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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Carbon Dioxide powered Engine for Space travel [India connection]

Scientists and Engineers are working to develop a propulsion system utilizing Carbon Dioxide, CO2,  as an oxidizer to generate energy. A departure from conventional combustion of Hydrocarbons that produces CO2 as by-product of combustion.

One such attempt is underway at the University of Hertfordshire where they are working to develop a prototype Engine to demonstrate the feasibility of using such an Engine to power future missions to Mars. If successfully developed, it would essentially halve the required amount of fuel needed to be carried by these Spacecraft, as the Carbon Dioxide needed for the return flight could be captured from the Martian atmosphere itself - a major breakthrough since this would greatly reduce the total weight of the spacecraft, economizing the use of fuel needed to generate required thrust to propel such a craft.

Can watch the concept being explained in this video [Duration: approximately 6 minutes]

Carbon Dioxide-powered Rocket propulsion system

Solution essentially proposes igniting finely divided Aluminum, supported  by CO2 as an oxidizer to generate heat. Here, the choice of the oxidizer borne solely out of its easy availability in the Martian atmosphere.

4Al + 3CO2 -> 2Al2O3 + 3C + Heat [exothermic]

Nothing new about the reaction - known since ages, but the challenge lies in putting it to practical use. Some issues, I foresee, that need to be addressed before such a propulsion system can be put to practical application - amount of specific energy generated which would determine the size of the system, ability to effectively control the process of generating energy & just as important, IMO, the cost-effectiveness of such a solution.

The use of such engines on Earth, however, need not necessarily be a solution to current problems. CO2 is a much-needed greenhouse gas needed to maintain optimum temperature on the Earth's surface sustaining life. Even though its increasing levels in the atmosphere is a cause of concern now-a-days, removing it from the atmosphere that could lead to a situation where you remove more than you produce, if it were to ever reach that stage, could prove to be quite catastrophic. Its more of a specific solution for a specific application type scenario.

Not to anybody's surprise I guess, the research at the University of Herefordshire involves an Indian [or at least a person of Indian origin] Sathyakumar Sharma who had previously worked with the Indian Space Research Organization [ISRO]. With so many Indian sounding names popping up in almost every other eye-popping experiment or research being carried out around the world, I cannot help but feel that India must find a suitable way to leverage this to gain from their expertise, and, more importantly, their experience to aid & fuel its own programs. Crowdsourcing, short-term focused project groups, mentorship could be some of the ways to achieve this. Been reading news of a reverse brain drain happening in India - need to incentivize/accelerate this through the implementation of smart policies.


Possibly related posts:

Nukes in Space: Rainbow bombs [Documentary]

Space Agencies & Manned Moon missions: International Astronautical Congress 2009

Design Engineers, I.T. and Crowdsourcing

Pranav Mistry talking about Sixth Sense at TED India 2009

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sardar and his tenacity

Sardar Vallabhai PatelMy respect & admiration for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel gets reinforced every time I read about India's struggle for independence, especially the enormity of challenges faced by a post-independence India & the situation prevailing at that time.

Faced with the prospect of inheriting an India pockmarked with more than 500 independent princely states within its national boundary, it fell upon Sardar Patel, independent India's first Home Minister to ensure that rulers of these kingdoms see light & integrate with the Indian Republic.

With dogged determination & perseverance, he set about the unenviable task of trying to persuade the rulers of these kingdoms, often whimsical & illogical characters, pampered into subservience by the British Raj - none of which would be possible in the Indian Republic, to merge with India for the greater good of all. When all else failed, he was, on occasions, forced to send in the Armed Forces to effect an integration. His use of force as the last resort did make him unpopular amongst certain sections within the Congress party, but thanks to his lack of interest in winning any popularity contest, we in India enjoy a contiguous India, free of any of such aberrant independent states within our midst.

His immense powers of persuasion, however, would alone suffice in getting most of these princely states within the Indian fold. While reading an amazing book written by J.N. Dixit India - Pakistan in War and Peace, I came across one such example of Sardar Patel's power of persuasion [Page 101],

"The maharaja of Indore decided briefly to declare his state independent and not to accede to India or Pakistan. The story goes that Sardar Patel invited him to come to Delhi to finalise the decision. His Highness Maharaja Malhar-Rao Holker got into his special train at Indore to travel to Delhi. The moment it entered the territory of the Indian Dominion, it was stopped at Ratlam, neither allowed to proceed to Delhi nor to go back to Indore. Then a message went to him that if he could not even move out of the limits of his state without the Government of India’s cooperation, how was he going to manage a viable independent status? He came to his senses. Indore acceded to India."

If only the Iron Man had put his foot down, disregarding Chacha Nehru's fascination for the newly created United Nations [UN], and carried on with the task of driving the Pakistani Army & the marauding tribal Lashkars back into their moth-eaten territory [as Pakistan was described by its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself], the situation in India could have been so much different, in a positive manner. Instead, the first Prime Minister of independent India, in all his wisdom, decided to place this matter in the UN, who ordered an immediate ceasefire. As a result, instead of a properly authenticated International Border in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, we ended up with a notion called the Line of Control [LoC], for the control of which India has been enduring the needless blood letting of the brave Indian soldier at the hand of Pakistan. 63 years after Pandit Nehru placed a problem, that was on the verge of being resolved, in front of the UN, the UN has failed to deliver a verdict & the matter continue to be contested by both countries.

I, admittedly, have the benefit of hindsight while criticising Panditji's decision, something he did not - there was no way then to predict how toothless a tiger UN would turn out to be. Also Sardar Patel, pursuing with driving the Pakistani invaders out of India against Chachaji's wishes would have amounted to insubordination - clearly unlike anything Sardar stood for. He gave up his rightful & strongly-backed claim to become the Prime Minister of independent India on the advice of Mahatma Gandhi - such was his devotion to the Motherland.

Shath Shath Naman to the Iron Man for his gift we call India.

P.S: India - Pakistan in War and Peace is an absolutely unputdownable book. Started reading the 500+ page book in the evening & finished 101 pages. Doing an all-nighter today and stop only after I finish reading it - awesome stuff.


Possibly Related posts:

Space Agencies & Manned Moon missions: International Astronautical Congress 2009

Dr. Homi J. Bhabha – Scientist in action [suggested YouTube viewing]

Britain needs to show tough love to India

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's Letter to Every Indian

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nukes in Space: Rainbow bombs [Documentary]

Nukes in Space: the Rainbow bombs - www.shubhspace.comJust finished watching an interesting documentary. Nukes in Space: the Rainbow bombs chronicles America's race to develop a working Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM] and the Nuclear Arms race that had ensued between the Soviets and the Americans post-World War II.

The most interesting aspect in this battle for supremacy was the series of high-altitude Nuclear tests conducted by them to gauge the effect of injecting high energy particles into the ionosphere and the Van Allen radiation belt, after its existence was proven by the Explorer-1. Knocking out radio communications, destroying orbiting satellites and producing a surreal kaleidoscope of multi-spectral Aurora visible across the sky were some of the resulting consequences, besides the extremely high levels of radiation released after such test detonations.

In fact, the 9th of July marked the 43rd anniversary of the Starfish Prime test, considered to be a very significant test as it is said to have yielded far more data than any previous tests conducted and had succeed in extending the Van Allen radiation belt temporarily.

A very well-made documentary, containing some amazing footages of American & Soviet missile launches and assembly, besides the the artificially created Aurora resulting from these high-altitude Nuclear test - would highly recommend watching it.

While watching, do keep an eye out for the series of test launch failures faced by the Americans in their attempt to build up their Nuclear deterrence - spectacular footage of missiles and launch vehicles blowing up on launch pad or veering off course mid-flight, breaking up into spectacular balls of flames - all expected part of any genuine R&D programme.

Should put things in perspective as far as India's own development efforts go, operating at the fraction of the budget enjoyed by the US and Soviets, yet being able to build up a credible deterrence force in place. Unsubstantiated criticism, based on ignorance is so very unwarranted, people.

Additional info:

High-altitude nuclear explosion


Possibly Related posts:

Understanding Nuclear Energy and Technology [suggested weekend reading]

India’s Fast Breeder Nuclear Reactor Core being transported & lowered into place

Rolls-Royce & Larsen & Toubro to collaborate on global #Nuclear opportunities

"India has a flourishing, & largely indigenous, #Nuclear power program"

Friday, July 02, 2010

Install & run Unigraphics NX4 (or older) in Windows 7 and Vista

Warning/Disclaimer ityadi: Assuming that you, the person facing this problem, owns a licensed, legitimate copy of the software. You got no business taking my name when the aunty-piracy overlords throw you in ze gulag for using warez – Comprende?

The problem lies not with the Software [Unigraphics NX], but with its license manager that is supposed to run as a service in the computer. It enables you to run Unigraphics NX on workstations that access the license manager before running. However, the license mangers of Unigraphics NX4 and Unigraphics NX3 [and possibly other older versions] fails to run as a service in Windows 7 [and also Windows Vista], thereby terminating the installation. As a result Unigraphics NX will refuse to work even if installed on your workstation.

There is a workaround though. Installation of the License Manager terminates when it tries to start the file – meaning the file has already been transferred to the Hard Disk – and when it fails to start, it informs you so, after which you cancel the installation process.

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 [or older] on Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  • After you receive the message saying that installation failed to start the service, do not click Cancel immediately.
  • Instead, go to the following location [or the path you had selected for installing the license manager – this one is the default location]:

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 [or older] on Windows 7 and Windows Vista

C:\Program Files\UGS\License Servers\UGNXFLEXlm

  • Copy all the files that you find inside the folder UGNXFLEXlm.

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 [or older] on Windows 7 and Windows Vista

  • Create a new folder somewhere else, say the root of your c: drive, and name it suitably – say UGNXlm, and transfer the files you had copied into the newly created folder.
  • Now you may click on the Cancel button, I had asked you not to click on earlier.
  • Open Notepad and copy-paste the following into it [uncheck Word Wrap (Format>Word Wrap) to be safe]:

echo @C:\UGNXlm\lmgrd -c c:\UGNXlm\ugnx3.lic -l C:\UGNXlm\log.txt >c:\UGNXlm\nx3_server.cmd

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 or NX3 in Windows 7 or Windows Vista

where, ugnx3.lic should be replaced by the .lic file name of your license file. You may also replace nx3_server with a name of your choice.

  • Save that notepad file, giving it a name “nx3_server.cmd” including the double-inverted commas as shown. The file name [here, nx3_server.cmd] should be same as the name you had used inside the Notepad file [.cmd].

Install and run Unigraphics NX4 or NX3 in Windows 7 or Windows Vista

  • Once done, it will create a new file nx3_server.cmd [in my case].
  • Before starting Unigraphics, run this .cmd file. After this, Unigraphics NX should run without issues.
  • If, unlike me, you happen to use Unigraphics frequently, then you may copy a shortcut of the .cmd file [nx3_server.cmd] to the startup folder. License manager will start the moment you log into Windows.

If you also happen to own a licensed copy of Unigraphics NX5 or beyond, then you could copy the lmgrd.exe file from there and use it to replace the file having the same name in NX4.

Hat tip NXway


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Warbird in Pune: MiG-23 MF Flogger Aircraft [Updated]

MiG-23 in Pune [Google Earth]

Had nothing to do this morning. So we decided to pay the bird another visit. More so, as I found that the other memory card which had some more pictures had been used, and the pictures got erased in a firmware update Sad smile.

Good thing we went, as this time we climbed up this contraption used to climb up the Coconut tree and took a couple of snaps.

Some more pictures of the MiG-23.

Click on the images for a larger-sized photograph

Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4] Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4]
Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4] Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4]
Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4] Warbird: MiG-23 in Pune [National Highway 4]

Tried creating a kludge panorama image [4697 x 1277 pixels].

Warbird: Mig-23 in Pune [Mumbai-Pune highway NH4]

Information at a Glance:

Aircraft: Mig-23 MF. Also on Bharat Rakshak

Serial Number: SK 423

Origin: USSR [roughly, present day Russia]

NATO name: Flogger

IAF designation: Vijay [no longer in service]

Function: Air Defense mission

Warbird Location: Kamalnayan Bajaj Park [Wikimapia], Mumbai-Pune Highway NH4

Reference Landmark: 2 km from the College of Engineering, Pune passing by Shopper's Stop.

Have uploaded the whole bunch on to my Picasa Web Album – Warbirds: MiG-23 in Pune