for the first time by the Strategic Forces Command.

  • About:
    • The nuclear-capable missile is India’s contender for the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of 5,000 km. The latest test comes after reports that China had tested a new hypersonic missile in August.
    • Agni 5 is India’s long-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which can hit a target with a precision that is 5,000 km away. This range puts almost the entire China within the missile’s target range.
    • Though officially an ICBM needs a missile to have a range of at least 5,500 km, the Agni 5 is India’s closest contender for an ICBM, as it can reach countries across other continents, including parts of Africa and Europe.
  • About Agni missiles in India:
    • India began testing the Agni series of missiles in 1989 with the first test for Agni 1, an Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile, with a range of around 1,000 km.
    • At that time only the US, the erstwhile Soviet Union, China, France and Israel, had IRBM technology.
    • Since then, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) labs have continued to work on it, bringing the latest available Agni 5 to its present capability.
    • In addition to the IRBM-capable nations, only North Korea and the UK have ICBM technology at the moment.
  • The emergence of ICBM:
    • Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, have a range of over 5,500 km.
    • It has existed since around World War II. These missiles, meant to carry nuclear payloads, have the capacity to carry several warheads.
    • An ICBM follows a parabolic trajectory, which means it goes up and then comes down in a high arc.

Perseverance

Context:

  • NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has emerged from its first “solar conjunction” blackout and gotten back to work on the Red Planet.

Background:

  • The Perseverance and other Mars spacecraft had to stand down for about two weeks recently when the Planet slipped behind the sun from Earth's perspective.
  • During solar conjunction, the sun can interfere in commands sent from Earth to Mars.

About Perseverance Rover:

  • NASA’s Perseverance rover is exploring the Jezero Crater on Mars and attempting to collect its first rock samples.
  • It was launched in 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V.

Why is this mission significant? 

  • MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: For the first time manufactured molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere (ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft).
  • It carried Ingenuity, the first-ever helicopter to fly on Mars.
  • It is the planned first step to bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis in sophisticated laboratories on Earth: with the goal of looking for biosignatures: or signatures of present or past life.

These are some of the key mission objectives:

  • Look for signs of ancient microbial life.
  • Collect Martian rock and dust samples for later return to Earth.
  • Deliver an experimental helicopter.
  • Study the climate and geology of Mars.
  • Demonstrate technology for future Mars missions.

What is the reason for the near-term interest in Mars?

  • Mars is located in the very near backyard (about 200 million km away).
  • It is a planet that humans can aspire to visit or to stay for a longer duration.
  • Mars had flowing water and an atmosphere in the distant past: and perhaps conditions to support life.
  • It also has implications for commercial travel. 

Messier 87 (M87)

Context

  • Scientists studying the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) – which surrounds the only black hole to have been imaged so far – have come up with a theoretical model of the jets of material emanating from M87.

About:

  • The images published in Nature Astronomy help confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity.
  • Messier 87 (also known as Virgo A or NGC 4486, generally abbreviated to M87) is a supergiant elliptical galaxy with several trillion stars in the constellation Virgo.
  • The galaxy has a large population of globular clusters—about 15,000 compared with the 150–200 orbiting the Milky Way— and a jet of energetic plasma that originates at the core and extends at least 4,900 lightyears, travelling at a relativistic speed.
  • It is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky and a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers.

James Webb Space Telescope

  • Context: NASA has announced the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) at 7.20 am EST (5.50 pm India time) on December 24. Webb, the world’s premier space science observatory, will succeed the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s flagship telescope that has been in service for more than three decades now.
    • NASA says Webb is not Hubble’s replacement — rather, its successor whose science goals were motivated by the results from Hubble.

  • James Webb Space Telescope:
    • It is the most powerful infrared telescope of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
    • The telescope is the result of an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.
    • Webb will reveal new and unexpected discoveries, and help humanity understand the origins of the universe and our place in it.
    • The telescope will study the atmospheres of a wide diversity of exoplanets.
    • It will also search for atmospheres similar to Earth’s, and for the signatures of key substances such as methane, water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and complex organic molecules, in hopes of finding the building blocks of life. 

Goal:

  • To search for the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.
  • To determine how galaxies evolved from their earlier formation until now.
  • To observe the formation of stars from the first stages to the formation of planetary systems.
  • To measure the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems and investigate the potential for life in such systems.

 

GJ 367b

  • Context: Scientists have spotted one of the smallest planets ever discovered outside our solar system, a scorching-hot world a bit larger than Mars and just about as dense as pure iron zooming around its home star every eight hours.

  • GJ 367b: The GJ 367b is a rocky planet. It is 70% the size of the earth. And it is 55% the mass of the earth. This makes GJ 367b one of the lightest known exoplanets.
    • The planet completes its orbit in 7.7 hours. Thus, it is called the Ultra Short Period Planet.
    • The planet is dominated by an iron core. It is because of this reason the planet has a high density.
    • The planet has a disproportionately large core.
      • The core is made of iron and nickel.
      • This particular property of the planet is similar to Mercury.
      • Also, it is this property of Mercury that differentiates it from the rest of the planets in the solar system.
    • The exoplanet is located 31 light-years from the Earth and takes only eight hours to orbit its star.
    • The scorching-hot new exoplanet is just a bit larger than Mars with a diameter of just over 9,000 kilometres and just about as dense.
    • The exoplanet was discovered using NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). 
    • The spectrum of its star was later studied from the Earth using the HARPS instrument on European Southern Observatory’s 3.6m telescope.
  • Referring Basics:
    • TESS: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission; NASA mission led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with seed funding from Google) will look for planets orbiting the brightest stars in Earth’s sky.
      • TESS will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets.
      • TESS was launched on April 18, 2018, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
      • TESS employs the transit method to detect exoplanets:
      • The transit method of detecting exoplanets looks for dips in the visible light of stars and requires that planets cross in front of stars along our line of sight to them.
      • Repetitive, periodic dips reveal a planet or planets orbiting a star.

Psyche Mission

  • Context: NASA’s Psyche mission is going to be launched in August 2022.
  • Psyche Mission: 
    • NASA’s Psyche Mission is the first mission, that will be launched to explore a unique giant metal asteroid called Psyche.
    • The mission is being led by Arizona State University.
    • Mission management, navigation and its operations will be looked upon by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
    • Mission was selected as one of the two missions to explore the early Solar Systems in 2017.
    • The mission will be launched in August 2022 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida and will arrive on Psyche asteroid in 2026.
    • Mission will spend 21 months studying and mapping the asteroid Psyche.
    • Instruments on Psyche Mission:
      • The Psyche Mission is carrying following scientific instruments:
        • X-band Gravity Science Investigation
        • Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer
        • Multispectral Imager
        • Magnetometer
  • Asteroid 16 Psyche: 
    • A recent study at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has found out that asteroid 16 Psyche, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter, could be made entirely of metal and is worth an estimated 10,000 quadrillion US dollars.
    • Asteroid 16 Psyche is located 370 million kilometres away from earth between Mars and Jupiter and has a diameter of 140 miles.
    • It was discovered in the year 1853 by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gaspard and was named after the ancient Greek goddess of the soul, Psyche.
    • Unlike most asteroids that are made up of rocks or ice, scientists believe that Psyche is a dense and largely metallic object thought to be the core of an earlier planet that failed formation.
    • Psyche’s shape is like a potato which takes about five earth years to complete one orbit of the sun but only a bit over 4 hours to rotate once on its axis.
    • Latest findings:
      • The latest study through the Hubble Space Telescope and ultraviolet observation gives a clearer picture of Psyche’s composition.
        • The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation.
      • It was found that Psyche could be a unique asteroid composed of iron and nickel almost completely which is similar to earth's core. The iron alone would be worth more than 10,000 quadrillion US dollars.
      • As the composition of Psyche is very similar to earth’s own core, its study will also give an insight into earth’s violent history of collisions and accretion that created it.
  • Referring Basics:

Agni Prime

  • Context: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully tested the new-generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni Prime from APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha.

  • Agni Prime:
    • Agni-P is a two-stage canisterised solid propellant missile with dual redundant navigation and guidance system.
    • It has been termed as a new generation advanced variant of the Agni class of missiles with improved parameters, including manoeuvring and accuracy.
    • The surface-to-surface ballistic missile has a range of 1,000 to 2,000 km.
      • Canisterisation of missiles reduces the time required to launch the missile while improving the storage and ease of handling.
    • Improved parameters:
      • It is a new generation advanced variant of the Agni class of missiles with improved parameters, including manoeuvring and accuracy. 
      • Fully made up of composite material.
  • Agni class of missiles:
    • Agni class of missiles are the mainstay of India’s nuclear launch capability, which also includes the Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and fighter aircraft.
      • Agni-V, an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km, had been tested several times and validated for induction.
    • The Agni-P and Agni-5 ballistic missiles trace their origins back to the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), which was spearheaded by former DRDO chief and ex-Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in the early 1980s.

  • Referring Basics:
    • IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program)
      • It was conceived by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to enable India to attain self-sufficiency in the field of missile technology. It was approved by the Government of India in 1983 and completed in March 2012.

India's Missile Capabilities:

  • History of Missile Technology:
    • Pre-Independent India: Several kingdoms in India were using rockets as part of their warfare technologies.
      • Mysore ruler Hyder Ali started inducting iron-cased rockets in his army in the mid-18th century.
    • At the time of independence, India India did not have any indigenous missile capabilities.
    • Post-Independent India: The government created the Special Weapon Development Team in 1958.
      • This was later expanded and called the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), which moved from Delhi to Hyderabad in 1962.
    • In 1972, Project Devil, for the development of a medium-range Surface-to-Surface Missile was initiated.
    • By 1982, DRDL was working on several missile technologies under the Integrated Guided Missiles Development Programme (IGMDP).
  • Kinds of Missiles India have:

  • Hypersonic Technology:
    • India is just behind the US, Russia and China.
    • DRDO successfully tested a Hypersonic Technology Demonstrated Vehicle (HSTDV) in September 2020 and demonstrated its hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology.

Pralay Missile

  • Context: Recently, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully conducted a maiden flight test of a new indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile ‘Pralay’.
  • Pralay Missile:
    • Pralay' is India's first conventional quasi-ballistic missile and is an answer to any conventional missile attack from northern or western borders.
      • A quasi-ballistic missile has a low trajectory, and while it is largely ballistic, it can manoeuvre in flight.
    • The missile has been developed in a way that it is able to defeat the interceptor missiles and also has the ability to change its path after covering certain range mid-air.
    • It is powered by a solid-propellant rocket motor and many new technologies.
    • The missile guidance system includes a state-of-the-art navigation system and integrated avionics.
    • The missile has a range of 150-500 kilometres and can be launched from a mobile launcher.
    • Pralay will be the longest-range surface-to-surface missile in the inventory of the Army.
    • It is a derivative of the Prahaar missile programme, which was first tested in 2011.
      • Prahaar is a surface-to-surface missile with a range of 150 km.
      • The primary objective is to bridge the gap between the unguided Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher and the guided Prithvi missile variants.
  • Referring Basics:
    • Ballistic and Cruise Missiles
Ballistic Missile Cruise Missile
Travel in projectile motion and trajectory depends on gravity, air resistance and Coriolis Force. Comparatively follows a straight trajectory of motion.
Leave the earth’s atmosphere and re-enter it. The flight path is within the earth’s atmosphere.
Long-range missiles (300 km to 12,000 km) Short-range missiles (range up to 1000 km)
E.g. Prithvi I, Prithvi II, Agni I, Agni II and Dhanush missiles. E.g. BrahMos missiles

Earth Observation Satellite EOS-04 

  • Context:
    • The PSLV-C52 rocket recently successfully launched the Indian Space Research Organization's EOS-04 earth observation satellite and 2 small satellites (INSPIREsat-1 and INS-2TD).
    • This was the 54th flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket, and the 23rd flight of its most powerful XL-version, which includes six strap-on boosters.
  • EOS-04:
    • Designed to deliver high-quality images in all weather conditions for applications such as agriculture, forestry, plantation, soil moisture and hydrology, and flood mapping.
    • It will complement data from the Resources at, Cartosat, and RISAT-2B satellite series, which are already in orbit.
    • The first of these newly titled satellites, EOS-01, was launched in November 2020 and is currently in orbit.
    • EOS-02, a microsatellite that will be launched on a new launch vehicle named SSLV (Small Satellite Launch Vehicle), has yet to be launched, while EOS-03's launch failed in August 2021.
    • It is a radar-imaging satellite that will be placed in a sun-synchronous polar orbit of 529 km and would have previously been part of the RISAT series.
    • In fact, it would replace the RISAT-1, which was launched in 2012 but has been non-functional for the last few years.
    • Radar imaging has a significant benefit over optical instruments in that it is unaffected by weather, cloud or fog, or a lack of sunlight.
    • It can provide high-quality images in all lighting conditions and at all times, making it suitable for surveillance.
  • INSPIRE sat-1
    • INSPIRE sat-1 is part of a satellite constellation planned by the International Space Program in Research and Education (INSPIRE), which includes IIST's Small-spacecraft Systems and Payload Centre (SSPACE), the University of Colorado (US), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and National Central University (NCU), Taiwan.
    • Two scientific payloads on INSPIREsat-1, with a mass of 8.1 kg and a mission life of one year, aim to improve understanding of ionosphere dynamics and the sun's coronal heating processes.
  • INS-2TD
    • The INS-2TD is a technology demonstration for the first India-Bhutan joint satellite, which will launch in March 2022.
    • Last year, the two countries signed a space agreement, with the first result being the launch of BhutanSat, or INS-2B, on a PSLV rocket in March 2022.
    • The INS-2TD's thermal imaging cameras are intended for earth observation purposes such as assessing land and water surface temperatures and identifying forest and tree cover.

Green Hydrogen

  • Context:
    • The government has unveiled the first part of the much-awaited National Hydrogen Policy. 
    • The government is targeting the production of 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen by 2030. 
    • The policy allows free inter-state wheeling of renewable energy used in the production of green hydrogen and ammonia as it seeks to boost usage of carbon-free fuel and make India an export hub. 
    • It offers 25 years of free power transmission for any new renewable energy plants set up to supply power for green hydrogen production before July 2025. 
    • There will also be a single portal for all clearances required for setting up green hydrogen production as well as a facility for producers to bank any surplus renewable energy generated with discoms for up to 30 days and use it as required.
  • What is green hydrogen?
    • Green hydrogen is hydrogen gas produced through the electrolysis of water — an energy-intensive process for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen— using renewable power to achieve this.
  • Green hydrogen has specific advantages :
    • Environment Friendly: Green Hydrogen as an energy source is seen as the next big thing as its usage would lead to zero emissions
    • Potential to Decarbonise various sectors: It is a clean-burning molecule, which can decarbonize a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation. 
    • Efficient utilization of Renewable Energy: Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.
    • Reduced Dependence on Rare Minerals: Green Hydrogen also holds the key to clean electric mobility that doesn’t depend on rare minerals. Green Hydrogen helps achieve a long-term vision of reduced dependency on minerals and rare-earth element-based batteries as energy storage.
    • Helps Achieve Paris Goal: Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions and ensure regional and national energy security, access, and availability
    • Energy Security: Green energy helps reduce import dependency on fossil fuels.

Health:

Biological E's Corbevax vaccine approved for 12-18-year-olds

Context:

  • India has placed an advance order to block 300 million doses of a new Covid-19 vaccine, Corbevax, from Hyderabad-based company Biological E. 
  • The vaccine is India's 1st indigenously developed Receptor Binding Domain Protein sub-unit vaccine against COVID-19.

Significance:

  • Corbevax has become the second vaccine to receive emergency use approval in India for those aged below 18 years after Covaxin.
  • The approval will speed up the ongoing vaccination drive for children aged between 15 and 18 years of age.

Corbevax vaccine: All you need to know!

  • Corbevax is India’s first indigenously developed RBD protein sub-unit vaccine against Covid-19. 
  • The vaccine triggers an immune response by using fragments of the virus-like the spike protein, instead of using the whole virus.
  • The vaccine contains a harmless S-protein antigen technology that binds to the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor on the host cell membrane and enables virus entry. 
  • Once an individual's immune system recognises the S protein, it will produce antibodies as white blood cells to protect against the infection.

Corbevax Price:

  • Corbevax vaccine is expected to cost around Rs 145 excluding taxes. The central government has reportedly already made an advance payment worth Rs 1,500 crore to reserve 30 crore doses of the Corbevax COVID-19 vaccine.

Background:

  • India has administered both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to over 1.5 crore adolescents between the age group of 15 to 18 years. A total of 5,24,01,155 first doses and 1,63,10,368 second doses have been administered to the age group so far. 

Human Genome

Context:

  • Scientists had published the map of the human genome for the first time nearly two decades ago which was hailed as a breakthrough.
  • In 2003, scientists got a breakthrough, but it was incomplete as about 8% of the human DNA was left unsequenced.
  • Now for the first time, a large team has accounted for completing the 8% picture of the human genome.
  • In 2020, the Ministry of Science and Technology approved an ambitious gene-mapping project called the Genome India Project (GIP).

Developments for the First time:

  • The genetic sequence was made available in 2003 by the Human Genome Project.
  • Human Genome Project is an international collaboration between 1990 and 2003, containing information from a region of the human genome known as the euchromatin.
  • Here, the chromosome is rich in genes, and the DNA encodes for protein.
  • The 8% that was left out was in the area called heterochromatin, which is a smaller portion of the genome and does not produce protein.
  • There were at least two key reasons why heterochromatin was given lower priority.
  • First: This part of the genome was thought to be “junk DNA” because it had no clear function.
  • Second: The euchromatin contained more genes that were simpler to sequence with the tools available at the time.
  • Now, the fully sequenced genome is the result of the efforts of a global collaboration called the Telomere-2-Telomere (T2T) project.
  • The invention of new methods of DNA sequencing and computational analysis helped complete the reading of the remaining 8% of the genome.

What is in the 8%?

  • The new reference genome, called T2T-CHM13, includes highly repetitive DNA sequences found in and around the telomeres (structures at the ends of chromosomes) and the centromeres (at the middle section of each chromosome).
  • The new sequence also reveals long stretches of DNA that are duplicated in the genome and are known to play important roles in evolution and disease.
  • The findings have revealed a large number of genetic variations, and these variations appear in large part within these repeated sequences.
  • Many of the newly revealed regions have important functions in the genome even if they do not include active genes.

Significance of the Development:

  1. Make Easier the Study of Genetic Variation:
    • A complete human genome makes it easier to study genetic variation between individuals or between populations
  2. Reference for studying Genome:
    • By constructing a complete human genome, scientists can use it for reference while studying the genome of various individuals.
    • It would help them understand which variations, if any, might be responsible for disease.
  3. Study Provide More Accurate Information:
    • The T2T consortium used the now-complete genome sequence as a reference to discover more than 2 million additional variants in the human genome.
  4. Complement the Standard Human Reference Genome:
    • The new T2T reference genome will complement the standard human reference genome, known as Genome Reference Consortium build 38 (GRCh38), which originated from the Human Genome Project and has been updated since.

WHO suspended Covaxin

Context:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that it has suspended the supply of Covaxin through UN procurement agencies and recommended to countries that received the vaccine take actions as “appropriate”.

Why has the WHO taken this step now?

  • Covaxin, India’s first indigenous vaccine for Covid-19, had got emergency use listing (EUL) from the WHO in November last year.
  • At the time the EUL for Covaxin was granted, however, the WHO had not done an inspection. The inspection of the Bharat Biotech facility was done between March 14 and 22, based on which the WHO has announced the suspension of supply of Covaxin through UN procurement agencies and recommending to countries that received the vaccine “to take actions as appropriate”.

What did the WHO inspection find?

  • The WHO has said that the data available to it indicate that Covaxin is effective and there is no safety concern.
  • It has, however, asked the company to address deficiencies in good manufacturing practice (GMP).
  • In other words, the WHO has asked Bharat Biotech to upgrade and make specific changes in its manufacturing facilities for Covaxin.

Upgrades:

  • The facilities used to manufacture Covaxin were not specifically designed for a Covid-19 vaccine.
  • When the company received emergency use authorisation from India’s drug regulator, it repurposed its existing facilities, some of which were used for producing a polio virus vaccine, some for a vaccine rabies and some for a Japanese encephalitis vaccine.

Why did the company not upgrade its facility specifically for Covaxin earlier?

  • Company sources said that when a facility needs to be upgraded for a specific vaccine, it has to completely shut down. 
  • As such, when the company is engaged in active production, it cannot undertake extensive maintenance and upgrade.
  • During the peak of the pandemic, procurement and supply of new equipment required for an upgrade would have taken 15-18 months.
  • The manufacture of a batch of Covaxin takes 120 days from start to finish. Shutdown and upgrade of the facility could have resulted in the loss of almost 6 months. The company could not have shut down its facility only for upgrade because of the urgency to vaccinate the population.

How will the upgrade take place?

  • Some of the equipment has to be sourced from domestic suppliers and some of it has to be imported. Once you make a change to the facility, it is not as simple as just buying the equipment, installing and starting using it.

 Impact on the supply of Covaxin:

  • It does not impact the supply of Covaxin. In the first place, the company has not received any orders from UN agencies, including the GAVI-COVAX facility, to supply Covaxin.
  • In some 25 countries, Covaxin has been given emergency use authorisation (EUA). In these countries, the company has already fulfilled its supply commitments. Sources said it has not received any fresh orders from these countries.

Why are vaccines administered to the upper arm?

Context:

  • Almost everyone vaccinated for Covid-19 over the last 16 months will remember that he or she received a quick prick in the upper arm.

Why vaccines are generally administered into muscle?

  • This is because most vaccines, including those for Covid-19, are most effective when administered through the intramuscular route into the upper arm muscle, known as the deltoid.
  • There are several reasons, but the most important one is that the muscles have a rich blood supply network.
  • This means whenever a vaccine carrying an antigen is injected into it, the muscle releases the antigen, which gets dispersed by the muscular vasculature, or the arrangement of blood vessels in the muscle.
  • The antigen then gets picked up by a type of immune cells called dendritic cells, which function by showing antigens on their surface to other cells of the immune system.
  • The dendritic cells carry the antigen through the lymphatic fluid to the lymph node.

Role of T Cells:

  • T Cells also called T lymphocytes, type of leukocyte (white blood cell) that is an essential part of the immune system.
  • T cells are one of two primary types of lymphocytes—B cells being the second type—that determine the specificity of the immune response to antigens (foreign substances) in the body.
  • Through the course of research over the years, it is understood that the lymph nodes have T cells and B cells — the body’s primary protector cells.
  • Once this antigen gets flagged and is given to the T cells and B cells that is how we start developing an immune response against a particular virus.
  • It could be any of the new viruses like SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, or the previous viruses which we have been running vaccination programs for.

Which vaccines are administered through other routes?

  • One of the oldest vaccines for smallpox was given by scarification of the skin.
  • However, with time, doctors realized there are better ways to vaccinate beneficiaries.
  • These included the intradermal route, the subcutaneous route, the intramuscular route, oral, and nasal routes.
  • There are only two exceptions that continue to be administered through the intradermal route.
  • These are the vaccines for BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) and for tuberculosis because these two vaccines continue to work empirically well when administered through the intradermal route.

XE Variant of the Coronavirus

Context:

  • Recently, a 50-year-old woman in Mumbai may have been infected with the newly-discovered ‘XE’ variant of the coronavirus.
  • XE is a sub-variant of Omicron, which caused the third wave of Covid-19, which had not been found in India until now.
  • So far, there is no indication that it is more dangerous than other variants.

About:

  • The Omicron variant, which is responsible for over 90% of the infections detected in 2022, has two prominent sub-variants, called BA.1 and BA.2.
  • The XE variant is what is called a ‘recombinant’. This means it contains the mutations found in BA.1 as well as BA.2 varieties of Omicron.
  • Recombinant variants are not uncommon.
  • For example, variants that contain the characteristic mutations of Delta and Omicron have also been identified.
  • This was first discovered in the United Kingdom in January 2022, and so far more than 600 samples of XE have been found in different countries.
  • In fact, variants that contain the characteristic mutations of Delta and Omicron have also been identified.

Threat from XE:

  • As of now, there is no evidence to show that the XE variant is significantly different from the other varieties of Omicron.
  • However, this variant is noticed to be about 10% more transmissible than the dominant BA.2 variant.
  • In India, it was the BA.2 that was the most dominant during the third wave.
  • Nevertheless, a fresh wave of infections in India can never be ruled out, considering that the virus has not been eliminated, and is also undergoing mutations.

Formation of New Variants:

  • When a virus multiplies it doesn’t always manage to produce an exact copy of itself.
  • This means that, over time, the virus may start to differ slightly in terms of its genetic sequence.
  • Any changes to the viral genetic sequence during this process is known as a Mutation.
  • Viruses with new mutations are sometimes called Variants. Variants can differ by one or multiple mutations.
  • When a new variant has different functional properties to the original virus and becomes established in a population, it is sometimes referred to as a New Strain of the virus.
  • All strains are variants, but not all variants are strains.

‘Kappa’ and ‘Delta’

Context: COVID-19 Variants First Found in India are referred to as ‘Kappa' and ‘Delta' by the World Health Organization.

More on news

  • The B.1.617.1 COVID-19 variant was designated ‘Kappa' by the World Health Organization (WHO), while the B1.617.2 variant was dubbed ‘Delta'. Both variations were discovered in India for the first time.
  • They are not intended to replace established scientific names, but rather to aid public discussion of VOC and interest variants (VOI).
  • According to the WHO, an expert group met to advocate labelling using Greek Alphabet letters, such as Alpha, Beta, and Gamma, because they are easier and more practical to discuss by non-scientific audiences.
  • The GISAID (Global effort on sharing all influenza data) created nomenclature methods for naming and tracking SARS-CoV-2 genetic lineages that are currently in use and will continue to be used by scientists and in scientific research.
  • Systems have been built and are being strengthened around the world to identify possible VOC and VOI signals and assess the risk to global public health.

Avian flu 

Context: The first human infection with the H10N3 strain of avian flu has been confirmed in China.

More on news:

  • In poultry, H10N3 is a low pathogenic or less severe strain of the virus, and the probability of it spreading on a broad scale is extremely low. In China, there are many distinct strains of avian influenza, and some of them infect people on a random basis, usually those who work with poultry.
  • H5N8 is an influenza A virus subtype (also known as the bird flu virus). H5N8 is a low-risk virus for humans, but it is highly fatal in wild birds and poultry.

What is avian influenza or bird flu? 

  • Influenza Type A viruses create a highly contagious viral disease that mostly affects poultry species such as chickens and turkeys.
  • The virus comes in a variety of strains, some of which are moderate and just cause decreased egg production or other minor symptoms in chickens, while others are severe and deadly.
  • When an infection is found in animals, culling is frequently done to control it. Aside from culling, proper disposal of all culled animals and animal products is critical.
  • However, no human infections have been reported as a result of this flu. The danger to the general public is minimal.

Symptoms

  • Unlike in birds, where it infects the gut, avian influenza enters the respiratory tract in humans, where it can cause serious respiratory infections such as pneumonia or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
  • Fever, cough, sore throat, and abdominal pain, and diarrhoea are among the first symptoms.

 

New drug for Alzheimer’s

Context: Biogen's aducanumab, the first medicine to address an underlying cause of Alzheimer's disease, has been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration.

More about the News

  • The medicine will be marketed under the name Aduhelm. It's the first new approval of Alzheimer's medicine since 2003, and it's the only treatment that can reduce the disease's progression.
  • Aducanumab, also known as Aduhelm, is a monoclonal antibody that works to reduce the amount of amyloid-beta in the body.
  • The medication will be administered as a monthly intravenous infusion.
  • Some patients given the maximum dose of the medication had brain swelling in clinical trials and required to be monitored.
  • A common side effect of the medication is a headache.
  • It's a brand-new medicine that's just meant to slow the growth of Alzheimer's disease, not to cure it.

Alzheimer's disease

  • The most frequent form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease.
  • It affects tens of millions of individuals around the world, and the number is rapidly increasing.
  • Alzheimer's disease has a significant social and economic impact.
  • Early symptoms include forgetfulness and memory impairments, but as the condition worsens, patients become confused, lose their sense of direction in familiar settings, and have difficulty planning and performing routine tasks.

AY.1 variant of Corona Virus

Context: AY.1, or B.1.617.2.1, has a mutation called K417N that is linked to high infectivity and has been associated with the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

About AY.1 Strain:

  • The Delta Plus or AY.1 variation of COVID-19 has mutated from the highly transmissible Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2.
  • For COVID-19, the novel variation Delta Plus is resistant to monoclonal antibody cocktail therapy.
  • The Delta or B.1.617.2 variation of SARS-CoV-2 was first discovered in India in October 2020, and the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it a Variant of Concern (VoC) on May 11, 2021.

 Delta Plus variant

  • The Delta Plus or AY.1 variation of SARS-CoV-2 is one of the newer versions of the Delta or B.1.617.2 type.
  • According to the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, the new variety is defined by the acquisition of the K417N mutation.
  • SARS-spike CoV-2's protein contains the mutation K417N. The spike protein facilitates the virus's entrance into human cells.
  • According to the global science programme GISAID, 63 Delta (B.1.617.2) genomes bearing the novel K417N mutation have been discovered thus far.
  • According to its most recent report, the Delta plus variant was discovered in six Indian genomes.
  • In India, the variation frequency of the K417N mutation is very low. The majority of the sequences are from Asia, America, and Europe.

Malaria and the vaccine hunt

  • Context:
    • In a major scientific breakthrough, the World Health Organization (WHO) has given its approval for the use of the first malaria vaccine in the world.
    • The World Health Organization has endorsed the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine.
    • The decision followed a review of a pilot programme deployed since 2019 in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi in which more than two million doses were given of the vaccine.
    • After reviewing evidence from those countries, the WHO said it was “recommending the broad use of the world's first malaria vaccine”.

 

  • About: Malaria
    • Malaria is a disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite.
    • The parasite can be spread to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes.
    • There are many different types of plasmodium parasites, but only 5 types cause malaria in humans. 
    • Plasmodium falciparum – mainly found in Africa, it's the most common type of malaria parasite and is responsible for most malaria deaths worldwide.
    • Plasmodium vivax – mainly found in Asia and South America, this parasite causes milder symptoms than Plasmodium falciparum, but it can stay in the liver for up to 3 years, which can result in relapses.
    • Plasmodium ovale – fairly uncommon and usually found in West Africa, it can remain in your liver for several years without producing symptoms.
    • Plasmodium malariae – this is quite rare and usually only found in Africa.
    • Plasmodium knowlesi – this is very rare and found in parts of southeast Asia.
  • Transmission:
    • The plasmodium parasite is spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes, which are known as “night-biting” mosquitoes because they most commonly bite between dusk and dawn.
    • Once a person is bitten, the parasite enters the bloodstream and travels to the liver.
    • The infection develops in the liver before re-entering the bloodstream and invading the red blood cells (RBCs).
    • The parasites grow and multiply in the RBCs. At regular intervals, the infected blood cells burst, releasing more parasites into the blood.
    • If a mosquito bites a person already infected with malaria, it can also become infected and spread the parasite to other people. 
    • However, malaria does not spread directly from person to person.
  • Symptoms:
    • Signs and symptoms of malaria may include Fever, Chills, General feeling of discomfort, Headache, Nausea and vomiting, Diarrhoea, Abdominal pain, Muscle or joint pain, Fatigue, Rapid breathing, Rapid heart rate, Cough.
  • About RTS,S/AS01 Vaccine:
    • Also known as Mosquirix, the vaccine was first developed by GlaxoSmithKline in 1987.
    • The vaccine acts against Plasmodium falciparum – one of five malaria parasite species and the deadliest.
    • The WHO said it was recommending children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high malaria transmission get four doses up to the age of two.
    • A modelling study in 2020 estimated that if the vaccine were rolled out to nations with the highest incidence of malaria, it could prevent 5.4 million cases and 23,000 deaths in kids younger than age 5 each year.
  • What measures have been taken to eliminate malaria? 
    • In 1953, the Government of India launched the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) with a focus on indoor residual spraying of DDT.
    • National Malaria Eradication Programme (NMEP) was launched in 1958 which reduced the number of malaria cases and deaths.
    • In 2003, malaria control was integrated with other vector-borne diseases under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) as all such diseases share common control strategies.
    • Administration of drugs like Chloroquine, Artemesinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) started.
    • The National Framework for Malaria Elimination in India 2016–2030 aims to eliminate malaria (zero indigenous cases) throughout the entire country by 2030.
    • The Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030 was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2015 to reduce global malaria incidence and mortality rates by at least 90% by 2030.
    • The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing and partnership organization that aims to attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the three epidemics.

Nobel for deciphering the science of torch

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Nobel Prize 2021 in Physiology (Medicine) was won by American scientists, David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian for finding temperature and touch receptors. The Physiology Nobel is announced first (in sciences), to be followed by the Nobel Prize in Physics and then in Chemistry.

  • About the Nobel prize-winning discovery:
    •  
    • David Julius: Julius has been studying the different compounds in chili peppers and spider venom to understand how our bodies sense heat and chemical irritants. Decoding the neuroscience of pain can help develop new targets for pain therapy.
      • In 1997, Dr. Julius and his team published a paper in Nature detailing how capsaicin, or the chemical compound in chilli peppers, causes the burning sensation.
      • They created a library of DNA fragments to understand the corresponding genes and finally discovered a new capsaicin receptor and named it TRPV1.
      • This discovery paved the way for the identification of many other temperature-sensing receptors.
    • Ardem Patapoutian: Patapoutian helped discover a novel class of sensors in our skin and internal organs that respond to cold and other mechanical stimuli.
      • Independently of one another, both David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian identified another new receptor called TRPM8, a receptor that is activated by cold. A paper published in Cell in 2002 by Dr. Patapoutian and team explains that this new receptor is specifically expressed in a subset of pain-and-temperature-sensing neurons.
      • Ardem Patapoutian and his team identified a single gene, which when silenced made the cells insensitive to the poking. They named this new mechanosensitive ion channel Piezo1.

The simple idea that catalysed game-changing reaction

  • Context: 
    • Two scientists have been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on building molecules that are mirror images of one another.
  • About:
    • German-born Benjamin List and Briton David MacMillan (Born in Bellshill, United Kingdom and Professor at Princeton University, USA) were announced as the winners at an event in Stockholm.
    • Their chemical toolkit has been used for discovering new drugs and making molecules that can capture light in solar cells. The winners will share the prize money of 10 million Swedish kroner (1,135.54 million US Dollars).
    • The technique, called asymmetric organocatalysis, has made it much easier to produce asymmetric molecules – chemicals that exist in two versions, where one is a mirror image of the other.
    • Chemists often just want one of these mirror images – particularly when producing medicines – but it has been difficult to find efficient methods for doing this.
  • About Catalysis:
    • A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without taking part in the reaction, or without undergoing any changes during the chemical reaction.
    • Catalysis is the process of increasing the rate of a chemical reaction by adding a catalyst.
    • The major types of catalysts are metals and enzymes. In 2000, Dr. List and Dr. MacMillan, independent of each other, developed a third type of catalysis named asymmetric organocatalysis.
    • Organocatalysis finds several applications in pharmaceutical research and other industries. It has helped streamline the production of existing pharmaceuticals, including paroxetine, used to treat anxiety and depression, and oseltamivir, a respiratory infection medication.

COVID-19: New Variants, Vaccine and Drugs

  • Context: India has cleared the pill molnupiravir for treating Covid-19 patients, and the vaccines Corbevax and Covovax.

  • Corbevax: Protein subunit vaccine
    • Corbevax, manufactured by Hyderabad-based Biological E, is a protein subunit vaccine, which means that instead of the whole virus, it uses fragments of it to trigger an immune response.
    • In this case, the subunit vaccine contains a harmless S protein.
    • Once the immune system recognises the protein, it produced antibodies to fight a real infection when it happens.
    • The antigenic parts of the virus have been developed by Texas Children’s Hospital Centre for Vaccine Development and in-licensed from BCM (Baylor College of Medicine) Ventures.
    • Biological E plans to begin production at 75 million doses per month and anticipates reaching 100+ million doses per month from February.
    • Efficacy: Biological E has completed Phase III trials on more than 3,000 subjects at 33 study sites across India.
      • It says neutralising antibody titres against Delta strain “indicates a vaccine effectiveness of >80 percent for the prevention of symptomatic infections based on published studies”.
      • It has also conducted Phase III active comparator clinical trials to evaluate if this vaccine is superior to Covishield.
  • Covavax: Recombinant nanoparticle vaccine
    • Covavax, manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII), is also a protein subunit vaccine but uses recombinant nanoparticle technology.
    • It has been developed by US-based Novavax.
    • Harmless copies of the spike protein are grown in insect cells; the protein is then extracted and assembled into virus-like nanoparticles.
    • Novavax has used an immune-boosting compound (adjuvant). The same technology is used in HPV and the Hepatitis B vaccine.
    • Efficacy: SII has said the vaccine has been evaluated in two Phase 3 trials: a trial in the UK that demonstrated efficacy of 96.4% against the original virus strain, 86.3% against Alpha and 89.7% efficacy overall; and the PREVENT-19 trial in the US and Mexico that demonstrated 100% protection against moderate and severe disease and 90.4% efficacy overall.
    • On November 17, the Philippines FDA granted SII a licence to market the vaccine in the country.
    • On December 20, the WHO issued Emergency Use Listing to the vaccine.
  • Molnupiravir: Oral antiviral drug
    • Molnupiravir, developed in collaboration by US firms Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck, initially to treat influenza, is a repurposed oral antiviral candidate to treat Covid patients.
    • It has been cleared for the treatment of adult patients with Covid-19 “who have a high risk of progression of the disease”.
    • It works by introducing errors into the virus’s genetic code, which prevents replication.
    • Molnupiravir comes in 200 mg pills; the recommendation in India is for 800 mg twice daily for 5 days.
    • It will be manufactured by 13 Indian drug makers: Dr Reddy’s, Natco, MSN, Hetero, Optimus, Aurobindo, Mylan, Cipla, Sun Pharma, Torrent, BDR, Stride, and Pune-based Emcure.
      • Sun Pharma has announced it is likely to be available in a week’s time.
    • Efficacy: The drug regulator of the UK cleared molnupiravir on December 4 as it has been found “safe and effective”.
      • The US (clearance on December 23) did not authorise it for use for longer than five consecutive days, or in patients younger than 18 as it may affect bone and cartilage growth.
      • In India, the recommendation is for the treatment of adult Covid patients with oxygen levels over 93%, and who have a high risk of progression of the disease, and that the drug is sold by retail only under prescription.

Omicron

  • Context: The World Health Organization has declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19, to be a variant of concern. The virus was first detected in Southern Africa and it is renamed Omicron.
  • Omicron:
    • Omicron is placed in the most-troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
    • This variant has a large number of mutations. Some of them are cause for serious concern because they may allow the new variant to evade immunity obtained from a past infection or via a vaccine.
    • The WHO has decided to name the variants after the letters of the Greek alphabet, to avoid the countries that first detected them being stigmatised.
    • WHO selected the name Omicron, instead of Nu or Xi, the two letters between Mu and Omicron. This is because:
      • Xi happens to be a popular surname in China (avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups).
      • Nu could have been confused with the word ‘new’.
    • A variant of Concern(VOC): A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
    • Other variants of concern(VOC) listed by WHO are:
      • Delta (B.1.617.2): emerged in India in November 2020. 
      • Gamma (P.1): emerged in Brazil in October 2020. 
      • Beta (B.1.351): emerged in South Africa in May 2020. 
      • Alpha (B.1.1.7): emerged in Britain in September 2020.
    • VOC: It is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI(Variant of Interest) and, associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance: 
      • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology.
      • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation. 
      • Decrease in the effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
    • VOI: Variant of Interest (VOI) is a SARS-CoV-2 variant : 
      • Genetic changes are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape.
      • Identified to cause significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside an increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health. 
    • Variants:

 

 

Corbevax Covid-19 Vaccine

Context: India has made an order for 300 million doses of the new Covid-19 vaccine, Corbevax, in advance.

More about Corbevax

  • The Covid-19 vaccine, developed in India, is currently in Phase 3 clinical trials.
  • It's a vaccination made up of “recombinant protein sub-units.”
  • It's made up of a specific component of SARS-CoV-2, the virus's spike protein on the surface.
  • The spike protein helps the virus to proliferate and cause sickness by allowing it to infiltrate the body's cells.
  • When this protein is delivered to the body alone, however, it is unlikely to be damaging because the remainder of the virus is missing.
  • The injected spike protein is supposed to trigger an immunological reaction in the body.
  • As a result, when the genuine virus tries to infect the body, the body will already have an immune response ready, making it unlikely that the individual will become really ill.

Corbevax vs. Other Covid-19 Vaccines: What's the Difference?

  • Pfizer and Moderna have mRNA vaccines, Covishield and Sputnik V have viral vector vaccines, and Covaxin, Sinovac-CoronaVac, and Sinopharm's Vero Cell have inactivated vaccines.
  • The spike proteins against which the body must establish immunity are induced by a code in viral vector and mRNA vaccines.
  • In the case of Corbevax, the protein itself is given.
    • mRNA vaccines operate by utilizing messenger RNA (mRNA), which is the molecule responsible for carrying out DNA instructions. Inside a cell, mRNA serves as a template for the production of proteins.
    • To transmit vital instructions to our cells, viral vector vaccines use a modified version of a separate virus (the vector).
  • Inactivated vaccines contain dead particles of the complete SARS-CoV-2 virus, in an attempt to target the virus's entire structure.
  • Corbevax works in a similar fashion to the mRNA and viral vector Covid-19 vaccines in that it solely targets the spike protein.

Malaria Free Status

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared China as “malaria-free”.
  • It is a result of a seven decade-long, multi-pronged health strategy that was able to entirely eliminate indigenous cases for four straight years.

About Malaria Free Status:

  • Certification Process: Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria-free status.
  • WHO grants the certification when a country has demonstrated with rigorous, credible evidence that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years.
  • A country must also demonstrate the capacity to prevent the re-establishment of transmission.
  • The final decision on awarding a malaria-free certification rests with the WHO Director-General, based on a recommendation by the independent Malaria Elimination Certification Panel (MECP).
  • Western Pacific Region: China is the first country in the WHO Western Pacific Region to be awarded a malaria-free certification in more than 3 decades.
  • Other Countries: In the Western Pacific region the countries that have achieved this status include Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei Darussalam (1987).
  • Global Status: Globally, 40 countries and territories have been granted a malaria-free certification from WHO – including, most recently, El Salvador (2021), Algeria (2019), Argentina (2019), Paraguay (2018) and Uzbekistan (2018).

Disease Burden (Global):

  • According to the World Malaria Report, 2020, the number of malaria cases worldwide in 2019 was around 229 million, with 4,09,000 lives lost to the mosquito-borne disease.
  • The majority of cases were reported in Africa, while India and Southeast Asia recorded a significant drop.
  • Cases in India fell from approximately 20 million to 6 million.
  • India is the only high endemic country that has reported a decline of 17.6% in 2019 as compared to 2018.

China's Malaria Strategy:

  • Started in the 1950s: The efforts began in the early 1950s, a time when China was reporting millions of cases annually, starting with a multi-pronged approach of providing anti-malarial medicines while targeting mosquito breeding grounds and using insecticide spraying.
  • The 523 Project: It led to the discovery of artemisinin in the 1970s.
  • Artemisinin is the core compound of artemisinin-based combination therapies, the most effective antimalarial drug available today.
  • Insecticide-treated nets: In the 1980s, China began using insecticide-treated nets widely, distributing 2.4 million nets by 1988.
  • 1-3-7 Strategy: The strategy refers to:
    • A one-day deadline to report a malaria diagnosis,
    • Confirming a case and determining the spread by the third day, and
    • Measures are taken to stop the spread by the seventh day, along with continued surveillance in high-risk areas.
  • Global Fund: With assistance from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria starting in 2003, China “stepped up training, staffing, laboratory equipment, medicines and mosquito control.”

Lambda Variant of Covid

About:

  • The strain was first identified in Peru in December 2020. Lambda is the dominant variant in the South American country with 81% of samples found to be carrying it.
  • Until recently, it was largely concentrated in a handful of South American countries, including Ecuador and Argentina, but since April it has been detected in more than 25 Countries.
  • Previously known by its Formal Scientific Name C.37, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated this variant seventh and the newest Variant of Interest (VOI).
  • Another four have been designated as ‘variants of concern’.

A variant of Interest:

  • This means that the genetic changes involved are predicted or known to affect transmissibility, disease severity, or immune escape.
  • It is also an acknowledgement of the fact that the variant has caused significant community transmission in multiple countries and population groups.

A variant of Concern:

  • A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
  • There are four – Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta – which have been designated as “variants of concern”, and are considered a bigger threat.
  • These were all recently named after letters of the Greek alphabet to avoid linkage with the country of their origin that had been happening until then.

ZyCoV-D

Context:

  • Recently, India has started phase I/II clinical trials of the Covid-19 vaccine – ZyCoV-D, designed and developed by Zydus (a pharmaceutical company) with support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Description:

  • ZyCoV-D, a plasmid DNA vaccine, comes under the Vaccine Discovery Programme supported by the Department of Biotechnology under the National Biopharma Mission.
  • Plasmids are circular deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vectors that can be used as vaccines to prevent various types of diseases.

Pre-Clinical Phase:

  • It was found to initiate a strong immune response in multiple animal species like mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits.
  • The antibodies produced by the vaccine were able to neutralize the wild type virus indicating the protective potential of the vaccine candidate.
  • No safety concerns were observed in repeat-dose by both intramuscular (directly into muscles) and intradermal (superficial injection into skin) routes of administration.

DNA Vaccine Platform:

  • The development of ZyCov-D has established the DNA vaccine platform in the country which is simple to deploy, temperature stable, and consistently manufacturable- thus lowering costs and enhancing the effectiveness of a vaccine.
  • It provides ease of manufacturing the vaccine with minimal biosafety requirements.
  • It has shown much-improved vaccine stability and lowers cold chain requirements making it easy for transportation to remote regions of the country.
  • Furthermore, the platform can be rapidly used to modify the vaccine in a couple of weeks in case the virus mutates.

UV-C Disinfection Technology

Context:

  • The Union Ministry for Science and Technology has informed that Ultraviolet-C or UV-C Disinfection Technology will soon be installed in Parliament for the mitigation of airborne transmission of SARS-COV-2.

UV-C air duct disinfection system:

  • The UV-C air duct disinfection system was developed by CSIR-CSIO (Central Scientific Instruments Organisation).
  • The system is designed to fit into any existing air-ducts and the virucidal dosages using UV-C intensity and residence time can be optimized according to the existing space.
  • The release adds that the virus is deactivated in any aerosol particles by the calibrated levels of UV-C light. It can be used in auditoriums, malls, educational Institutions, AC buses, and railways.

What is Ultraviolet (UV)?

  • Ultraviolet (UV) is a type of light or radiation naturally emitted by the Sun. It covers a wavelength range of 100-400 nm. The human visible light ranges from 380–700 nm.
  • UV is divided into three bands: UV-C (100-280 nm), UV-B (280-315 nm) and UV-A (315-400 nm).
  • UV-A and UV-B rays from the Sun are transmitted through our atmosphere and all UV-C is filtered by the ozone layer.
  • UV-B rays can only reach the outer layer of our skin or epidermis and can cause sunburns and are also associated with skin cancer.
  • UV-A rays can penetrate the middle layer of your skin or the dermis and can cause ageing of skin cells and indirect damage to cells’ DNA.
  • UV-C radiation from man-made sources has been known to cause skin burns and eye injuries.

So, can UV-C kill coronavirus?

  • UV-C radiation (wavelength around 254 nm) has been used for decades to disinfect the air in hospitals, laboratories, and also in water treatment.
  • But these conventional germicidal treatments are done in unoccupied rooms as they can cause health problems.
  • It can destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus.

Is it safe for humans?

  • The device is specifically developed to disinfect non-living things.
  • UV-C radiation used in this device could be harmful to the skin and eyes of living beings.

Marburg Virus

  • Context:
    • Recently, West Africa’s first case of the extremely contagious and deadly Marburg virus was confirmed in Guinea.
    • Its first case was first identified just two months after the country was declared free of Ebola.
    • Both the Marburg case and this year’s Ebola cases were detected in Guinea’s Gueckedou district.
    • The first cases of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, the largest in history, also were from the same region in Southeastern Guinea’s forest region.
  • About:
    • Marburg virus disease is a highly virulent disease that causes haemorrhagic fever, it is carried by bats with a fatality ratio of up to 88%.
    • It is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola virus disease.
    • Two large outbreaks that occurred simultaneously in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1967, led to the initial recognition of the disease.
    • The outbreak was associated with laboratory work using African green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops) imported from Uganda.
    • Subsequently, outbreaks and sporadic cases have been reported in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
    • There have been 12 major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.

  • Human- Infection:
    • Human infection with Marburg virus disease initially results from prolonged exposure to mines or caves inhabited by Rousettus bat colonies.
    • Rousettus is a genus of Old World fruit bats or megabats. They are sometimes referred to as dog-faced fruit bats or flying foxes.
  • Transmission:
    • Once an individual is infected with the virus, Marburg can spread through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.
  • Symptoms:
    • Headache, vomiting blood, muscle pains and bleeding through various orifices.
    • Symptoms become increasingly severe and can include jaundice, inflammation of the pancreas, severe weight loss, liver failure, massive haemorrhaging, and multi-organ dysfunction.
  • Diagnosis:
    • Since many of the disease's symptoms are similar to those of malaria and typhoid fever, making a diagnosis is difficult.
    • However, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) testing can be used to confirm a case.
  • Treatment:
    • There is no specific treatment or approved vaccine for Marburg hemorrhagic fever. Supportive hospital therapy should be utilized.
    • Supportive hospital therapy includes balancing the patient's fluids and electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, replacing lost blood and clotting factors, and treatment for any complicating infections.

National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition

  • Context:
    • Recently, the Department of Biotechnology has launched the fifth edition of the National Bio Entrepreneurship Competition (NBEC).
  • About:
    • NBEC is conducted as a part of the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) Regional Entrepreneurship Centre, established at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) in partnership with BIRAC.
    • BIRAC is a Public Sector Enterprise, set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
  • Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP):
    • C-CAMP is one of the centers for technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship in the field of life sciences under the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
    • It intends to develop state-of-the-art technologies and to provide training on these technologies to academia and industry.
  • About NBEC:
    • It is India’s largest and most prestigious national competition for bio-entrepreneurs.
    • First Launched in 2017, NBEC has emerged as a flagship platform for bio-entrepreneurs and innovators in India to showcase their deep science driven ideas and has created a great impact.
    • It is held annually to identify and nurture deep science-driven business ideas in the life sciences domain that have the potential to break new ground in addressing societal challenges.
  • Prize:
    • It gives an unprecedented sum of Rs 8.5 crore in cash prizes and investment opportunities this year for winners.
  • Investment Partners:
    • Over 30 industry and investment partners have come forward to encourage and support bio-entrepreneurship in India through this competition.
  • Achievements:
    • NBEC in four years has created a repository of over 1,000 carefully vetted and expert hand-picked business ideas spanning all sub-domains of life Sciences.
    • Special focus was given on healthcare, agriculture and the environment, with a special focus on emerging areas like digital health, maternal & child health, antimicrobial resistance, water and sanitation, green chemistry, and personal care.
    • This has built a steady pipeline of innovative technologies with demonstrated commercial viability.

Biotech-PRIDE

  • Context:
    • Recently, Biotech-PRIDE (Promotion of Research and Innovation through Data Exchange) Guidelines was released by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology.
    • Further, a website of the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) was also launched.
  • Biotech-PRIDE Guidelines:
    • These guidelines envisage bridging other existing biological datasets/data centres with the IBDC, which will be called Bio-Grid.
    • This Bio-Grid will be a National Repository for biological knowledge, information and data.
    • Also, Bio-Grid will be responsible for enabling its exchange, developing measures for safety, standards and quality for datasets and establishing detailed modalities for accessing data.
    • These guidelines will be implemented through the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC).
    • Currently, India ranks number 4 amongst the top 20 countries contributing biological databases.
  • Need for Bio-Grid and its Advantages:
    • With a large population of over 135 crore and the heterogeneous character of the country, India needs its own exclusive database for Indian research and solutions.
    • This indigenous database will have a huge enabling mechanism for the exchange and adoption of data by young scientists and researchers for the benefit of Indian citizens.
    • Sharing a wide range of large scale data advances the understanding of molecular and biological processes.
    • This will contribute to human health, agriculture, animal husbandry, fundamental research and thus will extend to societal benefits.
    • Advances in DNA sequencing with a steep drop in DNA sequencing cost have enabled government agencies to fund research towards the generation of large volumes of biological data in various sectors of Biosciences.

Restraining Mosquito Populations with CRISPR

  • Context:
    • Recently, researchers have created a system that restrains populations of mosquitoes by leveraging advancements in Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)-based genetic engineering.
    • Mosquitoes infect millions each year with debilitating diseases such as dengue and malaria.
  • Sterile Insect Technique:
    • SIT is an environmentally safe and proven technology to suppress wild populations.
    • To further advance its utility, a novel CRISPR-based technology termed precision-guided Sterile Insect Technique (pgSIT) is described.
  • pgSIT:
    • It is a new scalable genetic control system that uses a CRISPR-based approach to engineer deployable mosquitoes that can suppress populations.
    • Males don't transmit diseases so the idea is to release more and more sterile males.
    • The population of mosquitos can be suppressed without relying on harmful chemicals and insecticides.
    • It alters genes linked to male fertility—creating sterile offspring—and female flight in Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species responsible for spreading diseases including dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika.
    • PgSIT mechanistically relies on a dominant genetic technology that enables simultaneous sexing and sterilization, facilitating the release of eggs into the environment ensuring only sterile adult males emerge.
    • The system is self-limiting and is not predicted to persist or spread in the environment, two safety features that should enable acceptance for this technology.
    • pgSIT eggs can be shipped to a location threatened by mosquito-borne disease or developed at an on-site facility that could produce the eggs for nearby deployment.
    • Once the pgSIT eggs are released in the wild, sterile pgSIT males will emerge and eventually mate with females, driving down the wild population as needed.
  • CRISPR:
    • It is a gene-editing technology, which replicates natural defence mechanisms in bacteria to fight virus attacks, using a special protein called Cas9.
    • CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information. The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or edited, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand.
    • A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself. Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.
    • CRISPR-Cas9 is a simple, effective, and incredibly precise technology with the potential to revolutionise human existence in future.
    • Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A Doudna of the USA were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.

West Nile Virus Infections

  • Context:
    • Recently, Russia warned of a possible increase in West Nile Virus (WNV) Infections this autumn as mild temperatures and heavy precipitation create favourable conditions for the mosquitos that carry it.
  • About:
    • It is a member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae.
    • WNV is commonly found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America and West Asia.
    • Older people, children and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.
  • Origin:
    • WNV was first isolated in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937.
    • It was identified in birds in the Nile delta region in 1953. Before 1997, WNV was not considered pathogenic for birds.
    • Human infections attributable to WNV have been reported in many countries for over 50 years.
  • Transmission:
    • WNV is an infectious disease spread by infected mosquitoes. It spreads from birds to humans with the bite of an infected Culex mosquito. It can lead to fatal neurological diseases in humans.
    • The virus causes West Nile fever in around 20% of cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is related to the Zika, Dengue and Yellow Fever Viruses.
  • Symptoms:
    • Those infected usually have no symptoms or mild symptoms.
    • The symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash, and swollen lymph glands. They can last a few days to several weeks, and usually, go away on their own.
    • If the West Nile virus enters the brain, it can be life-threatening. It may cause inflammation of the brain, called encephalitis, or inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, called meningitis.
  • Treatment:
    • There are no specific vaccines or treatments for human WNV disease.
    • The best way to avoid WNV is to prevent mosquito bites.
    • Treatment is supportive for patients with neuro-invasive West Nile virus, often involving hospitalization, intravenous fluids, respiratory support, and prevention of secondary infections.

Dementia

  • Context:
    • Recently, the WHO (World Health Organisation) released a report ‘Global status report on the public health response to dementia’.
    • It takes stock of progress made to date towards the 2025 global targets for dementia laid out in the WHO’s ‘Global Dementia Action Plan’ published in 2017.
  • About:
    • It is a syndrome – usually of a chronic or progressive nature – that leads to deterioration in cognitive function (i.e. the ability to process thought) beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing.
    • It affects memory, thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement.
    • However, consciousness is not affected.
    • 65% of total deaths due to dementia are women, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) due to dementia are roughly 60% higher in women than in men.
  • Symptoms:
    • Memory loss, Difficulties with thinking, Visual perception, Self-management, Problem-solving or language and the ability to focus and pay attention.
    • Personality changes, like depression, agitation, paranoia, and mood swings.
  • Causes:
    • When brain cells are damaged then dementia may occur. It can be caused by a head injury, a stroke, a brain tumour or due to HIV infection.
  • Treatment:
    • There is currently no treatment available to cure dementia, though numerous new treatments are being investigated in various stages of clinical trials.
  • Global Scenario:
    • Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death among all diseases and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide.
    • More than 55 million people (8.1% of women and 5.4% of men over 65 years) are living with dementia.
    • This number is estimated to rise to 78 million by 2030 and to 139 million by 2050.
    • WHO’s Western Pacific Region has the highest number of people with dementia (20.1 million), followed by the European Region (14.1 million).
  • WHO’s Efforts:
    • Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025:
    • It provides a comprehensive blueprint for addressing dementia.
  • Global Dementia Observatory:
    • It is an international surveillance platform to facilitate monitoring and sharing of information on dementia policies, service delivery, epidemiology and research.
  • Guidelines on Risk Reduction of Cognitive Decline and Dementia:
    • It provides evidence-based recommendations on interventions for reducing modifiable risk factors for dementia.
  • Mental Health Gap Action Programme:
    • It is a resource for generalists, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to help them provide first-line care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
  • Indian Initiatives:
    • Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India:
      • It calls for the government to have its plan or policy on dementia which must be implemented in all states and funded and monitored by the health ministry.
    • National Health Mission:
      • It envisages the achievement of universal access to equitable, affordable & quality health care services that are accountable and responsive to people's needs.

Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)

  • Context:
    • In 2017, a man affected by autism underwent his first DNA blood test at the age of 40. He tested positive for Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). This shows the lack of awareness and appropriate training in diagnosing FXS.
  • About FXS:
    • It is a genetic disorder that causes a range of developmental problems including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.
    • It is the leading inherited cause of autism in 4% of the global population.
    • It is caused by changes in FMR1 gene which make an important protein (FMRP) that is required for brain development.
    • It is caused by the mutation named FRAXA.
    • A mother who is a carrier has a 50% chance of passing the mutated gene to her children, who will either be carriers or have FXS.
    • Men who are carriers do not pass the pre-mutation to their sons, but only daughters, who become carriers.
    • Males are more severely affected by this disorder than females.
    • Studies suggest a high effect of consanguineous parenting on FXS prevalence. (Consanguineous is a term relating to or denoting people descended from the same ancestor.)
    • The simplest tool for timely detection is a DNA test. This testing could be made mandatory for every child diagnosed with autism.
  • Symptoms:
    • Learning difficulty, speech delay, aggressive behaviour, hyperactivity, attention deficit, fear of the unfamiliar, sensory processing disorders and problems in motor skills.
  • Treatment:
    • It cannot be cured, but early therapy can improve a person’s quality of life.

National Action Plan for Dog Mediated Rabies Elimination by 2030 (NAPRE)

  • Context:
    • The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare along with the Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying has launched NAPRE on World Rabies Day.
    • The Rabies is also known as “Hadakwa”, “mad dog disease” or “Hydrophobia”.
  • Rabies:
    • It is a zoonotic viral disease.
    • It is caused by the Rabies virus, of the Lyssavirus genus, within the family Rhabdoviridae.
    • It is a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) virus that is present in the saliva of a rabid animal (dog, cat, monkey, etc).
    • Rabies is 100% fatal but 100% vaccine-preventable. 
    • 33% of global rabies deaths are recorded in India.
  • Common Vectors/ Reservoirs of Virus:
    • The most common reservoir of the virus is the domestic/street dog especially in South Asia and Africa.
    • More than 99% of human deaths due to rabies are caused by dog-mediated rabies.
    • In developed nations like the USA, animals that transmit rabies are bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks.
    • Most mammals can carry the virus and hence can cause the disease.
    • It spreads by the bite of a rabid animal that leads to the deposition of the saliva and the virus in the wound.
    • The incubation period varies from 4 days to 2 years or sometimes even more.
    • The incubation period means the time interval between the bite and the occurrence of symptoms/signs of the disease.
  • Symptoms:
    • Fever, Headache, Nausea, Vomiting
    • Anxiety, Confusion, Hyperactivity, Hallucinations, Insomnia
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Excessive salivation
    • Partial paralysis
    • Fear brought on by attempts to drink fluids because of difficulty swallowing water, etc.
    • The death invariably occurs in 4 days to 2 weeks due to cardio-respiratory failure.
  • Control and Prevention of Rabies:
    • Get rabies vaccination to prevent the infection.
    • Vaccinating your pet against the disease.
    • Maintain distance from the wild animals.
    • Wash wounds with soap and water and maintain good hygiene.
    • Keep your pets away from the other stray dogs.
    • Prevent bats from wandering around your campuses and living places.
  • World Rabies Day:
    • It is celebrated on 28 September which marks the anniversary of Louis Pasteur's death.
    • Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine.
    • He also discovered Pasteurisation, Vaccines for Anthrax and Cholera and Chamberland filters.
    • In 2007, the first World Rabies Day (ERD) was organised by the two founding partners namely Alliance for Rabies Control (ARC) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta (CDC).
    • The theme for World Rabies Day 2021 is “Rabies: Facts, not Fear”.
  • About National Action Plan for dog Mediated Rabies Elimination by 2030 (NAPRE):
    • Declare Rabies as Notifiable Disease:
      • The union will encourage all the States and UTs to make Rabies a notifiable Disease.
      • “Joint Inter-Ministerial Declaration Support Statement” for Elimination of Dog mediated Rabies from India by 2030 was also launched.
      • It emphasized the need for a One Health Approach for achieving the 2030 targets.
      • A holistic approach to health keeping in mind human-animal interaction and their broader interaction with the environment can help alleviate such challenges.
      • Also environmental factors like rainfall, heat-wave can also contribute to the trajectory of the pathogen and the disease. 
    • Involvement of National Centre for Disease Control:
      • NCDC has rich experience in tackling zoonotic diseases like Nipah, Zika, Avian flu and surveillance of diseases like influenza, hepatitis. 
      • It would play a great role in the Government's effort to boost the One Health approach.

WHO approves COVAXIN for Global Use

Context:

  • Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is now an internationally approved vaccine against Covid-19 which can be administered to people above the age of 18 years.

What does this approval mean?

  • It has been granted EUL for use in persons 18 years and above, over two doses spaced four weeks apart.
  • World Health Organization has however not yet recommended it for pregnant women.
  • The move is expected to ease international travel for Indians who have opted for the vaccine but experts say that this would be subjected to countries clearing Covaxin through their regulatory processes.

How effective is COVAXIN?

  • Covaxin was found to have 78% efficacy against Covid-19 of any severity, 14 or more days after the second dose, and is extremely suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements.

About COVAXIN:

  • Covaxin is a whole virion-inactivated vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, developed in partnership with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

What is Emergency Use Approval?

  • The EUL is a prerequisite for the COVAX initiative in vaccine supply and allows countries to expedite their own regulatory approval to import and administer COVID-19 vaccines.
  • It is a risk-based procedure for assessing and listing unlicensed vaccines, therapeutics and in vitro diagnostics with the ultimate aim of expediting the availability of these products to people affected by a public health emergency.

To be eligible, the following criteria must be met:

  • The disease for which the product is intended is serious or immediately life-threatening, has the potential of causing an outbreak, epidemic or pandemic and it is reasonable to consider the product for a EUL assessment, e.g., there are no licensed products for the indication or for a critical subpopulation (e.g., children).
  • Existing products have not been successful in eradicating the disease or preventing outbreaks.
  • The product is manufactured in compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in the case of medicines and vaccines and under a functional Quality Management System (QMS) in the case of IVDs.
  • The applicant undertakes to complete the development of the product (validation and verification of the product in the case of IVDs) and apply for WHO prequalification once the product is licensed.

Omicron

Context:

  • The World Health Organization has declared the recently-discovered B.1.1.529 strain of Covid-19, to be a variant of concern.

About:

  • Omicron is placed in the most troubling category of Covid-19 variants, along with the globally-dominant Delta plus its weaker rivals Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
  • This variant has a large number of mutations. Some of them are cause for serious concern because they may allow the new variant to evade immunity obtained from past infection or via a vaccine.
  • However, there are no reliable estimates of just how much more transmissible the Omicron variant is compared to previous strains of the virus
  • Apart from South Africa, Omicron has been detected in Israel in people coming from Malawi, Botswana, Belgium and Hong Kong.

Nomenclature:

  • The WHO has decided to name the variants after the letters of the Greek alphabet, to avoid the countries that first detected them being stigmatised.
  • WHO selected the name Omicron, instead of Nu or Xi, the two letters between Mu and Omicron. This is because:
    • Xi happens to be a popular surname in China (avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups).
    • Nu could have been confused with the word ‘new’.

Situation In India:

  • Seroprevalence studies indicate that a large proportion of the population has already been exposed to the virus providing some level of protection to subsequent infections.
  • Further, the immunisation campaign has gained momentum and approximately 44% of Indian adults have been fully vaccinated and 82% have received at least one dose.
  • Scientists believe that prior infection followed by one or two doses of vaccination may have a larger protective effect than two doses of the vaccination alone.

Variants of Concern:

  • A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.
  • The new Variants could kick off new wave(s) of epidemic transmission.

The WHO currently lists 5 variants of concern:

  • Omicron (B.1.1.529), identified in southern Africa in November 2021
  • Delta (B.1.617.2), which emerged in India in late 2020 and spread around the world
  • Gamma (P.1), which emerged in Brazil in late 2020
  • Beta (B.1.351), which emerged in South Africa in early 2020
  • Alpha (B.1.1.7), which merged in Britain in late 2020.

The shelf life of Covid-19 vaccines

Context:

  • More than 40 lakh teenagers in the 15-18 age group received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccines as India began its drive to vaccinate the younger population groups.
  • Some concerns were raised about ‘expired’ Covaxin being administered to this younger group, leading to the Health Ministry issuing a clarification.
  • The Ministry described these claims as “false and misleading” and said these were based on “incomplete information”.
  • It pointed out that the shelf life of Covaxin, the only vaccine being given to the people below 18 years of age, had been extended in November after proper regulatory scrutiny, and as such these vaccine doses were as good as any.

Stability and Shelf life of a vaccine:

  • Vaccines are complex mixtures of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, inactivated viruses, or adjuvants —which are substances that are intended to enhance immune response and subsequent clinical efficacy of the vaccine. These together contribute to overall vaccine efficacy and safety.
  • Like other medicinal products, vaccines come with a date of expiry and shelf life determined by the manufacturer and approved by regulatory authorities. The constituents of a vaccine can go bad over time because of slow chemical reactions and lose efficacy.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stability is the ability of a vaccine to retain its chemical, physical, microbiological and biological properties within specified limits throughout its shelf life.

  • A series of tests are designed to obtain information on the stability of a vaccine in order to define its shelf life and utilization period under specified packaging and storage conditions. And depending on the nature of the antigen and other components, and the manufacturing process, stability parameters are selected on a case-by-case basis, the WHO guidelines state.
  • There are three specific objectives of stability studies, which differ throughout a vaccine’s lifetime.
    1. it is conducted to determine shelf life and storage conditions.
    2. the stability studies, monitor vaccine stability in the post-licensure period, that is, when the vaccine is marketed commercially.
    3. according to the WHO guidelines, stability studies are conducted to support manufacturing changes by demonstrating comparability of product manufactured by different processes.

India Situation:

 

‘IHU’ variant of Covid-19

Context:

  • Amid the spread of the Omicron Variant of coronavirus, the discovery of a new strain named ‘IHU (Instituts Hospitalo-Universitaires)’ that emerged in France raises fears across the world.

About IHU variant:

  • The variant is a sub-lineage of the B.1.640. It has been classified as B.1.640.2.
  • The variant has 46 mutations and 37 deletions in its genetic code, more than Omicron. Many of these affect the spike protein.

Not spreading rapidly:

  • According to outbreak.info, a website that tracks the prevalence of different variants in genome sequencing databases, at least 400 infections with the B.1.640 variant have so far been identified.
  • It has been detected in at least 19 countries. Interestingly, one of these sequences happens to be from India as well, the only one out of the roughly 90,000 sequences from India deposited in the global databases.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) had classified B.1.640 as a variant under monitoring, or VUM, the entry-level categorisation of a variant that is considered worth keeping an eye out for.

Not a concern:

  • While a large number of significant mutations in this variant has attracted the interest of researchers and raised concerns among the public, the B.1.640 is not spreading at a rate that is unnerving.
  • It is certainly not as alarming as the spread of Omicron. According to the website outbreak.info, this variant was last detected on December 25. After that, no new case has been detected in the global databases.

Conditional Market Authorization of two COVID19 Vaccines

Context:

  • The National Regulator, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), has given nod to market authorization of two COVID19 vaccines, Covaxin and Covishield subject to certain conditions.
  • The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) had recommended for up-gradation of status for the vaccines from restricted use in emergency situations to grant of new drug permission with conditions in the adult population.

What is Conditional Market Authorization?

  • Conditional Market Authorization is a new category of market authorization that has emerged during the current global pandemic of COVID19.
  • The approval pathways through this route are fast-tracked with certain conditions to enhance the access to certain pharmaceuticals for meeting the emerging needs of drugs or vaccines.
  • Since the two vaccines now meet the high standards of safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality that the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 requires of a new vaccine, they have been upgraded to “conditional market authorisation”.

International regulators also grant conditional market authorisation like The European Medicines Agency (EMA):

  • Conditional marketing authorisation is granted if the four key criteria are met:
    1. The benefit-risk balance of the vaccine is positive;
    2. it is likely that the applicant will be able to provide comprehensive data post-authorization;
    3. the vaccine fulfils an unmet medical need;
    4. the benefit of the immediate availability of the vaccine to patients is greater than the risk inherent in the non-availability of additional data.
  • Such approval is valid for one year and can be renewed annually.

Conditional market authorisation different from the existing EUA for the vaccines:

  • For individual recipients of the vaccines, not much changes. But conditional market authorisation relaxes somewhat the regulatory requirements on monitoring the safety of the vaccines.
  • Under EUA, manufacturers have to submit safety and efficacy data every 15 days or a month. Under the conditional market authorisation, the Health Ministry said, they have to submit the data every six months.
  • While adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) and adverse event of special interest (AESI) shall continue to be monitored, the two companies will have to submit AEFI and AESI data with due analysis on a six-monthly basis or as and when available, whichever is earlier as per the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019.

Omicron and immune response after vaccination

Context:

  • With its multiple mutations, the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 significantly reduces the neutralising ability of antibodies — those induced by vaccines as well as by hybrid immunity, a study has found.
  • This might explain its rapid spread even amid widespread vaccine coverage, suggests the study, conducted by the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI).
  • The researchers have stressed, however, that reduced neutralization may not translate into a drastic reduction in vaccine effectiveness.

What is Omicron and what makes it a variant of concern (VoC)?

  • It is a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that has recently been reported from South Africa on 24th November 2021 called B.1.1.529 or Omicron (based on Greek alphabets like alpha, beta, delta, etc).
  • This variant has shown a very large number of mutations, especially more than 30 on the viral spike protein, which is the key target of the immune response.
  • Given the collection of mutations in Omicron, which earlier individually have been associated with increased infectivity and/or immune evasion, and the sudden rise in a number of positive cases in South Africa, World Health Organization has declared Omicron as a Variant of Concern (VoC).

Will the existing vaccines work against Omicron?

  • While there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron, some of the mutations reported on the Spike gene may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines.
  • However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved.
  • Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and, vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial. If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated

Comparison:

  • Researchers tested the ability of antibodies to neutralise Omicron among people with vaccination alone, and among vaccinated people who also had had a prior natural SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • The study compared the extent of neutralisation using a measure called geometric mean titre (GMT).
  • For antibodies against the original virus strain, the GMT was 384 in those vaccinated with Covaxin alone, and 383 in those vaccinated with Covishield alone. For the hybrid groups, the values were 795 and 1424 respectively.
  • Against Omicron, only 5 out of 20 in both vaccine-only groups5 out of 19 in the Covaxin-plus-infection group, and 9 out of 20 in the Covishield-plus-infection group exhibited neutralisation titres above the lower limit of quantification. This suggested better neutralisation in those with prior infection.
  • The proportion of neutralisers was significantly reduced against Omicron compared to the original strain and Delta. Among those without prior infection, GMT was significantly lower against Omicron than against the original strain and Delta.
  • Among those with the previous infection, the titres followed the same pattern — but the neutralising ability was better in them than in those without previous infection.

Antibodies, T cells & boosters:

  • A recent study by THSTI published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases has shown that besides neutralising antibodies, T-cell immune responses are important for controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Researchers have said in the study that the drop in neutralisation might be alarming, but the real-world impact of these reduced neutralisation titres on hospitalisation rates and mortality rates have to be interpreted along with other factors such as pathogenicity of the variant, immunisation uptakes and seroprevalence from natural infection in different geographical regions and the expected role of cellular immune responses to the variant.

Baricitinib and Sotrovimab, drugs newly recommended by WHO work against Covid

Context:

  • The World Health Organization (WH0) has recommended two drugs, Baricitinib, and Sotrovimab, for treatment of Covid-19.
  • The recommendations are based on evidence from seven trials involving over 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical Covid-19.

About Baricitinib:

  • Baricitinib, which is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, has been “strongly recommended” for patients with severe or critical Covid-19 in combination with corticosteroids.
  • It is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system.
  • It is an oral drug and provides an alternative to other arthritis drugs called Interleukin-6 receptor blockers, recommended by WHO in July 2021.

About Sotrovimab:

  • Sotrovimab, developed by GlaxoSmithKline with US partner Vir Biotechnology Inc, is an investigational monoclonal antibody for use in treating conditions caused by a coronavirus.
  • The WHO has conditionally recommended its use for treating mild or moderate Covid-19 in patients who are at high risk of hospitalisation.
  • These include patients who are older, are immunocompromised, have underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and are unvaccinated.
  • The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to has approved an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the therapy for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 in patients above 12 years.

Working of the drugs:

  • Baricitinib, an immunomodulator, is an alternative to tocilizumab: either of these drugs is given to patients who have severe Covid-19, are clinically progressing on steroids, and have high inflammatory markers.
  • Both  Baricitinib and tocilizumab have different mechanisms of action but studies have shown mortality benefits if used with steroids in patients with serious Covid-19 disease.
  • The antibody cocktail Casirivimab-Imdevimab is not active against the Omicron variant whereas Sotrovimab can be used in mild illness with patients of both Delta and Omicron at risk of high progression.

Availability in India:

  • Baricitinib is cheap and widely available. It is given to control hyper inflammation, which usually starts between days 7 and 14. 
  • Sotrovimab is not available in India. However, experts said that since Omicron now forms the major proportion of infections, the currently available monoclonal antibodies should be used only if there is clear proof that the person has been infected with the Delta variant.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

  • Context:
    • Legendary singer-composer Bappi Lahiri died due to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
  • What is Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)?
    • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly in their sleep.
    • This occurs when muscles in the throat and upper airway relax intermittently during sleep and block the airway.
    • Symptoms: The most common symptoms of OSA are snoring, gasping for breath, abruptly waking up gasping or choking, having a dry mouth or sore throat, inability to concentrate during the daytime among others.
    • Complications: It can be life-threatening if left untreated. It can trigger chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease among others.
    • Vulnerable group: It usually happens in obese men and less commonly in women.

Omicron and immune response after vaccination

Context:

  • With its multiple mutations, the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 significantly reduces the neutralising ability of antibodies — those induced by vaccines as well as by hybrid immunity, a study has found.
  • This might explain its rapid spread even amid widespread vaccine coverage, suggests the study, conducted by the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI).
  • The researchers have stressed, however, that reduced neutralization may not translate into a drastic reduction in vaccine effectiveness.

What is Omicron and what makes it a variant of concern (VoC)?

  • It is a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that has recently been reported from South Africa on 24th November 2021 called B.1.1.529 or Omicron (based on Greek alphabets like alpha, beta, delta, etc).
  • This variant has shown a very large number of mutations, especially more than 30 on the viral spike protein, which is the key target of the immune response.
  • Given the collection of mutations in Omicron, which earlier individually have been associated with increased infectivity and/or immune evasion, and the sudden rise in a number of positive cases in South Africa, World Health Organization has declared Omicron as a Variant of Concern (VoC).

Will the existing vaccines work against Omicron?

  • While there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron, some of the mutations reported on the Spike gene may decrease the efficacy of existing vaccines.
  • However, vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as by cellular immunity, which is expected to be relatively better preserved.
  • Hence vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and, vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial. If eligible, but not vaccinated, one should get vaccinated

Comparison:

  • Researchers tested the ability of antibodies to neutralise Omicron among people with vaccination alone, and among vaccinated people who also had had a prior natural SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • The study compared the extent of neutralisation using a measure called geometric mean titre (GMT).
  • For antibodies against the original virus strain, the GMT was 384 in those vaccinated with Covaxin alone, and 383 in those vaccinated with Covishield alone. For the hybrid groups, the values were 795 and 1424 respectively.
  • Against Omicron, only 5 out of 20 in both vaccine-only groups5 out of 19 in the Covaxin-plus-infection group, and 9 out of 20 in the Covishield-plus-infection group exhibited neutralisation titres above the lower limit of quantification. This suggested better neutralisation in those with prior infection.
  • The proportion of neutralisers was significantly reduced against Omicron compared to the original strain and Delta. Among those without prior infection, GMT was significantly lower against Omicron than against the original strain and Delta.
  • Among those with the previous infection, the titres followed the same pattern — but the neutralising ability was better in them than in those without previous infection.

Antibodies, T cells & boosters:

  • A recent study by THSTI published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases has shown that besides neutralising antibodies, T-cell immune responses are important for controlling SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Researchers have said in the study that the drop in neutralisation might be alarming, but the real-world impact of these reduced neutralisation titres on hospitalisation rates and mortality rates have to be interpreted along with other factors such as pathogenicity of the variant, immunisation uptakes and seroprevalence from natural infection in different geographical regions and the expected role of cellular immune responses to the variant.

New Technology:

When A Missile Misfires

Context:

  • Pakistan on Thursday said an unarmed Indian missile landed 124 km inside its territory on Wednesday; India acknowledged “technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile”.

What is the recent case of a misfire?

  • Pakistan has only called it a “supersonic” missile.
  • Some experts have speculated that it was a test of one of India’s top missiles, BrahMos, jointly developed with Russia.
  • Their assessment is based on information that it travelled 200 km, manoeuvred mid-air and travelled at 2.5 times to 3 times the speed of sound at an altitude of 40,000 feet.

Missile Tests: NOTAM and NAVAREA Warnings:

  • Under the pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles agreement signed in 2005 between India & Pakistan, a country must provide the other with an advance notification on the flight test it intends to take for any land or sea-launched, surface-to-surface ballistic missile.
  • Before the test, the country must issue a Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) or Navigational Warning (NAVAREA) to alert aviation pilots and seafarers, respectively.
  • Also, the testing country must ensure that the launch site is not within 40 km, and the planned impact area is not within 75 km of either the International Boundary (IB) or the Line of Control (LoC).
  • The planned trajectory should not cross the IB or the LoC and must maintain a horizontal distance of at least 40 km from the border.

Pre-notifications to the neighbours:

  • The testing country must notify the other nation “no less than three days before the commencement of a five-day launch window within which it intends to undertake flight tests.
  • The pre-notification must be conveyed through the respective Foreign Offices and the High Commissions, as per the format annexed to this Agreement.

About Brahmos:

  • Brahmos is one of the fastest cruise missiles currently operationally deployed with the speed of Mach 2.8, which is 3 times more than the speed of sound.
  • BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India (DRDO) and the NPOM of Russia.
  • Brahmos is named after the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva.
  • It is a two-stage (solid propellant engine in the first stage and liquid ramjet in the second) air to surface missile with a flight range of around 300 km.
  • However, India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has extended the range of the BRAHMOS missile to reach 450 km-600km, a shade above its current MTCR capped range 300 km.
  • Brahmos is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft, with a weight of 2.5 tonnes.
  • Brahmos can be launched from land, air, and sea and multi capability missile with pinpoint accuracy that works in both day and night irrespective of the weather conditions.
  • It operates on the “Fire and Forgets” principle it does not require further guidance after launch.

Impact of War on Semiconductor Supply

Context:

  • The global semiconductor chip supply chain which was earlier hit by the COVID-19 pandemic may again face a crisis due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Both Russia and Ukraine contribute to the global semiconductor supply chain.

Contribution of Ukraine:

  • Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of Neon gas, which is used in the etching process. Thus, the usage of Neon gas is important for the fabrication of semiconductors.
  • After the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, Neon gas production increased in Ukraine.
  • Neon gas is a byproduct of steel production. It is produced by filtration of the gases released during the manufacturing of steel.

Contribution of Russia:

  • Russia is the world’s largest exporter of Palladium and the current sanctions and export controls on Russia will affect the global supply of Palladium.
  • Palladium is known for its conductivity and non-corrosive ability and is thus used for plating in the semiconductor industry.

Alternative sources:

  • While the Russia-Ukraine war may create supply chain disruptions, it may not create a huge problem. This is because there are alternative suppliers for these materials.
  • The United States and the United Kingdom are the major suppliers of Palladium. For the etching process, Neon can be replaced with Chlorine- and Fluorine-based gases.

Impact on the Russian Semiconductor industry:

  • The growing sanctions on Russia will cripple its domestic semiconductor chip industry. Due to export and import controls, it will be difficult for Russia to import high-end processors and chipsets, which are needed for advanced defense and space systems.
  • India also exports some semiconductor chips to Russia and the western sanctions, especially by the U.S. might impact India’s exports to Russia.

Types Of Electric Vehicle Batteries

Context:

  • An EV battery explosion has claimed one life and left two others injured in Hyderabad. Police have registered an FIR against the e-scooter manufacturer Pure EV.
  • E-scooters from Okinawa Scooters, Ola Electric, Pure EV, and Jitendra Electric Vehicles have gone up in flames in recent weeks, putting the electric vehicle industry under pressure.

Electric vehicle battery:

  • An electric vehicle battery (EVB, also known as a traction battery) is a rechargeable battery used to power the electric motors of a battery electric vehicle (BEV) or hybrid electric vehicle (HEV).
  • Typically lithium-ion batteries, are specifically designed for high electric charge (or energy) capacity.

Battery

  • A battery is a device for storing chemical energy and converting that chemical energy into electricity.
  • A battery is made up of one or more electrochemical cells, each of which consists of two half-cells or electrodes.
  • One half-cell, called the negative electrode, has an overabundance of the tiny, negatively charged subatomic particles called electrons. The other, called the positive electrode, has a deficit of electrons.
  • When the two halves are connected by a wire or an electrical cable, electrons will flow from the negative electrode to the positive electrode. We call this flow of electrons electricity.
  • The energy of these moving electrons can be harnessed to do work — running a motor, for instance.
  • The electrons are generated by chemical reactions, and there are many different chemical reactions that are used in commercially available batteries. For example, the familiar alkaline batteries commonly used in flashlights and television remote controls generate electricity through a chemical reaction involving zinc and manganese oxide. Most alkaline batteries are considered to be a disposable battery. Once they go dead, they're useless and should be recycled.
  • Automobile batteries, on the other hand, need to be rechargeable, so they don't require constant replacement. In a rechargeable battery, electrical energy is used to reverse the negative and positive halves of the electrochemical cells, restarting the electron flow.

Types of Batteries used in automobiles:

  • Automobile manufacturers have identified three types of rechargeable battery as suitable for electric car use.
  • Those types are lead-acid batteries, nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.

Lead-acid batteries:

  • Lead-acid batteries were invented in 1859 and are the oldest form of rechargeable battery still in use.
  • Lead-acid batteries are a kind of wet cell battery and usually contain a mild solution of sulfuric acid in an open container.
  • The name comes from the combination of lead electrodes and acid used to generate electricity in these batteries.
  • Lead-acid batteries are only currently being used in electric vehicles to supplement other battery loads.
  • These batteries are high-powered, inexpensive, safe, and reliable, but their short calendar life and poor cold-temperature performance make them difficult to use in electric vehicles.
  • There are high-power lead-acid batteries in development, but the batteries now are only used in commercial vehicles as secondary storage.

Nickel metal hydride batteries:

  • Nickel metal hydride batteries came into commercial use in the late 1980s. They have a high energy density — that is, a great deal of energy can be packed into a relatively small battery — and don't contain any toxic metals, so they're easy to recycle.
  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries are more widely used in hybrid-electric vehicles, but are also used successfully in some all-electric vehicles.
  • Nickel-metal hydride batteries have a longer life-cycle than lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries.
  • The biggest issues with nickel-metal hydride batteries are their high cost, high self-discharge rate, and the fact that they generate significant heat at high temperatures.
  • These issues make these batteries less effective for rechargeable electric vehicles, which is why they are primarily used in hybrid electric vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries:

  • Lithium-ion batteries, which came into commercial use in the early 1990s, have a very high energy density and are less likely than most batteries to lose their charge when not being used — a property called self discharge.
  • Because of their light weight and low maintenance requirements, lithium-ion batteries are widely used in electronic devices such as laptop computers.
  • Some experts believe that lithium-ion batteries are about as close as science has yet come to developing a perfect rechargeable battery, and this type of battery is the best candidate for powering the electric cars of the near future. These batteries are also used in most portable electronics, including cell phones and computers.
  • Lithium-ion batteries have a high power-to-weight ratio, high energy efficiency and good high-temperature performance.
  • In practice, this means that the batteries hold a lot of energy for their weight, which is vital for electric cars – less weight means the car can travel further on a single charge.
  • Lithium-ion batteries also have a low “self-discharge” rate, which means that they are better than other batteries at maintaining the ability to hold a full charge over time.
  • Additionally, most lithium-ion battery parts are recyclable making these batteries a good choice for the environmentally conscious.
  • The major advantage of lead-acid batteries is that they are cheap to produce. However, they do produce dangerous gases while being used and if the battery is overcharged there's a risk of explosion.

AmbiTAG 

Context: AmbiTAG is a first-of-its-kind IoT gadget developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Ropar.

More on news:

  • AmbiTAG, which resembles a USB flash drive, continuously records the temperature of its immediate surroundings “from -40 to +80 degrees in any time zone for a complete 90 days on a single charge.”
  • Use: During the transit of perishable goods, vaccinations, and even body organs and blood, this gadget records the ambient temperature in real-time.
  • This temperature is also useful in determining whether an object carried from anywhere in the world is still useable or has perished due to temperature variations.
  • This information is very important when it comes to vaccines, such as the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as organ and blood transportation.
  • This ISO-certified device was created by the AWaDH (Agriculture and Water Technology Development Hub) Technology Innovation Hub and its startup ScratchNest.

Ultraviolet (UV) Disinfection Technology 

Context: In order to combat SARS-CoV-2, the CSIR-CSIO has handed UV Disinfection technology to select indigenous businesses.

More about the UV Disinfection Technology: 

  • The UV-C air duct disinfection equipment can be utilized in AHUs like auditoriums, large meeting rooms, classrooms, malls, and so on for disinfection.
  • Purpose: Using correct ventilation, safety, and user guidelines, and tested bio-safety standards, among other things, to destroy the SARS COV-2 virus in an aerosol.
  • An aerosol is a suspension of tiny liquid droplets of solid particles in the air.
  • Air transports the aerosol substance, which can be liquid or solid, through the respiratory tract.
  • UV-C destroys 99 percent of viruses, bacteria, fungus, and other bioaerosols, as well as decreasing the spread of fungal infections.
  • The UV-C is a low-cost, energy-efficient device that enhances the airflow through coils, improves indoor air quality, requires less maintenance, and is simple to instal with any existing AHU duct system.

More about UV Radiation:

  • It's a type of non-ionizing radiation produced by the sun as well as other non-natural sources such as tanning beds.
  • The three primary types of UV radiation are UVA (ultraviolet A), UVB (ultraviolet B), and UVC (ultraviolet C).
  • The wavelength of UVA is 315-399 nm. This chemical is not found in the ozone layer.
  • The wavelength of UVB rays is 280-314 nm. The majority of the radiation is absorbed by the ozone layer, although some reach the Earth's surface.
  • The wavelength of UVC is 100–280 nm. Short-wave UV, often known as germicidal UV, is a type of ionizing radiation with shorter wavelengths that is totally absorbed by the ozone layer and the atmosphere.

 

Vajra Kavach 

Context: Indra Water, a Mumbai-based start-up, has invented the Vajra Kavach System, which eliminates virus particles from Corona warriors' equipment.

About the Vajra Kavach:

  • Vajra Kavach disinfects PPE, N95 masks, coats, gloves, and gowns with an Ultra Violet (UV) disinfection system to eradicate any probable residues of the Covid-19 virus.
  • This technology was created as part of the Department of Science and Technology's NIDHI-PRAYAS programme (DST).
  • It allows healthcare professionals to reuse PPE kits and other materials, protecting not only themselves but also the environment by reducing biomedical waste output.
  • It also increases the availability, affordability, and accessibility of personal protective equipment.

About the NIDHI-PRAYAS

  • NIDHI-PRAYAS stands for National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovation, as well as Promoting and Accelerating Young and Aspiring Innovators and Startups.
  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has created the NIDHI initiative, which includes incubators, seed funds, accelerators, and ‘Proof of Concept' awards for innovators and entrepreneurs.

First Nano Liquid Urea

Context: The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) recently launched Nano Urea Liquid.

The Demand for Nano Liquid Urea

  • India imports urea to meet its domestic requirements.
  • In 2019-20, urea output was only 244.55 LMT, compared to 336 lakh metric tonnes of demand, leading to an almost 91 LMT shortage.
  • Excess urea pollutes the environment, decreases soil health, and exposes plants to disease and insect infestation.

More about Nano Urea Liquid

  • It's a nitrogen-delivering nutrient that can be used instead of urea. It's the world's first tiny liquid urea.
  • It was developed to replace traditional urea and has the potential to reduce urea consumption by at least 50%.
  • It contains 40,000 ppm nitrogen in a 500 ml container, which is comparable to the nitrogen nutrition impact of one bag of regular urea.
  • Ordinary urea is just 30-40% effective in delivering nitrogen to plants; however, Nano Urea Liquid is over 80% effective.
  • It will have a significant favourable impact on subsurface water quality, as well as a significant reduction in global warming, affecting climate change and sustainable development.

National AI Portal (INDIAai)

Context: The INDIAai recently celebrated its first anniversary in a virtual gathering with almost 400 participants and dignitaries.

More about INDIAai:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the National e-Government Division (NeGD), and the National Association of Software and Services Companies collaborated on the project (NASSCOM).
  • It serves as a focal point for AI-related news, learning, papers, events, and activities in India and abroad.
  • India aspires to be the trusted content powerhouse in the context of its journey to global prominence in Artificial Intelligence.
  • It is the single-core knowledge resource on artificial intelligence and related issues for aspiring entrepreneurs, students, professionals, researchers, and everyone else.
  • The site intends to build and nurture a single AI ecosystem that will propel India's AI journey forward, supporting economic progress and enhancing people's lives.

More about NASSCOM:

  • It's a non-profit trade organization that represents India's IT and BPO businesses. It was established in 1988.
  • It's a global trade group with over 2000 members, including more than 250 companies from China, the EU, Japan, the US, and the UK.
  • It fosters software technology research and development, as well as business and commerce in software and services.
  • Its goal is to strengthen India's place in the global IT order by creating a favorable business climate, streamlining rules and procedures, generating intellectual capital, and expanding the talent pool.

EAST reactor

Context: China's 'artificial sun' EAST achieved a peak temperature of 288 million degrees Fahrenheit for 20 seconds, which is over ten times hotter than the sun.

What is China’s ‘artificial sun’ EAST? 

  • The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor is a research device for advanced nuclear fusion at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Plasma Physics (ASIPP) in Hefei, China.
  • The artificial sun's objective is to mimic the nuclear fusion reaction, which is the same reaction that drives the sun.
  • International Initiative: The EAST project is part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) facility, which when completed in 2035 would be the world's largest nuclear fusion reactor. Several countries, including India, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the United States, have contributed to the project.

How does the ‘artificial sun’ EAST work? 

  • The EAST Tokamak is a device that simulates the nuclear fusion process that occurs in the sun and stars. Nuclear fusion is a method of producing big amounts of energy without producing large amounts of waste.
  • Previously, energy was generated by splitting the nucleus of a heavy atom into two or more nuclei of lighter atoms, a process known as nuclear fission. While fission is a less time-consuming process, it produces significantly more nuclear waste.
  • Fusion, unlike fission, does not produce greenhouse gases and is thought to be a safer process with a decreased danger of mishaps. Nuclear fusion, once mastered, has the potential to offer endless clean energy at very low costs.
  • To achieve nuclear fusion, enormous heat and pressure are delivered to hydrogen atoms, causing them to fuse together. Deuterium and tritium nuclei, both present in hydrogen, are fused together to form the helium nucleus.
  • Fuel is heated to nearly 150 million degrees Celsius, forming a hot plasma “soup” of subatomic particles. The plasma is maintained away from the reactor's walls by a strong magnetic field, ensuring that it does not cool down and lose its ability to generate vast amounts of energy.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Context: For a period of time, major websites such as Amazon, Reddit, and others were unavailable owing to a problem with Fastly's CDN, an American cloud computing service provider.

What is CDN?

  • CDN distributes material from websites to users throughout the globe in a fast, dependable, secure, and effective manner.
  • If a website's servers are located in New York City, for example, those who live outside of the city will experience slower content delivery than those who live in the city. This leads to a lack of consistency in the user experience. The content delivery network (CDN) overcomes the problem of delayed content.
  • CDNs are made up of a distributed set of servers located across the globe that help major websites to stay close to their clients.
  • An edge server is the CDN server that is nearest to a user. When a user requests content, they are automatically linked to the nearest edge server for faster delivery and a better user experience.
  • CDNs also help protect companies against traffic spikes and malicious attacks such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. 

About DDoS Attack:

  • A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to interrupt a targeted server's or network's normal traffic by flooding the target or its infrastructure with Internet traffic.
  • The networks are made up of infected computers and other devices that can be controlled remotely by an attacker thanks to malware. Individual devices are known as bots (or zombies), while a botnet is a collection of bots.

I-STEM Portal

Context: Academic users in India will now have free access to the COMSOL Multiphysics software suite through the I-STEM portal.

About I-STEM Portal

  • The Indian Science, Technology, and Engineering Facilities Map, or I-STEM, is a project of the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor (PSA) to the Government of India, as part of the Prime Minister's Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) mandate.
  • The purpose is to boost the R&D ecosystem by connecting researchers with resources, promoting inventions, and developing scientific equipment on a local level.
  • The portal houses a database of facilities across India, allowing researchers who want to use one to search for it and make an online reservation.
  • A Digital Catalogue of indigenously developed technologies and goods is also included.

PM-STIAC 

  • This council assists the PSA's Office in assessing the state of science and technology in certain fields, formulating specific interventions, developing a futuristic plan, and providing advice to the Prime Minister.
  • The PM-STIAC Secretariat is based at Invest India and provides project management and monitoring support to the Office of the PSA on important initiatives by various government departments, agencies, and ministries.

 

Project Medicine from The Sky

Context: The Telangana state government recently chose 16 primary healthcare centers (PHCs) in the Hyderabad city hospital to test the ambitious project “Medicine from the Sky.”

More about the initiative:

  • Because of the availability of cold chain facilities, the area hospital was chosen as the central point, and the selected PHCs are both within the Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) range.
  • It's a first-of-its-kind project that involves several drones delivering medicines.
  • A detailed review of drone-based deliveries for blood, vaccines, medical specimens, and lifesaving equipment is part of the project.
  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) and Group Healthnet Global Limited developed the project structure, which was later adopted by the Telangana government.
  • The Telangana government signed a partnership agreement with the World Economic Forum and Apollo Hospital's HealthNet Global in March 2020 to conduct a feasibility study to explore how drones can be used to boost medical supply chains for the “Medicine from the Sky” project.
  • The project will begin with a VLOS range of 500 meters and eventually expand to a range of 9 kilometers. 
  • The project is being launched following the Ministry of Civil Aviation's acceptance of the State's request for a conditional exemption from the Unmanned Aircraft System Rules 2021 in order to perform experimental BVLOS drone flights for vaccine delivery.
  • As a result, the State was given one year to perform the experimental flights.

Stromatolites 

Context: Studies show that Stromatolites are the earliest known lifeforms on Earth.

What are the Stromatolites? 

  • Stromatolites, which means “layered rock” in Greek, are microbial reefs formed by cyanobacteria (formerly known as blue-green algae).
  • Stromatolite deposits are created via sediment entrapment and binding, as well as microbial community precipitation. The microorganisms are active on the Stromatolites' surface layer, whereas the underlying build-up is a lithified residue of former microbial surface populations that may be considered a trace fossil.
  • Stromatolites were widespread during the Precambrian period (i.e., more than 542 million years ago). Stromatolites found in 3.5 billion-year-old rocks include some of the earliest forms of life on Earth.
  • Stromatolites are no longer found in large numbers. Only a few salty lagoons or bays on Earth have living stromatolites. Only two well-developed marine Stromatolite locations exist in the world: the Bahamas and Hamelin Pool in Western Australia's Shark Bay.
  • Threat: Stromatolites prefer supersalty saltwater, but when it is diluted by ocean circulation or other factors, it begins to degrade.
  • More tropical storms and flooding occurrences are predicted to occur in the area where these Stromatolites are found as a result of climate change. Another danger is human involvement.

Green Hydrogen

Context:

  • Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is investing Rs 75,000 crore in its new business focused on clean energy, which includes solar and green hydrogen.
  • The company will build four Giga factories focusing on solar, storage battery, green hydrogen and a fuel cell factory, which can convert hydrogen into mobile and stationary power.

What is green hydrogen?

  • Hydrogen when produced by electrolysis using renewable energy is known as Green Hydrogen which has no carbon footprint.
  • The hydrogen that is in use today is produced using fossil fuels, which is the primary source.
  • Organic materials such as fossil fuels and biomass are used for releasing hydrogen through chemical processes.

Significance of Green Hydrogen:

  • Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) Targets and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability.
  • Green Hydrogen can act as an energy storage option, which would be essential to meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future.
  • In terms of mobility, for long-distance mobilisations for either urban freight movement within cities and states or for passengers, Green Hydrogen can be used in railways, large ships, buses or trucks, etc.

Applications of green hydrogen:

  • Green Chemicals like ammonia and methanol can directly be utilized in existing applications like fertilizers, mobility, power, chemicals, shipping etc.
  • Green Hydrogen blending up to 10% may be adopted in CGD networks to gain widespread acceptance.

Benefits:

  • It is a clean-burning molecule, which can decarbonize a range of sectors including iron and steel, chemicals, and transportation.
  • Renewable energy that cannot be stored or used by the grid can be channelled to produce hydrogen.

What are the steps the Indian government has taken in the production of green hydrogen?

  • During the budget speech in February 2021, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the launch of the Hydrogen Energy Mission to produce hydrogen from renewable sources.
  • In the same month, state-owned Indian Oil Corporation signed an agreement with Greenstat Norway for setting up a Centre of Excellence on Hydrogen (CoE-H). It will promote R&D projects for the production of green and blue hydrogen between Norwegian and Indian R&D institutions/universities.
  • Recently, India and the US have set up a task force under the aegis of the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP) to mobilise finance and speed up green energy development.

INSPIRE Awards-MANAK

  • Context:
    • Recently, the 8th National Level Exhibition and Project Competition (NLEPC) for the INSPIRE Awards – MANAK (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspiration and Knowledge), has commenced.
  • About:
    • It is aligned with the ‘Start-up India’ initiative and is being executed by DST (Department of Science and Technology) with the National Innovation Foundation – India (NIF), an autonomous body of DST.
    • Under the scheme the students are invited from all government or private schools throughout the country, irrespective of their educational boards (national and state).
    • It covers the students in the age group of 10-15 years and studying in classes 6 to 10, to pursue Science and a career in Research.
    • An award of Rs.10,000 is disbursed into bank accounts of winning students under the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme.
    • It does not believe in conducting competitive exams for the identification of talent at any level. It believes in and relies on the efficacy of the existing educational structure for the identification of talent.
  • Aim:
    • To motivate students to become future innovators and critical thinkers.
  • Objectives:
    • To target one million original ideas/innovations rooted in science and societal applications to foster a culture of creativity and innovative thinking among school children.
    • To address the societal needs through science and technology and nurture them to become sensitive and responsible citizens and innovation leaders of tomorrow.
  • INSPIRE Scheme:
    • The INSPIRE (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research) scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the Ministry of Science and Technology & Earth Sciences.
    • Its objective is to communicate to the youth population of the country the creative pursuit of science and attract talent to the study of science at an early stage and build the required critical human resource pool for strengthening and expanding the Science & Technology system and Research & Development base.
    • The Government of India has successfully implemented the INSPIRE scheme since 2010.
    • The scheme covers students in the age group of 10-32 years and has five components.
    • The INSPIRE Awards- MANAK is one of its components.
  • Related Initiatives:
    • Draft National Science Technology and Innovation Policy, 2020:
      • Its aim is to identify and address the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian Science Technology and Innovation (STI) ecosystem to catalyse the socio-economic development of the country and also make the Indian STI ecosystem globally competitive.
    • SERB-POWER Scheme:
      • It is a scheme designed exclusively for women scientists to mitigate gender disparity in science and engineering research in various science and technology (S&T) programmes in Indian academic institutions and Research and Development (R&D) laboratories.
    • Swarna Jayanti Fellowship:
      • It provides special assistance and support to a selected number of young scientists with a proven track record to enable them to pursue basic research in frontier areas of science and technology.

Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme

  • Context:
    • Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology launched Phase II of the Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme.
  • About Phase II of the scheme:
    • It is being launched with enhanced features to serve the purpose of productive research in India.
    • It aims to support 1000 Full-Time PhD Candidates, 150 Part-Time PhD Candidates, 50 Young Faculty Research Fellowships and 225 Post-Doctoral Fellowships.
    • It aims to promote research in 42 emerging technologies in Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM) and Information Technology (IT)/ Information Technology Enabled Services(ITES).
  • About Visvesvaraya PhD Scheme:
    • It was initiated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in 2014 with the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) with an objective to enhance the number of PhDs in ESDM and IT/IT Enabled Services sectors in the country.
    • PhD seats were allocated to 97 institutions (IITs, NITs, Central & State Universities etc.) in 25 states and 4 Union Territories.  
    • The scheme is a manifestation of the Prime Minister’s vision of providing world-class education and opportunities for research and development to the students at the bottom of the pyramid in society. 
  • Salient features of the PhD Scheme are as follows:
    • It provides 25% more fellowship amount than most of the other PhD Schemes.
    • Part-time PhD candidates get a one-time incentive on completion of the PhD.
    • The scheme also supports 200 Young Faculty Research Fellowships in the areas of ESDM and IT/ITES with the objective to retain and attract bright young faculty members in these sectors.
  • Objectives:
    • Give thrust to R&D, create an innovative ecosystem and enhance India’s competitiveness in these knowledge-intensive sectors.
    • To fulfil the commitments made in National Policy on Electronics (NPE 2012) and National Policy on Information Technology (NPIT 2012).
    • They recommend giving special thrust on significantly increasing the number of PhDs in the country to enable India to compete globally in the coming decades, to develop an ecosystem of research, development and IP creation in these knowledge-intensive sectors.
  • The results of 1st phase: 
    • The results of the 1st phase of the scheme are really encouraging with 63 global patents and the publication of thousands of research papers in reputed international journals.

LiFi Network

  • Context:
    • Students' Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), India's highest altitude educational organisation, has become the 1st institute in the Union Territory to have an internet connection using LiFi technology.
  • What is LI-FI?
    • LiFi(Light Fidelity) is a high-speed wireless communication technology that uses visible light to transmit information. It has some similarities to existing WiFi technology, as well as some huge differences.
    • WiFi and LiFi are similar because both technologies are wireless, but also very different because unlike WiFi, which relies on radio waves, LiFi uses visible light communication (VLC) or infrared and near-UV spectrum waves.
    • In other words, LiFi works by using visible light, like the light that is emitted by any regular lamp or bulb.
  • Working of LI-FI:
    • Li-Fi is a Visible Light Communications (VLC) system. This means that it accommodates a photo-detector to receive light signals and a signal processing element to convert the data into ‘stream-able content. Unlike Wi-Fi, which uses radio waves, Li-Fi runs on visible light.
    • Here, data is fed into an LED light bulb (with signal processing technology), it then sends data (embedded in its beam) at rapid speeds to the photo-detector (photodiode).
    • The tiny changes in the rapid dimming of LED bulbs are then converted by the ‘receiver’ into an electrical signal.
    • The signal is then converted back into a binary data stream that the user would recognise as web, video and audio applications that run on internet-enabled devices.

Facebook is now 'META'

  • Context:
    • Facebook is now called ‘Meta’, a change, the company announced at its Connect 2021 conference.

  • About:
    • ‘Meta’ in Greek means ‘after’ or ‘beyond’. The overall Facebook company will now simply be called Meta. However, the Facebook app will retain its name and there’s no change for other apps.
    • But Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger are now all under the company ‘Meta’— like Google has all its products under the umbrella company Alphabet.
    • Meta has a new logo as well, which is sort of like the symbol for infinity.
    • What exactly will it mean to live in the metaverse?
      • The way Zuckerberg is envisioning the ‘metaverse’, it will go beyond the internet as we know it, with interoperability, avataars, natural interfaces, teleporting, Home Space, presence, digital goods being some of the key features of this metaverse.
  • Background:
    • Ever since Facebook was launched in 2004, it has purchased social media apps like Instagram and WhatsApp.
    • It has also invested in technologies like the video-calling device Portal, virtual reality system Oculus and digital wallet Novi. However, sceptics are also suggesting that this move is an attempt to move attention away from the Facebook papers leak.
  • Metaverse:
    • The metaverse is a sort of internet brought to life and are rendered in 3D. it is a “virtual environment” wherein people can go inside, instead of just looking at it on the screen. Through this platform, people can meet, play and work using virtual reality headsets, smartphone apps and augmented reality glasses.
    • Metaverse will include elements from both physical and virtual worlds.
    • The metaverse will be decentralized (just like the internet).
    • Nobody owns the metaverse like how nobody owns the internet. It is an open platform.
    • There will be many companies and individuals that will operate their own spaces within the virtual world.
    • A metaverse is a form of mixed reality ie a combination of augmented and virtual reality.
    • Metaverse will introduce digital elements in the real world.
    • As per Facebook, the metaverse is the next evolution of social connection.
    • Metaverse is expected to expand the internet to combine digital spaces like online gaming, social media, cryptocurrency, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
  • Examples of Metaverse:
    • Scenario 1: Meet your friend living in New York City in a local coffee shop in Mumbai – in a virtual environment in real-time via digital avatars.
    • Scenario 2: Shop with your friend living in Australia in a shopping mall in Delhi – in a virtual environment in real-time via digital avatars.
    • Scenario 3: Land and walk on the moon – in a virtual environment.

Women’s Involvement in Science and Engineering Research (WISER)

Context: 

  • A first-of-its-kind programme to promote women in the field of research and development through lateral entry has been launched recently – Women’s Involvement in Science and Engineering Research (WISER)

About:

  • This program by IGSTC, a joint initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Government of Germany, will support women scientists holding regular/long term research positions in academia or research institutes/industry.
  • Involvement in the program will be possible through lateral entry. There is neither requirement of break-in-career nor any age limit, and it will enable easy participation.
  • IGSTC is going to support the awardees with a maximum amounting to Rs. 39 L from the Indian side & € 48000 from the German side. The WISER program offers 20 awards per year.

ISRO's special data Window for Small Island Nations

Context:

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will create a special “data window” for small island nations, generating and disseminating satellite data that will help these countries to strengthen their fences against climate disasters, India said at the UN climate conference on Tuesday.

About:

  • It will be part of a new India-backed international initiative that seeks to make critical infrastructure in the small island states resilient against all kinds of disasters.
  • The initiative, called IRIS or Infrastructure for the Resilient Island States, was formally launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Benefits:

  • Through this mechanism, the small island states will get continuous information that will help them in monitoring cyclones, coral reefs, and coastlines.
  • IRIS is the first major programme under the Coalition of Disaster Resilience Infrastructure (CDRI), an international partnership launched by India two years ago to safeguard important infrastructure against the increasing frequency of climate disasters.
  • So far, 26 countries, along with some UN agencies, multilateral development banks, and financial institutions, have become part of the coalition.
  • IRIS would not just strengthen infrastructure but also help the countries in accessing technology and finance from the developed world, because of the priority given to these infrastructure projects in the finance pipeline.
  • This will also generate income and employment.

Privacy

Context:

  • A Parliamentary panel deliberating on the Personal Data Protection Bill has made the following recommendations:
    • Limit the exemptions available to the government under the current version by placing reasonable restrictions on how the exemption can be availed.
    • The government be exempted only under a “just, fair, reasonable and proportionate procedure”.
    • The government keep non-personal data “including anonymous data” outside the purview of the personal data protection bill.

Background:

  • The draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in 2019 which was tasked to come up with a report on its recommendations on the various provisions in the bill.

What’s the issue?

  • Currently, the contentious clause 35 of the draft data protection bill allows the government and its agencies to gain blanket exemptions from complying with any and all provisions of the bill, with no checks and balances in place.
  • Agencies like the Aadhaar authority UIDAI and the Income Tax Department have already sought to be exempted from the bill.

The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill 2019:

  • The Bill governs the processing of personal data by:
    • (i) government,
    • (ii) companies incorporated in India, and
    • (iii) foreign companies dealing with the personal data of individuals in India.
  • Personal data is data that pertains to characteristics, traits or attributes of identity, which can be used to identify an individual.  The Bill categorises certain personal data as sensitive personal data. 
  • This includes financial data, biometric data, caste, religious or political beliefs, or any other category of data specified by the government, in consultation with the Authority and the concerned sectoral regulator.

Obligations of data fiduciary:

  • A data fiduciary is an entity or individual who decides the means and purpose of processing personal data. Such processing will be subject to a /'certain purpose, collection and storage limitations.  For instance, personal data can be processed only for specific, clear and lawful purposes. 
    • Additionally, all data fiduciaries must undertake certain transparency and accountability measures such as:
      • (i) implementing security safeguards (such as data encryption and preventing misuse of data), and
      • (ii) instituting grievance redressal mechanisms to address complaints of individuals.  They must also institute mechanisms for age verification and parental consent when processing sensitive personal data of children.

Rights of the individual:

  • The Bill sets out certain rights of the individual (or data principal). These include the right to:
    • (i) obtain confirmation from the fiduciary on whether their personal data has been processed,
    • (ii) seek correction of inaccurate, incomplete, or out-of-date personal data,
    • (iii) have personal data transferred to any other data fiduciary in certain circumstances, and
    • (iv) restrict continuing disclosure of their personal data by a fiduciary, if it is no longer necessary or consent is withdrawn.

Grounds for processing personal data:

  • The Bill allows the processing of data by fiduciaries only if consent is provided by the individual. However, in certain circumstances, personal data can be processed without consent. These include:
    • (i) if required by the State for providing benefits to the individual,
    • (ii) legal proceedings,
    • (iii) to respond to a medical emergency.

Social media intermediaries:

  • The Bill defines these to include intermediaries which enable online interaction between users and allow for sharing of information.
  • All such intermediaries which have users above a notified threshold, and whose actions can impact electoral democracy or public order, have certain obligations, which include providing a voluntary user verification mechanism for users in India.

Data Protection Authority:

  • The Bill sets up a Data Protection Authority which may:
    • (i) take steps to protect the interests of individuals,
    • (ii) prevent misuse of personal data, and
    • (iii) ensure compliance with the Bill. It will consist of a chairperson and six members, with at least 10 years of expertise in the field of data protection and information technology. 
  • Orders of the Authority can be appealed to an Appellate Tribunal.  Appeals from the Tribunal will go to the Supreme Court.
  • Transfer of data outside India: Sensitive personal data may be transferred outside India for processing if explicitly consented to by the individual, and subject to certain additional conditions. However, such sensitive personal data should continue to be stored in India.  Certain personal data notified as critical personal data by the government can only be processed in India.  

Exemptions:

  • The central government can exempt any of its agencies from the provisions of the Act:
    • (i) in the interest of the security of the state, public order, sovereignty and integrity of India and friendly relations with foreign states, and
    • (ii) for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence (i.e. arrest without warrant) relating to the above matters.
  • Processing of personal data is also exempted from provisions of the Bill for certain other purposes such as:
    • (i) prevention, investigation, or prosecution of any offence, or
    • (ii) personal, domestic, or
    • (iii) journalistic purposes.  However, such processing must be for a specific, clear and lawful purpose, with certain security safeguards.

Offences: Offences under the Bill include:

  • (i) processing or transferring personal data in violation of the Bill, punishable with a fine of Rs 15 crore or 4% of the annual turnover of the fiduciary, whichever is higher, and
  • (ii) failure to conduct a data audit, punishable with a fine of five crore rupees or 2% of the annual turnover of the fiduciary, whichever is higher.  Re-identification and processing of de-identified personal data without consent are punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, or fine, or both.
  • Sharing of non-personal data with government: The central government may direct data fiduciaries to provide it with any:
    • (i) non-personal data and
    • (ii) anonymised personal data (where it is not possible to identify data principal) for better targeting of services.

Amendments to other laws:

  • The Bill amends the Information Technology Act, 2000 to delete the provisions related to compensation payable by companies for failure to protect personal data.

Facebook removes facial recognition system

Context:

  • Facebook Inc announced on Tuesday it is shutting down its facial recognition system, which automatically identifies users in photos and videos, citing growing societal concerns about the use of such technology.

About:

  • The removal of face recognition by Facebook comes as the tech industry has faced a reckoning over the past few years over the ethics of using the technology.
  • Facial recognition technology, which is popular among retailers, hospitals and other businesses for security purposes – could compromise privacy, target marginalized groups and normalize intrusive surveillance.
  • Facebook has been under intense scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers over user safety and a wide range of abuses on its platforms.
  • The removal will roll out globally and is expected to be complete by December.
  • Facebook has said that its automatic alt-text tool, which creates image descriptions for visually impaired people, will now exclude the names of people recognized in photos after the removal of face recognition.
  • The technology will now be limited to certain services such as helping people gain access to their locked accounts or unlock a personal device.

Grime-eating bacteria to restore classical art

Context:

  • Recently, a team of scientists has used helpful bacteria to clean the artwork of Michelangelo in Italy.

How is the Artwork cleaned?

  • Art restorers have usually employed chemical agents and more recently laser techniques to remove dirt, oil, glue or pollutants from monuments, stoneworks and paintings.
  • But since the 1980s, when researchers first used micro-organisms like Bacteria Desulfovibrio Vulgaris to clean a marble monument at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, the role of micro-organisms has been recognized in protecting the artistic heritage of humanity.

Effect of bacteria on Art:

  • Bacteria and other tiny organisms have traditionally been viewed as a threat to art. 
  • But not all are harmful. Some specialized microbes can be set loose on artwork in an effort to clean and restore the original glory of these pieces of cultural heritage.
  • Moreover, these bacteria are not modified or genetically engineered. They are just common ones from natural environments that love to eat various proteins.

Is it possible to fix the discolouration of the Taj Mahal using this method?

  • For this, we need to study the marble of the Taj Mahal to understand if it is just dust and particulate carbon causing the dark colour or if there is a biofilm formation (Biofilms are formed when communities of microorganisms adhere to a surface).
  • Moreover, a research paper in 2014 has said that calcifying bacteria could be used for remediation of stones and cultural heritage monuments, including the Taj Mahal.
  • The Archeological Survey of India is also learnt to be exploring the option of employing bio-restoration at the Taj.

National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT)

Context:

  • Union Education Minister launches NEAT 3.0 and AICTE prescribed technical books in regional languages
  • 12 Lakh NEAT ed-tech free course coupons worth Rs 253.72 crore distributed to socially disadvantaged groups NEAT will be a game-changer in bridging the digital divide and fulfilling the knowledge-based requirement of the world.

About NEAT:

  • National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) is an initiative to provide the use of best-developed technological solutions in the education sector to enhance the employability of the youth on a single platform for learners' convenience.
  • These solutions use Artificial Intelligence for a personalized and customized learning experience for better learning outcomes and skill development in the niche areas.
  • AICTE, MoE is acting as the facilitator in the process while ensuring that the solutions are freely available to a large number of socially and economically backward students.
  • NEAT has 58 Education Technology Companies with 100 products that help to develop employable skills, capacity building, and bridge learning gaps.

About Ed-Tech:

  • Edtech is the practice of introducing IT tools into the classroom to create a more engaging, inclusive and individualized learning experience.
  • Intended Benefits of Ed-Tech: Technology holds promise and has incredible potential. It can help in:
    1. Enabling greater personalisation of education
    2. Enhancing educational productivity by improving rates of learning,
    3. Reducing costs of instructional material and service delivery at scale
    4. Better utilisation of teacher/instructor time.
  • National Education Policy 2020: India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is responsive to the clarion call to integrate technology at every level of instruction.
  • It envisions the establishment of an autonomous body, the National Education Technology Forum (NETF), to spearhead efforts towards providing a strategic thrust to the deployment and use of technology.
  • Scope: The Indian ed-tech ecosystem has a lot of potential for innovation.
  • With over 4,500 start-ups and a current valuation of around USD 700 million, the market is geared for exponential growth — estimates project an astounding market size of USD 30 billion in the next 10 years.
  • Associated Issues With Ed-Tech:
    • Lack of Technology Access: Not everyone who can afford to go to school can afford to have phones, computers, or even a quality internet connection for attending classes online.
    • According to National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42% of urban and 15% of rural households had internet access.
    • In this case, Ed-tech can increase the already existing digital divide.
    • Contradiction with Right to Education: Technology is not affordable to all, shifting towards online education completely is like taking away the Right to Education of those who cannot access the technology.
  • Related Steps Taken:
    1. Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA).
    2. PM eVidya.
    3. Swayam Prabha TV Channel
    4. SWAYAM portal

arXiv: Free online repository of 2 million research papers

Context:

  • Over the last two years, non-science specialists and other laypeople have read references to “bioRxiv” and “medRxiv” in news reports on the Covid-19 pandemic, frequently described as “preprint servers”.
  • Both bioRxiv and medRxiv, which have played an invaluable role in quickly disseminating the conclusions of scientific research on the coronavirus to doctors, scientists, and health policymakers around the world, were inspired by arXiv.org, the original preprint server that published its two millionth paper — a numerical analysis titled ‘Affine Iterations and Wrapping Effect: Various Approaches’ — earlier this month.

About arXiv:

  • arXiv — pronounced ‘archive’ because the ‘X’ stands for ‘chi’, the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet — is a gigantic online repository of research that physicists, astronomers, computer scientists and mathematicians among others find indispensable.
  • arXiv “started out in 1989 as an e-mail list for a few dozen string theorists”, according to a long profile published on January 10 in Scientific American magazine.
  • Thus was born arXiv, to which as many as 500,000 papers had been submitted by 2008. It took only six years until 2014 for this number to double to a million, and seven more years to double again.

Fast and free:

  • While the material posted on arXiv is not peer-reviewed, it allows the wider community of researchers to circulate their findings quickly and freely pending peer-review.
  • Research could appear online within a day of submission, compared with perhaps several months at the traditional journals.
  • This holds true for the life sciences preprint servers bioRxiv and medRxiv as well — and made an immense contribution to speeding up biomedical research in the literally life-and-death situation of the pandemic.

Some concerns:

  1. Short of resources,
  2. Understaffed and underfunded,
  3. Inconsistent moderation policies at arXiv,
  4. Lack of transparency.

The Devas-Antrix deal

Context:

  • The Supreme Court upheld a May 25, 2021 order of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to liquidate Devas on the ground that the firm was created under fraudulent circumstances.
  • The order came even as three Mauritius-based investors and a German telecom major have approached federal courts in the United States to seize assets linked to the Indian government such as those of Air India.
  • The investors have won separate compensation awards in international tribunals, including $1.2 billion awarded by an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) tribunal on September 14, 2015. The Supreme Court has kept the $1.2 billion award in abeyance.

About the Devas-Antrix deal:

  • Under the deal, ISRO would lease to Devas two communication satellites (GSAT-6 and 6A) for 12 years for Rs 167 crore.
  • Devas would provide multimedia services to mobile platforms in India using S-band transponders on the satellites, with ISRO leasing 70 MHz of S-band spectrum.

Key points:

  • Allocation of Spectrum: The International Telecommunication Union granted India S-band spectrum in the 1970s.
  • Handing Over of Spectrum to ISRO: By 2003, there was a fear that the spectrum would be lost if not used effectively;
  • 70 Mhz was to be put to efficiently used by the Department of Space (DoS) or in effect to be used by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • 40 MHz of S-band was given to the Department of Telecom (DoT) for terrestrial use. 
  • Global Negotiations for Growth of Communication Systems: Initially, an MoU was signed by Forge (a US Consultancy) and Antrix in July 2003 for use of the satellite spectrum for the growth of communication systems in India, but later a start-up was envisaged, and Devas Multimedia was floated. Following this, Devas Multimedia was able to attract foreign investors.
  • As a result of the deal, Devas introduced and utilised technologies like never before and was a huge revenue generator for Antrix.
  • Scrapping of the Deal: The deal was cancelled in 2011 on the ground that the auction of the broadband spectrum was mired in fraud.
  • The decision was taken in the midst of the 2G scam and allegations that the Devas deal involved the handing over of communication spectrum valued at nearly Rs 2 lakh crore for a pittance.
  • The government also held that it needed the S-band satellite spectrum for national security and other social purposes.
  • Filling of Corruption Charges: Meanwhile, in August 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet against officials from Devas, ISRO and Antrix linked to the deal for “being party to a criminal conspiracy”.
  • International Tribunal Arbitration: Devas Multimedia initiated arbitration against the annulment at the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC).
  • Two separate arbitrations were also initiated under the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by Mauritius investors in Devas Multimedia under the India-Mauritius BIT and by Deutsche Telekom — a German company — under the India- Germany BIT.
  • India lost all three disputes and has to pay a total of USD 1.29 billion in damages.
  • The aftermath of Tribunal Award: Due to the Indian Government not paying the compensation, a French court has recently ordered the freezing of Indian government property in Paris, to enforce a USD 1.3 billion arbitration award.
  • Indian Arbitration Scenario: Recently, the Supreme Court reiterated the Government’s 2011 stance and directed the winding up of Devas Multimedia business in India.
  • The Supreme Court also upheld the previous award by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • Antrix filed a plea in the NCLT in January 2021 for the liquidation of Devas in India, which it said was incorporated in a fraudulent manner.
  • These tribunals directed the winding up of Devas Multimedia and appointed a provisional liquidator for the purpose.

The concern over 5G and flight safety

Context:

  • Flights to the United States from India resumed as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the landing of more aircraft even in low-visibility conditions, despite the rollout of C-band 5G technology.
  • Following the announcement, Air India resumed flights from India to the US, with the first flight for John F Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Why had AI suspended its US flights?

  • The FAA warned that the rollout of new 5G technology by AT&T and Verizon in the allotted 3.7-3.98 GHz (gigahertz) band could potentially lead to interference with onboard instruments such as radar altimeters.
  • Commercial passenger and cargo airlines had also warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis if the rollout of 5G went ahead as planned.
  • The deployment of 5G by AT&T and Verizon, two of the biggest wireless communications service providers in the US, has triggered concern among airlines, who have said that the frequencies used by the telecom companies are very close to the frequencies used by onboard instruments such as radar altimeters, which operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range.

Role of flight radar altimeters in safe flight operations:

  • For all airborne vehicles — an aircraft, spacecraft, or even a missile — an altimeter is crucial to gauge the altitude and the distance covered.
  • Altimeters are of three main kinds: barometric, laser, and radio or radar altimeters.
  • Most commercial passenger and cargo aircraft use a combination of all these altimeters along with a global positioning system (GPS) to determine their path, as well as factors such as height above sea level, presence of highrises, mountains, and other obstacles, and the likely flying time.
  • The radio or radar altimeter is a very small, low-power radar system that operates in the 4.2-4.4 GHz frequency microwave C-band.
  • The high frequency of these altimeters enables aircraft makers to install small antennae that produce powerful signals that can be relayed quickly and accurately.

Concern about radar altimeter interference specifically in the US:

  • According to industry experts, there are chances of interference of the two bands as telecom service operators, in order to extract the full value of 5G and give customers the best experience, push operations to the highest band possible.
  • Altimeters too need to operate at higher frequencies in order to get the most accurate readings possible.

The situation in India:

  • In India, where 5G is yet to be rolled out, the frequency range for 5G telecoms operations is pegged around 3.3-3.68 GHz. 
  • The DoT, however, assured them that there would be no interference as the frequencies for commercial 5G services were at least 530 MHz away from those used by altimeters.

Bacterial resistance to drugs

Context:

  • A comprehensive estimate of the global impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), covering 204 countries and territories, was published recently in The Lancet.
  • The report is titled- Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) report.

Highlights of the report:

  • A comprehensive estimate of the global impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), covering 204 countries and territories and published in The Lancet, has found that 1.27 million people died in 2019 as a direct result of AMR, which is now a leading cause of death worldwide, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria.

Analysis:

  • Of the 23 pathogens studied, drug resistance in six (E coli, S aureus, K pneumoniae, S pneumoniae, A baumannii, and P aeruginosa) led directly to 9.29 lakh deaths and was associated with 3.57 million.
  • One pathogen-drug combination – methicillin-resistant S aureus, or MRSA – directly caused more than 1 lakh deaths.
  • Resistance to two classes of antibiotics often considered the first line of defence against severe infections – fluoroquinolones and beta-lactam antibiotics – accounted for more than 70% of deaths caused by AMR.

Antibiotic resistance:

  • It is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

Antimicrobial resistance is a silent threat to the future:

  • Antibiotics have saved millions of lives to date. Unfortunately, they are now becoming ineffective as many infectious diseases have ceased to respond to antibiotics.
  • Even though antimicrobial resistance is a natural process, the misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
  • A large number of infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and gonorrhea are becoming very difficult to treat since the antibiotics used for their treatment are becoming less effective.
  • Globally, the use of antibiotics in animals is expected to increase by 67% by 2030 from 2010 levels. The resistance to antibiotics in germs is a man-made disaster.
  • Irresponsible use of antibiotics is rampant in human health, animal health, fisheries, and agriculture.
  • Complex surgeries such as organ transplantation and cardiac bypass might become difficult to undertake because of untreatable infectious complications that may result in post-surgery.

Moderna’s experimental HIV vaccine

Context:

  • Forty years since HIV was discovered, the development of a vaccine against the virus has remained a challenge. Now, the biotech firm Moderna has started trials on an mRNA vaccine, which uses a novel approach to elicit broadly neutralising HIV-1 antibodies (bNAbs) and eventually target multiple HIV strains.
  • First doses of the experimental HIV vaccine antigens were administered at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington DC this week.

The technology:

  • The vaccine uses the same technology as Moderna’s Covid 19 vaccine. It uses mRNA, or messenger RNA, which teaches the body’s cells how to make proteins that trigger an immune response.
  • BNAbs are produced by certain types of B cells, which are rare: one in 300,000 B cells have this capability. The vaccine aims to stimulate the production of bnAbs that can act against many variants of HIV.

The trial:

  • The MODERNA/IAVI study is a phase 1, randomised, first-in-human, open-label study to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccines, mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1644v2-Core, in HIV-uninfected individuals.
  • Fifty-six individuals will be randomised into four groups and safety/immunogenicity results will be available in 2023.

Burden of disease

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV continues to be a major global public health issue having claimed 36.3 million lives so far.
  • India has around 21 lakh people living with HIV and every year an estimated 68,000 new infections are added.
  • While there is no cure for the infection, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition because of increasing access to effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care including for opportunistic infections.
  • However, despite decades of research, no vaccine has been developed.

1 GW of Green hydrogen production

Context:

  • Hero Future Energies and Ohmium International announced a strategic partnership to build 1,000 MW of green hydrogen production facilities in India, the UK and Europe.
  • While Hero Future will assume the overall ownership of the assets, Ohmium will be responsible for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of the facilities. Hero Future will also supply renewable energy to produce green hydrogen.

Green Hydrogen:

  • Green hydrogen is produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable energy (like Solar, Wind) and has a lower carbon footprint.
  • The electricity splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
  • By-Products: Water, Water Vapor.

Indian Scenario:

  • Cost of Green Hydrogen: By 2030, the cost of green hydrogen is expected to compete with that of hydrocarbon fuels (coal, Crude Oil, natural gas).
  • The price will decrease further as production and sales increase. It is also projected that India's hydrogen demand will increase five-fold by 2050, with 80% of it being green.
  • Exporter of Green Hydrogen: India will become a net exporter of green hydrogen by 2030 due to its cheap renewable energy tariffs.
  • The country currently consumes about around 6 million tonne of hydrogen annually and the government is looking for ways to increase the penetration of domestic green hydrogen in industries which otherwise import natural gas and ammonia to produce hydrogen.
  • The Union ministry on new and renewable energy has already circulated the draft ‘National Hydrogen Energy Mission’ document for inter-ministerial consultation, aiming to create a hydrogen value chain in the country and bring down the costs of hydrogen production.

Benefits of Using Green Hydrogen for India:

  • Green hydrogen can drive India’s transition to clean energy, combat climate change.
  • Under the Paris Climate Agreement, India pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its economy by 33-35% from 2005 levels by 2030.
  • It will reduce import dependency on fossil fuels.
  • The localisation of electrolyser production and the development of green hydrogen projects can create a new green technologies market in India worth $18-20 billion and thousands of jobs.

National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT)

Context:

  • Union Education Minister launches NEAT 3.0 and AICTE prescribed technical books in regional languages
  • 12 Lakh NEAT ed-tech free course coupons worth Rs 253.72 crore distributed to socially disadvantaged groups NEAT will be a game-changer in bridging the digital divide and fulfilling the knowledge-based requirement of the world.

About NEAT:

  • National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) is an initiative to provide the use of best-developed technological solutions in the education sector to enhance the employability of the youth on a single platform for learners' convenience.
  • These solutions use Artificial Intelligence for a personalized and customized learning experience for better learning outcomes and skill development in the niche areas.
  • AICTE, MoE is acting as the facilitator in the process while ensuring that the solutions are freely available to a large number of socially and economically backward students.
  • NEAT has 58 Education Technology Companies with 100 products that help to develop employable skills, capacity building, and bridge learning gaps.

About Ed-Tech:

  • Edtech is the practice of introducing IT tools into the classroom to create a more engaging, inclusive and individualized learning experience.
  • Intended Benefits of Ed-Tech: Technology holds promise and has incredible potential. It can help in:
    1. Enabling greater personalisation of education
    2. Enhancing educational productivity by improving rates of learning,
    3. Reducing costs of instructional material and service delivery at scale
    4. Better utilisation of teacher/instructor time.
  • National Education Policy 2020: India’s new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is responsive to the clarion call to integrate technology at every level of instruction.
  • It envisions the establishment of an autonomous body, the National Education Technology Forum (NETF), to spearhead efforts towards providing a strategic thrust to the deployment and use of technology.
  • Scope: The Indian ed-tech ecosystem has a lot of potential for innovation.
  • With over 4,500 start-ups and a current valuation of around USD 700 million, the market is geared for exponential growth — estimates project an astounding market size of USD 30 billion in the next 10 years.
  • Associated Issues With Ed-Tech:
    • Lack of Technology Access: Not everyone who can afford to go to school can afford to have phones, computers, or even a quality internet connection for attending classes online.
    • According to National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42% of urban and 15% of rural households had internet access.
    • In this case, Ed-tech can increase the already existing digital divide.
    • Contradiction with Right to Education: Technology is not affordable to all, shifting towards online education completely is like taking away the Right to Education of those who cannot access the technology.
  • Related Steps Taken:
    1. Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA).
    2. PM eVidya.
    3. Swayam Prabha TV Channel
    4. SWAYAM portal

arXiv: Free online repository of 2 million research papers

Context:

  • Over the last two years, non-science specialists and other laypeople have read references to “bioRxiv” and “medRxiv” in news reports on the Covid-19 pandemic, frequently described as “preprint servers”.
  • Both bioRxiv and medRxiv, which have played an invaluable role in quickly disseminating the conclusions of scientific research on the coronavirus to doctors, scientists, and health policymakers around the world, were inspired by arXiv.org, the original preprint server that published its two millionth paper — a numerical analysis titled ‘Affine Iterations and Wrapping Effect: Various Approaches’ — earlier this month.

About arXiv:

  • arXiv — pronounced ‘archive’ because the ‘X’ stands for ‘chi’, the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet — is a gigantic online repository of research that physicists, astronomers, computer scientists and mathematicians among others find indispensable.
  • arXiv “started out in 1989 as an e-mail list for a few dozen string theorists”, according to a long profile published on January 10 in Scientific American magazine.
  • Thus was born arXiv, to which as many as 500,000 papers had been submitted by 2008. It took only six years until 2014 for this number to double to a million, and seven more years to double again.

Fast and free:

  • While the material posted on arXiv is not peer-reviewed, it allows the wider community of researchers to circulate their findings quickly and freely pending peer-review.
  • Research could appear online within a day of submission, compared with perhaps several months at the traditional journals.
  • This holds true for the life sciences preprint servers bioRxiv and medRxiv as well — and made an immense contribution to speeding up biomedical research in the literally life-and-death situation of the pandemic.

Some concerns:

  1. Short of resources,
  2. Understaffed and underfunded,
  3. Inconsistent moderation policies at arXiv,
  4. Lack of transparency.

The Devas-Antrix deal

Context:

  • The Supreme Court upheld a May 25, 2021 order of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to liquidate Devas on the ground that the firm was created under fraudulent circumstances.
  • The order came even as three Mauritius-based investors and a German telecom major have approached federal courts in the United States to seize assets linked to the Indian government such as those of Air India.
  • The investors have won separate compensation awards in international tribunals, including $1.2 billion awarded by an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) tribunal on September 14, 2015. The Supreme Court has kept the $1.2 billion award in abeyance.

About the Devas-Antrix deal:

  • Under the deal, ISRO would lease to Devas two communication satellites (GSAT-6 and 6A) for 12 years for Rs 167 crore.
  • Devas would provide multimedia services to mobile platforms in India using S-band transponders on the satellites, with ISRO leasing 70 MHz of S-band spectrum.

Key points:

  • Allocation of Spectrum: The International Telecommunication Union granted India S-band spectrum in the 1970s.
  • Handing Over of Spectrum to ISRO: By 2003, there was a fear that the spectrum would be lost if not used effectively;
  • 70 Mhz was to be put to efficiently used by the Department of Space (DoS) or in effect to be used by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • 40 MHz of S-band was given to the Department of Telecom (DoT) for terrestrial use. 
  • Global Negotiations for Growth of Communication Systems: Initially, an MoU was signed by Forge (a US Consultancy) and Antrix in July 2003 for use of the satellite spectrum for the growth of communication systems in India, but later a start-up was envisaged, and Devas Multimedia was floated. Following this, Devas Multimedia was able to attract foreign investors.
  • As a result of the deal, Devas introduced and utilised technologies like never before and was a huge revenue generator for Antrix.
  • Scrapping of the Deal: The deal was cancelled in 2011 on the ground that the auction of the broadband spectrum was mired in fraud.
  • The decision was taken in the midst of the 2G scam and allegations that the Devas deal involved the handing over of communication spectrum valued at nearly Rs 2 lakh crore for a pittance.
  • The government also held that it needed the S-band satellite spectrum for national security and other social purposes.
  • Filling of Corruption Charges: Meanwhile, in August 2016, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed a charge sheet against officials from Devas, ISRO and Antrix linked to the deal for “being party to a criminal conspiracy”.
  • International Tribunal Arbitration: Devas Multimedia initiated arbitration against the annulment at the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC).
  • Two separate arbitrations were also initiated under the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by Mauritius investors in Devas Multimedia under the India-Mauritius BIT and by Deutsche Telekom — a German company — under the India- Germany BIT.
  • India lost all three disputes and has to pay a total of USD 1.29 billion in damages.
  • The aftermath of Tribunal Award: Due to the Indian Government not paying the compensation, a French court has recently ordered the freezing of Indian government property in Paris, to enforce a USD 1.3 billion arbitration award.
  • Indian Arbitration Scenario: Recently, the Supreme Court reiterated the Government’s 2011 stance and directed the winding up of Devas Multimedia business in India.
  • The Supreme Court also upheld the previous award by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) and National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • Antrix filed a plea in the NCLT in January 2021 for the liquidation of Devas in India, which it said was incorporated in a fraudulent manner.
  • These tribunals directed the winding up of Devas Multimedia and appointed a provisional liquidator for the purpose.

The concern over 5G and flight safety

Context:

  • Flights to the United States from India resumed as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared the landing of more aircraft even in low-visibility conditions, despite the rollout of C-band 5G technology.
  • Following the announcement, Air India resumed flights from India to the US, with the first flight for John F Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Why had AI suspended its US flights?

  • The FAA warned that the rollout of new 5G technology by AT&T and Verizon in the allotted 3.7-3.98 GHz (gigahertz) band could potentially lead to interference with onboard instruments such as radar altimeters.
  • Commercial passenger and cargo airlines had also warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis if the rollout of 5G went ahead as planned.
  • The deployment of 5G by AT&T and Verizon, two of the biggest wireless communications service providers in the US, has triggered concern among airlines, who have said that the frequencies used by the telecom companies are very close to the frequencies used by onboard instruments such as radar altimeters, which operate in the 4.2-4.4 GHz range.

Role of flight radar altimeters in safe flight operations:

  • For all airborne vehicles — an aircraft, spacecraft, or even a missile — an altimeter is crucial to gauge the altitude and the distance covered.
  • Altimeters are of three main kinds: barometric, laser, and radio or radar altimeters.
  • Most commercial passenger and cargo aircraft use a combination of all these altimeters along with a global positioning system (GPS) to determine their path, as well as factors such as height above sea level, presence of highrises, mountains, and other obstacles, and the likely flying time.
  • The radio or radar altimeter is a very small, low-power radar system that operates in the 4.2-4.4 GHz frequency microwave C-band.
  • The high frequency of these altimeters enables aircraft makers to install small antennae that produce powerful signals that can be relayed quickly and accurately.

Concern about radar altimeter interference specifically in the US:

  • According to industry experts, there are chances of interference of the two bands as telecom service operators, in order to extract the full value of 5G and give customers the best experience, push operations to the highest band possible.
  • Altimeters too need to operate at higher frequencies in order to get the most accurate readings possible.

The situation in India:

  • In India, where 5G is yet to be rolled out, the frequency range for 5G telecoms operations is pegged around 3.3-3.68 GHz. 
  • The DoT, however, assured them that there would be no interference as the frequencies for commercial 5G services were at least 530 MHz away from those used by altimeters.

Bacterial resistance to drugs

Context:

  • A comprehensive estimate of the global impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), covering 204 countries and territories, was published recently in The Lancet.
  • The report is titled- Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) report.

Highlights of the report:

  • A comprehensive estimate of the global impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), covering 204 countries and territories and published in The Lancet, has found that 1.27 million people died in 2019 as a direct result of AMR, which is now a leading cause of death worldwide, higher than HIV/AIDS or malaria.

Analysis:

  • Of the 23 pathogens studied, drug resistance in six (E coli, S aureus, K pneumoniae, S pneumoniae, A baumannii, and P aeruginosa) led directly to 9.29 lakh deaths and was associated with 3.57 million.
  • One pathogen-drug combination – methicillin-resistant S aureus, or MRSA – directly caused more than 1 lakh deaths.
  • Resistance to two classes of antibiotics often considered the first line of defence against severe infections – fluoroquinolones and beta-lactam antibiotics – accounted for more than 70% of deaths caused by AMR.

Antibiotic resistance:

  • It is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

Antimicrobial resistance is a silent threat to the future:

  • Antibiotics have saved millions of lives to date. Unfortunately, they are now becoming ineffective as many infectious diseases have ceased to respond to antibiotics.
  • Even though antimicrobial resistance is a natural process, the misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.
  • A large number of infections such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, and gonorrhea are becoming very difficult to treat since the antibiotics used for their treatment are becoming less effective.
  • Globally, the use of antibiotics in animals is expected to increase by 67% by 2030 from 2010 levels. The resistance to antibiotics in germs is a man-made disaster.
  • Irresponsible use of antibiotics is rampant in human health, animal health, fisheries, and agriculture.
  • Complex surgeries such as organ transplantation and cardiac bypass might become difficult to undertake because of untreatable infectious complications that may result in post-surgery.

Moderna’s experimental HIV vaccine

Context:

  • Forty years since HIV was discovered, the development of a vaccine against the virus has remained a challenge. Now, the biotech firm Moderna has started trials on an mRNA vaccine, which uses a novel approach to elicit broadly neutralising HIV-1 antibodies (bNAbs) and eventually target multiple HIV strains.
  • First doses of the experimental HIV vaccine antigens were administered at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington DC this week.

The technology:

  • The vaccine uses the same technology as Moderna’s Covid 19 vaccine. It uses mRNA, or messenger RNA, which teaches the body’s cells how to make proteins that trigger an immune response.
  • BNAbs are produced by certain types of B cells, which are rare: one in 300,000 B cells have this capability. The vaccine aims to stimulate the production of bnAbs that can act against many variants of HIV.

The trial:

  • The MODERNA/IAVI study is a phase 1, randomised, first-in-human, open-label study to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccines, mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1644v2-Core, in HIV-uninfected individuals.
  • Fifty-six individuals will be randomised into four groups and safety/immunogenicity results will be available in 2023.

Burden of disease

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV continues to be a major global public health issue having claimed 36.3 million lives so far.
  • India has around 21 lakh people living with HIV and every year an estimated 68,000 new infections are added.
  • While there is no cure for the infection, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition because of increasing access to effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care including for opportunistic infections.
  • However, despite decades of research, no vaccine has been developed.

Nuclear fusion energy

  • Context:
    • Recently, A team at the Joint European Torus ( JET) facility in the United King­dom have achieved a new milestone in producing the largest amount of energy (11 megawatts of energy over a five-second period.) so far from a nuclear reaction, imi­tating the way energy is pro­duced in the sun.
    • This result is being seen as a major breakthrough in the ongoing global efforts to produce a fusion nuclear reactor.
  • About Nuclear Fusion:
    • Nuclear fusion is defined as the combining of several small nuclei into one large nucleus with the subsequent release of large amounts of energy.
  • Background:
    • Over the years scientists have been able to draw up the plan for a fusion nuclear fission reactor.
    • It is called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) and is being built in southern France with the collaboration of 35 countries, including India.
    • Several small-scale fusion reactors are already being used for research.
  • Challenges of Nuclear Fusion Energy
    • Fusion is possible only at very high temperatures, of the order of a few hundred million degrees Celsius, the kind of temperature that exists at the core of the Sun and the stars.
    • The materials that will make up the reactor, need to be able to withstand such huge amounts of heat.
    • At such high temperatures, matter exists only in the plasma state, where atoms break up into positive and negative ions due to excessive heat.
    • Plasma has a tendency to expand very fast and is extremely tough to handle and work with. 
  • Advantages of Nuclear Fusion
    • The achievement is being hailed as a milestone and has shown the potential of fusion to deliver safe and sustainable low-carbon energy.
    • Low-carbon energy: Fusion doesn’t emit harmful toxins like carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
    • It is also being seen as an answer to the problem of climate change.
    • Sustainability: Fusion fuels are widely available and nearly inexhaustible. Deuterium can be distilled from all forms of water, while tritium will be produced during the fusion reaction as fusion neutrons interact with lithium.
    •  Abundant energy: Fusing atoms together in a controlled way releases a large amount of energy. A kg of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kg of coal, oil, or gas.
    • No long-lived radioactive waste: Nuclear fusion reactors produce no high activity, long-lived nuclear waste.
    • Limited risk of proliferation: Fusion doesn’t employ fissile materials like uranium and plutonium. There are no enriched materials in a fusion reactor like ITER that could be exploited to make nuclear weapons.
    • Low Risk of Accident: A Fukushima-type nuclear accident is not possible in a tokamak fusion device. It is difficult enough to reach and maintain the precise conditions necessary for fusion—if any disturbance occurs, the plasma cools within seconds and the reaction stops.
    • Raw Materials: The raw materials are sufficient to supply and it produces much less radioactive waste compared to fission and is considered much safer.

About ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Project)

  • The ITER project began in 1985 and the deadline for its first experimental run has been extended several times.
  • According to the current timeline, it is expected to become operational only in 2035.
  • India joined the ITER project in 2005, the Institute for Plasma Research in Ahmedabad, a laboratory under the Department of Atomic Energy, is the lead institution from the Indian side participating in the project.
  • The other members are – China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the U.S.

Functions:

  • ITER is only an experimental project. The energy that it will produce would not be in the form of electricity that can be used.
  • It will be a technology demonstration machine that will enable the building of futuristic fusion devices that can be run as normally as the fission reactors today.

Havana Syndrome

  • Context:
    • According to a new report on Havana syndrome, a mysterious illness that has afflicted hundreds of United States diplomats & intelligence officials worldwide has brought renewed attention to microwave weapons.
  • About Havana Syndrome
    • Havana syndrome first emerged in Cuba in 2016. The first cases were CIA officers, which meant they were kept secret.
    • It has become a battleground for competing theories, with some seeing it as a psychological illness and others as a secret weapon.
    • A professor at the University of Illinois, read the first reports about the mysterious sounds in Havana, he immediately suspected that microwaves were responsible.
    • The professor believed the energy was absorbed by the soft brain tissue and converted to a pressure wave moving inside the head, which was interpreted by the brain as sound.
    • There had been reports of people being able to hear something when a nearby radar was switched on and began sending microwaves into the sky since its emergence around WWII.
    • Dr Allen Frey has argued that sounds were caused by microwaves interacting with the nervous system, leading to the term the ‘Frey Effect’.
    • According to one theory of Havana, it involved a much more targeted method to carry out some kind of surveillance with higher-power, directed microwaves.
    • According to one theory of Havana, it involved a much more targeted method to carry out some kind of surveillance with higher-power, directed microwaves.

SSLV, a small satellite launcher

Context:

  • The new chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation Dr S Somanath indicated at a meeting with the minister of state for space Jitendra Singh that ISRO’s indigenous new launch rockets, called the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) named “SLV-D1 Micro SAT”, will have its much-delayed, maiden development flight this April.

Small Satellite Launch Vehicle(SSLV):

  • It is an all-solid three-stage vehicle with the capability to launch up to 500 kg satellite mass into 500 km Low Earth Orbit(LEO).

  • The SSLV  has been developed to cater to a market for the launch of small satellites into low earth orbits.
  • The demand for small satellites has emerged in recent years on account of the need for developing countries, private corporations, and universities for small satellites.
  • Until now, the launch of small satellites is dependent on ‘piggy-back’ rides with big satellite launches on ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, which has had over 50 successful launches so far.

Advantages of SSLV:

  • The SSLV would help in
    1. Reduced Turn-around Time
    2. Launch on Demand
    3. Cost Optimization for Realization and Operation
    4. Flexibility in accommodating Multiple Satellites and
    5. Minimum launch infrastructure requirements.

Significance of SSLV Satellites:

  • SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs. 
  • The development and manufacture of the SSLV are expected to create greater synergy between the space sector and private Indian industries – a key aim of the space ministry. 
  • Manufacturing and production of Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) through technology transfer is one of the mandates of the New Space India Limited (NSIL).



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