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Monday, February 28, 2011

Identify these Indian aircrafts & wind tunnel models [Pop Quiz]

Landed myself, what on first glance appears to be, a very interesting document. It had these photographs in them. These are some Aircrafts and wind tunnel models  built in India as part of programmes undertaken. Did not know about a few of these before today. Will take me some time to begin  reading this though - things planned beforehand.

Can anybody identify them?

A test aircraft assembled in India

A test aircraft assembled in India - need to give its names, as it was called in India

A wind tunnel model of an aircraft that used for validating technologies & gaining understanding. It has a name A wind tunnel model of an aircraft that used for validating technologies & gaining understanding. It has a name

An wind tunnel model depicting a design iteration of an Indian aircraft program
An wind tunnel model depicting a design iteration of an Indian aircraft program

Dr. S Golakotta, Project Director of the India's Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile [BVRAAM], the Astra Missile, development programme,while delivering a lecture* at the recently concluded Aero India 2011 air show, displayed two very nicely illustrated slides as part of his presentation.

Click on them to view a slightly larger-sized image

Flow-chart giving an overview of the overall path followed to develop a contemporary Guided Missile

Flow-chart giving an overview of the overall path followed to develop a contemporary Guided Missile

Technologies that go into developing a modern Guided Missile System - onboard & off-board support

Technologies that go into developing a modern Guided Missile System - onboard & off-board support

* Audio sucks balls


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle [GSLV] F-06: the ill-fated launch

Am getting a wee bit restless*, now that it is way past the January 2011 deadline that had been set for submitting the Failure Analysis Committee's report. The committee had been constituted to look into the aborted flight of India's Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle [GSLV] F-06 that had been planned to carry & place the GSAT-5P communication satellite into orbit.

All that we have go with now is the statement that mechanical error, possibly caused by vibrations, resulted in the connectors needed for carrying data, to get snapped, which lead to the failure, and not any inherent design flaws in the Launch Vehicle itself, per se.

The press release stating the preliminary findings,

"The finding of the Preliminary Failure Analysis Team is that the primary cause of the failure is the untimely and inadvertent snapping of a group of 10 connectors located at the bottom portion of the Russian Cryogenic Stage. Some of these connectors carry command signals from the onboard computer residing in the Equipment Bay (located near the top of the vehicle) to the control electronics of the four L40 Strap-ons of the First Stage. These connectors are intended to be separated only on issue of a separation command at 292 seconds after lift-off. The premature snapping of these connectors has led to stoppage of continuous flow of control commands to the First Stage control electronics, consequently leading to loss of control and break-up of the vehicle. The exact cause of snapping of the set of connectors, whether due to external forces like vibration, dynamic pressure is to be analysed further and pin-pointed."

- Source

The same has been confirmed by Mr. CS Harish, during his lecture at the Aero India seminar [towards the end]. The Russians, who had provided the cryogenic 3rd stage for this mission, on the other hand, seem not to completely agree with ISRO's first findings.

Whatever the final finding, which I so desperately hope ISRO makes available in the public domain, it is imperative that corrective measures are taken to ensure safe & successful future launches using the GSLV. A lot of of ISRO's planned programs hinges on the successful operation of the GSLV, including the manned Space mission, Aditya mission to the Sun, & Chandrayaan-2, as also the Mk III version of GSLV that would enable India to cease its dependence on foreign launch services & also itself get into the highly lucrative  business of launching the heavy communication satellites.

Launch failures, or failures in general, in the initial stages are an integral part of of any genuine research & development programme undertaken and, in a perverse manner of sorts, an indicator of the authenticity of the programme itself. Knowledge gained from the data obtained in this aborted mission should help develop a much more robust & reliable system, capable of performing the task it has been designed for.

Click the pictures to view a larger-sized image

Scientists & Engineers working on the GSTA-5P satellite, which was on board the aborted GSLV F06 launch mission

Scientists & Engineers working on the GSTA-5P satellite, which was on board the aborted GSLV F06 launch mission

The GSAT-5P Satellite placed between the 2 sections of the fairing that was mounted over the aborted GSLV-F06 launch mission
The GSAT-5P Satellite placed between the 2 sections of the fairing that was mounted over the aborted GSLV-F06 launch mission


Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle [GSLV] standing at the launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, SriharikotaGeosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle [GSLV] standing at the launchpad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota

A pointless post that had to be made to get the restlessness out of the system.


Friday, February 25, 2011

An Iranian aboard India's manned Space mission

I mean, come to think of it - why not? Nothing would convey the message "we are homies" better than an Iranian aboard an Indian manned Space mission.

proposed India-Iran Manned Space Mission

Okay, it is imperative that some backgrounder be provided to this proposal. First thought of this, keeping in mind Saudi Arabia/Vietnam, but then the idea is just as relevant when one also considers Iran, though each country, for a different reason altogether. The reasons are, admittedly, somewhat nebulous at present & the proposal runs the risk of being reversed in light of further insight, but I shall try to say it out the way I feel about it right now, nevertheless.

People keeping track of such developments would have learnt that Iran had recently re-iterated its claim of intending to perform a manned Space mission by 2022. Now, looking at the current status & activities of Iran's Space programme1, it should be amply clear the required building blocks necessary for performing a Human Space Flight are nowhere visible on Iran's horizon.

Let us, for example, compare maximum weight of the payload that some contemporary launch vehicles, rated for human space flight+, that it can place in the Low Earth Orbit [LEO], with that of the most powerful rocket Iran currently possesses.

Launch Vehicle

Country Payload [LEO]
GSLV India ~5000 A
Soyuz-FG Russia ~7420 B
Long March 2F China ~7600 C
Simorgh SLV Iran ~60 D

As can be seen, while payload capacities of the other launch vehicles are in thousands of Kg [all above 5000 kg], the one Iran has claimed to have developed has a capacity of 60 kilograms - it can lift objects less than the weight of 1 full grown adult human being*. & even that launch vehicle has never been tested till now [24th February 2011].

Then there is the critical process of human rating the system - validating it & putting in place redundancies in case of failure to ensure safety of the onboard human operators - paramount consideration in any manned mission. All this is achieved through an exhaustive process of testing &, if required, re-designing, followed by even more testing till one achieves level of efficiency & reliability as is the standards in Human Space flight programme. An important part of Technology validation would require observing & evaluating performance of the critical systems through multiple unmanned test launches prior to the actual mission, in order to generate reliable statistical data for the eventual manned mission.

A programme of the scale & complexity, as demanded by a manned Space mission programme, is spread over a couple of decades, as seen in case of China & also India - a timeframe considered reasonable & acceptable only if you have a longer prior experience with unmanned Space launches & have validated the technology building blocks through them.

The purpose behind stating these facts is by no means to deride their Space programme itself, per se. Any genuine manned Space mission programme that Iran may have initiated, if pursued with due diligence & sincerity would reach its logical conclusion in its due course of time. Especially for Iran, financing such a programme should not be a constraint, what with their huge oil reserves. However, in absence of satisfying any of the above-mentioned requisite parameters, any declaration of intent of becoming a manned Space-faring nation within 11 years sounds like a lot of bluster & bravado, unsubstantiated by the work & effort put in thus far.

India, with its long, amicable relationship with the Iranian2 regime & its own manned Space programme3, is uniquely positioned to put the walk into this Iranian talk, without necessarily impinging upon anybody's@ interests.

  • An Iranian aboard one of India's manned Space mission would serve as a catalyst in further improving & cementing the good, albeit not necessarily the best of, relations enjoyed between the two nations.
  • An Iranian in Space would serve to be a cause for pride, jubilation & euphoria for its population - the kind experienced by India, when Indian Air Force [IAF] pilot Wing Commander [retd] [then a Squadron Leader] Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian Cosmonaut in Space.

[Video] Then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi speaking to Cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma while in Space

  • The generally positive overall outlook amongst Iranians towards India#, would be further enhanced with this symbol of co-operation & friendship between the two.
  • This gesture of bonhomie with Shia Iran would help establish an even greater positive image of India & Indians amongst the world's Shia population, especially the ones outside India, amongst whom the Ayatollahs in control Iran hold a significant sway. Such positive perception would hold India in good stead at times of its engagement with such people in position of power.
  • A Shia-Sunni rivalry$ between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA] & the Islamic Republic of Iran5 to exercise clout demands that any achievement flaunted by one must be matched or bested by the other. With the Saudis had already having paid for the joy-ride of one of it own Astronauts6, it is natural for Iran to aspire for the same. Since Russia's Space manned programme has long been enmeshed with that of the USA's, it makes them out reach for the Iranians. Iranian desire to match the Saudi sojourn remains strong.
  • As a reciprocal gesture for the manned mission, India may also be in a position to secure vital deals & arrangements for access to Iran's vast hydrocarbon reserves - a much sought after commodity that is needed to ensure India's continued development. The Iranian's trip itself could even be paid for by them, making it a commercially viable arrangement.

Am also not oblivious to the fact that people with immeasurably higher knowledge, insight & competence suspect Iran's Space programme of being a cover for developing long-range Ballistic missiles4. However, just as a Vietnamese Cosmonaut aboard a Russian [then, Soviet] Space mission did nothing to further Vietnam's Missile development programme [not known to have one, or a primitive one at best], other than to reiterate & reaffirm friendship between the two during the Cold War, so too would an Iranian travelling aboard one of India's mission would serve to fulfill only those purpose served by his Vietnamese counterpart. Their missile programme is unlikely to receive any leg-up with the proposed arrangement which is likely to continue nevertheless.

The way I perceive it, India taking along with them an Iranian to Space & Iran's missile development programme, under the guise of a Space programme are independent issues.

India's maiden mission is scheduled for take-off in around 2016-2018. Successfully completed, a second manned mission, may, in all probability, be planned for around 2022-2025% - just around the time Iran has declared its intent to send its man into Space.

India must take the initiative & seize this opportunity to make this currently hollow sounding declaration by Iran come true, through an arrangement that would be beneficial for all involved before some other competing country decides to offer the same.

It is absolutely imperative that India leverage the use of Science & Technology to further its interest & achieve National objectives for the benefit of its citizens.

Mr. C.S Harish, Deputy Project Director [escape module] for India's manned Space mission spoke at the recently held Aero India 2011 air show at the Yelahanka Airbase in Bengaluru [Bangalore]. He gave a concise overview about the challenges & technology requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to accomplish a safe & successful manned Space mission - do watch.

Indian perspective on Manned Space Missions - reasons & required Systems & Technology

Also read: Timeline: China's spaceflight history || Timeline of China's space industry || Google-generated timeline of China's Space programme

+ Or being rated rated, as in case of India

* Its payload capacity is 8233.33% less than the next least powerful Launch Vehicles being rated for Human Space Flight.

# as is the impression I get after interacting with the fairly large number of them at the University

% pure speculation on my part - no dates announce AFAIK

@ Countries with which India enjoys warm relations, but which in turn hold an antagonistic view of Iran

$ Followers of Shia faith of Islam are not recognized as Muslims in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

References & further reading


Monday, February 21, 2011

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAV] by Aurora Integrated Systems [Indian Startup]

Was indulging myself in the sublime joy of brochure-reading when I came across one belonging to an Indian Engineering startup that had developed & was marketing its own fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [UAV] - definitely piqued my interest.
Auro Integrated Systems [AIS], Bengaluru [Bangalore], India
The company, Aurora Integrated System [AIS], is a Bengaluru [Bangalore] - based startup formed by a group of IIT graduates. They currently offer 3 UAVs

Sunday, February 13, 2011

GATE 2011 Question paper [Mechanical Engineering]

Returned home after appearing for the GATE this morning. This is the Mechanical Engineering question paper that was to be answered this year. Went off quite well, as did for some others I talked to after the paper - fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

SoundMagic earphones - poor build quality [hardware to avoid]

Avoid buying the Chinese brand SoundMagic's earphones - have poor build quality

Not that I expect a Chinese to do me any good*, but going through the plethora of online reviews fawning over & singing paeans about the "awesomeness" of the plugs, much against my & a few other's good senses, I decided to purchase a pair of SoundMagic's PL-11 in-ear canal headphones to go with my C3-00.

True to Chinese reputation, yesterday, in less than 3 months from the date of purchase, the ear phones stopped working. From the looks of it, the soldering that joins the wire from the earphones to the 3.5 mm jack seems to have gone kaput - twisting the wire near the jack brings out the sound occasionally. Awful build quality.

Solder in my SoundMagic Earphones that seem to have come undone - bad build quality

Should have bought some Skullcandy instead, which was what I had originally set out to buy, till I came across some reviews of the Sound Magic. Also true to no-namer Chinese brands, it cost less than half [close to one third, actually] of a corresponding Skull Candy. Got lured by the low price & online reviews into buying a much avoidable pair of earphones.

Am now back to listening to music using the default earphones, which not only throws out the tiniest, puniest sounding sound even at the highest volume level, but am quite sure whoever designed the plugs had bunked college the day they were teaching the class about ergonomics - no way do the ear phones stay put in my ears or whosoever else's who had tried them on. Whatever the case, Nokia has shipped the most awful pair of earphones with the C3-00 #epicfail.

Avoid buying SoundMagic's earphones - has extremely poor build quality.

OT: Playing songs on shuffle helps discover long lost songs not played in ages - now listening to some sweet music from the movie Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero - did not remember I had it on my HDD. The movie was made with the heart in the right place, except that it got a wee bit muddled in execution, especially the battle scenes. Catch it on the telly, though, if possible.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Saudi Arabia: Islam, Wahhabism, Terrorism, Democracy [Videos]

The recent unfolding of events in the Arab world has thrown into sharp focus the affairs of the region. Amidst mounting challenge to the autocratic dictatorial regimes of the region from its masses, one kingdom whose fate is critical not only the region, but the whole world in general is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA].

A staunchly Sunni Islamic kingdom controlled by the House of Saud1, KSA houses the holiest of all Muslim sites, the Mecca, by virtue of which it acquires an elevated position of influence & stature amongst the Muslim population around the world.

Additionally, possessing the largest proven oil reserves in the world makes Saudi Arabia one of the most critical cogs in the wheel of world affairs. Being the largest supplier of oil, quenching our unsatiated thirst for hydrocarbons, gives the Saudi Kingdom a unique leverage while engaging with nations of the world.

Frontline: House of Saud [Duration: 1 hour 56 mins]

House of Saud: The Ruling family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Also: The Saudi Royal Family [Duration: 43 mins]

Flush with money earned through trade in oil which, after meeting the daily necessities of its local population, leaves the Saudi kingdom with more than sufficient money to pursue its interests & further its causes around the world. One of the major activities pursued by Saudi kingdom worldwide is the spread & propagation of the Islamic religion - building Mosques2, financing Islamic schools & seminaries3. More specifically it aims to further a highly puritanical interpretation of Islam known as Sunni Wahhabism4, that is extremely intolerant of not only other religions, but also other strains of Islam other than itself, like Shia & Ahmadiyya, including Sufism that itself owes its beliefs & practices due to its adherence to Sunni Islam. In fact, Saudi dependencies, like the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, have gone to the extent of declaring its Ahmadiyya Muslim population as Non-Muslims5, bowing down to the wishes of the Wahhabis, thereby subjecting its Ahmadiyya citizens to severe & brutal forms of oppression & discrimination5. Observing & preaching any religion other than Islam is a criminal offence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia6.

Such religion-backed financing, in the name of philanthropy, has lead to situations worldwide where pursuance of Islam, in consonance with the local customs & geographical location, have ceased to exists in many places7, having been over-run & smothered by the cash-rich Wahhabism financed by KSA. Wahhabism even calls for the demolition of the tomb of the holy Prophet Mohammad's [PBUH]8 - many mosques built during his time have been demolished by the Saudis on orders from its influential Wahhabi clerics & in its place public toilets have been constructed9.

In fact, imposition of Muslim faith worldwide in accordance with Wahhabi interpretation of Islam is also the driving factor for the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism & killings carried out by Islamic terrorist outfits like the Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Lashkar-E-Toiba, Jaish-E-Mohammad etc10.

This commonality of aim shared by the Islamic terrorists & the Saudi kingdom has lead to its citizens becoming one of the largest financial donors11, albeit supposedly against Saudi laws, to terrorist outfits, fuelling & funding the violence & killings of the peace-loving, progressive population of the world.

Funding Jihad - Saudi Arabia [Duration: 22 mins]

Saudi Arabia: Financing Islamic Terrorism

Needless to say with such system in place in Saudi Arabia, concepts of democracy, universal suffrage or treatment of women as equal with equal rights for all sexes are quite antithetical to the belief systems by which Saudis are expected to abide by. Proponents of democracy in Saudi Arabia12, have in fact, have had to flee the kingdom to escape persecution & carry on with their struggle for reforms. It ranks extremely poorly on scales measuring parameters for protection of human rights13. Conditions conducive for an uprising as being seen in Egypt all exist in Saudi Arabia too. However, any disturbance caused by large-scale protest in the Saudi kingdom would have an far more adverse impact on the hydrocarbon-driven global economy than any other such protests being witnessed in the other non-oil exporting Arab fiefdoms.

Discriminatory compensation offered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the deceased based on religion & sex

image courtesy @vikhrakula

Thus, in spite of KSA holding a belief system completely opposite to its own [some would have liked the kingdom renamed Saudi Barbaria], realpolitik demands that countries of the world continue to court & engage with the Saudi kingdom, turning a blind eye to the uncomfortable truths emanating from the land.

Any attempt by its people to bring about change in the current setup in Saudi Arabia would be that much more difficult & improbable not only due to the vice-like grip the royal family has on the affairs of the land, supported & aided by the highly influential & over-bearing Wahhabi clerics14 who also have taken it upon themselves to ensure & impose proper conduct of its citizens, including dress code, in accordance with their interpretation of the Quran15, but also reluctance on part of other countries to see a Saudi Arabia face situation of unrest & instability that could hamper the flow of oil from its soil. If & when push comes to shove, one may actually witness the democracies of the world working together to prevent any move that would affect their supply of oil, even if means pulling its weight behind the autocratic Saudi monarchy in face of opposition.

House of Saud - Saudi Arabia [Duration: 24 mins]

Life in Saudi Arabia - democracy, Islam, women's rights


Also: Inside the Hidden Kingdom - Saudi Arabia [Duration: 29 mins]

In conduct personifying hypocrisy, for all of its avowed piousness & stated intent to ensure that women dress up modestly, Saudi clerics seem to apply different yardsticks to evaluate modesty. While on one hand any commoner women could be subjected to instant dispensing of justice for perceived immodest dress sense, a lot more liberal interpretation of modest dress sense seem to be applied when it comes to the entourage of women aides at the beck & call of their royal family, whose style of dressing could be termed liberal & relaxed in all open societies. Less one speak of the lifestyle of the members of the Royal family, the better - moral policing for the protection of Islam seems conspicuous by its absence in these cases.

Saudi Royal Family lives [Duration: 10 mins]

Hidden lives of the hypocritical Royal Family in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

It is said that with the eventual toppling of the current Egyptian President, the staunchly Islamist Islamic Brotherhood, who intend to revoke the current Egyptian Constitution & replace it with the Islamic Shariah law,  could come to power & that would be an extremely negative development as far as multi-religious, secular India is concerned. IMHO alarmists are overstating the implication of a takeover of Egypt by the Brotherhood on India. Even now, Egypt with its supposedly Westernized ruler, has had an indifferent relation with India, with rumors that it had voted against India's bid for a non-permanent membership to the United Nations Security Council seat, that which India won with an over-whelming majority - a non-contest at the end.

So I find it difficult to envisage how the ascendancy o the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt could be any worse for India. If at all anything, this development would then show Egypt in the same light as Saudi Arabia, though without the vast oil reserves of the latter. More appropriately an Islamic Brotherhood controlled Egypt could likely bear more resemblance to a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, albeit a more prosperous one.

India engages Saudi Arabia & Iran with comfort & confidence. If need be so shall it do with the Egyptians, assuming the Brotherhood is wise enough to see it in the same light. All this being stated assuming the Brotherhood does indeed come to power. If the Egyptians are any wiser, they would do a lot better choosing to be governed by a political setup headed by someone like the former Chairman of IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, keeping the religion-driven organizations out of the political setup.

Interesting times ahead in the Arab world in particular & all autocratic regimes in general.

Reference & further reading


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

RAF Harrier Jump Jet fighter aircraft - the last of flights [Video]

Owing to budget cuts to attempt & reduce its fiscal deficit, the United Kingdom plans to retire all its Vertical Take-off & Landing [VTOL]* Harrier Jump Jet combat aircrafts, much before they complete operation through the designed life of its airframe, by 2011.

From a strictly Engineering stand point, it would be very unfortunate to know that lot fewer of this Engineering marvel would now be left to take to the air. Human ingenuity was best exemplified by the ability of its Engineers to make the aircraft perform both conventional, horizontal flight & vertical movement [take-off & landing] using a only single massive Pegasus jet engine, distributing its exhaust equally through it 4 nozzles & vectoring the enormous thrust generated in the desired direction to achieve its objective.

Cut-Section Digram of a Pegasus [F402] Jet Engine, that powers the Harrier Jump Jet aircrafts

In comparison, Soviet efforts to develop an operational VTOL aircraft produced the Yak-38 that had to make use of 3 Engines - 2 of them simply to perform the vertical take-off & landing operations, that stayed unused for the entire remaining duration of flight.

Representation of the lift operation in the Soviet-built Yak-38 fighter aircraft

With the fate of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft now hanging in balance & withdrawal of all Harriers from RAF's service#, prospects of being able to continue witnessing the awesome sight of a manned aircraft, in operation, hovering nearly still in mid-air & then slowly descending vertically downwards, settling down gently on the ground, diminishes by quite a bit.

The Indian Navy, that too operates the Harriers, has around 11 of these remaining in service, after attrition, & have recently undergone upgrades now making them capable of firing the BVR Derby missiles, besides other enhancement. Future Aircraft Carriers that are to be inducted in to the fleet, including the indigenously designed Vikrant-class Aircraft Carrier, are being designed to operate the MiG-29K & the Naval Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas.

As part of the ceremony prior to its withdrawal from service, the Harriers flew over a number of air bases in the UK. A video of its flight from over the RAF Cottesmore airbase is available on YouTube. Enjoy the sound of its engine in all its glory - the sweetest music.

UK Royal Air Force Harrier Jump Jet Fighter aircrafts on its last flight

Pegasus Engine cut-section diagram courtesy: Aircraft Engine Design

Yak-38 lift operation diagram courtesy: Wikipedia

* However, it was mostly operated in the Short Take-Off & Landing [STOVL] configuration, owing to the complexities & stress generated in a vertical take-off, coupled with excessive fuel consumption & lowered take-off weight, causing the aircraft to carry lesser weapon payload.

# It will be replaced by the conventional F-35C Joint Strike Fighter Naval aircraft in around 2020. It reneged on its earlier decision to purchase the STOVL-variant F-35B aircraft to operate out of its Queen Elizabeth-class Aircraft Carriers.