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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.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Annotate any webpage with your comments, additional information or rebuttals [fisking made easy]

Found this nifty web app that lets you add your own information to any webpage & share it with others.

Visit the BounceApp site & enter the URL of the page that you wish to annotate. Highlight a particular section of a page, say a group of sentences, and then annotate it with additional information, comment or rebuttal. The annotated page can then be accessed with a BounceApp URL you'd be provided with - it is a screenshot image of the page with the annotation overlaid.

Some activities in which this app may come in handy:

  • You come across an article expressing a view contrarian to your own &/or furnishes incorrect information. You can use BounceApp to give a sentence-by-sentence rebuttal by simply highlighting the relevant text & adding your comment to it [also called fisking].
  • You have been asked to review & give feedback to somebody's written work made available online.

Would have liked it more if they could have provided a bookmarklet - you come across a webpage of interest, click on the bookmarklet & get down to annotating it - more convenient it would've been.

Example of an annotated page:

Page annotated with text comment using BounceApp

Requires no registration to use, but if you sign up with NotableApp, you can make use of its privacy features & collaborative annotation tools. Can also save the annotated page as a PDF file as registered user.

Save the annotated page as a PDF file with the annotations made with BounceApp with a registered NotableApp account

Not sure if the registered account is free though. It read,

You're signing up for a 30-day free trial account of Notable's Free Plan.

Would be pretty lame if they start charging for the Free Plan, that has a 3 user limit on collaboration, after 30-days.

If you also wish to include free forms & sketches in the annotations, then you could try out - has a useful bookmarklet. Can also add text as in BounceApp, but has no feature to highlight the text from the original page you'd be adding the text annotation to, unless you use the free-form tools to do so.

Would be highly desirable if these features are incorporated in BounceApp too.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] Tejas: the people & their pursuit (weekend reading)

India, this week issued the Release to Service certification [more commonly called Initial Operational Capability (IOC)] to the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft, LCA Tejas, making it one amongst only around 8 eight countries to have been able to design, develop and operate its own combat aircraft. For a project that has had to face opposition at all stages of its development - both on the varied Technological front, political vested interests & lack of proper understanding amongst the decision-makers, the project having come this far is indeed a stupendous, near miraculous, achievement. Technology capabilities & knowledge data built up through the course of this project would go on to serve India's interest in the years to come, that would in turn add to knowledge and Technology gained till now - a cumulative effect.

India's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas

image courtesy Photoyogi

Some of the best articles capturing the trials & tribulations faced by the people involved in this project have been written by Defence journalist Anantha Krishnan Muralidharan Nair. His articles give us a brief glimpse into the works of the scores of Scientists, Engineers & Test pilots in India's R&D labs, most of whom would otherwise remain unknown outside their immediate circles, who have been working on the project with single-minded, dogged determination, overcoming Technological challenges, overlooking personal disadvantages, undeterred by naysayers & cynics, to help India realise its ambition of operating an indigenous combat aircraft - the path ahead remains long and torturous but so has been the path traversed.

  1. Happy New Year: Takeoff 2011 with Tejas' fireworks! Countdown for IOC begins & ADA says 'all set for Jan 10'

  2. Tejas@10: Are we a Nation who don't care for our heroes?

  3. For 18 years, despite all odds, they chased a dream called LCA!

  4. Media invites for Tejas IOC out

  5. Tracking the Tejas! 10 years; 11 platforms; 1,510 sorties; 894 hours; 0 incidents (Touch Wood)

  6. Tough nuts to crack, but here comes a safe Tejas

  7. 3. Surviving Sanctions only to become World-Beaters: Tracking the fly-by-wire FCS story from ADE (Part-III-A)

  8. World-Beaters: The fly-by-wire FCS will take India to new heights (Part-III-B)

  9. Tejas Pilots' Hall of Fame: Meet the stars who touched the skies with glory; IOC for LCA today

Some photographs from the IOC certification ceremony.

  1. MasCom student joins Tarmak007's Tejas IOC party!

  2. Part-II: Celebrating Tejas IOC: Postcards from Garden City

  3. Part 3: Celebrating Tejas IOC: When shutterbug Rahul went on a shoot-at-sight-spree to capture some sensational stills

An earlier post about the Light Combat Aircraft: Dr. Kota Harinarayana: Development of Complex Systems – Issues and Challenges


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

China's stealth aircraft Chengdu J-20: What are they saying

By now you must have heard of the news, with varying degree of details, depending on your interest, of a new Fifth-Generation* Fighter Aircraft, being developed by the Chinese, having being spotted in the open, undergoing tests.

With no official word or information forthcoming from the Chinese, reports & articles appearing so far tend more towards speculation, be it one backed by experience & knowledge, than an informed analysis. One also can not say with any certainty if the aircraft that was spotted is a Technology Demonstrator, a platform for validating the various technologies that will eventually find its place into the actual prototype production aircraft that will be unveiled at a later date, or this itself is the first prototype of the production aircraft they have developed.

Going by reports of progress & capabilities of China's aeronautics industries & product development so far, I am inclined to believe it is the former.

China's latest fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft, Chengdu J-20 (J-XX)

Posting some related reports of interest & highlights of the articles.


"a true Chinese combat aircraft in this category is probably well over a decade away from readiness."

"The canard-delta configuration, coupled with canted vertical fins, is reminiscent of MiG's now cancelled 1.42 programme, and it would be interesting to know why the Chinese designers settled on this approach, rather than that of the Lockheed F-22 or Sukhoi T-50 platform."

"There are two rather large canards. I'm not sure that can be reconciled with a low-observable design. It looks like something that might have been designed in 1985"

"Size alone could suggest that the aircraft is not a fighter, but a bomber"

- Long March: China’s fifth-generation fighter is years away


"the J-20 may not match the all-aspect stealth of the F-22. There are two possible explanations for this: Either the aircraft seen here is the first step toward an operational design, or China’s requirements do not place as much stress on rear-aspect signatures."

"The engines are most likely members of the Russian Saturn AL-31F family, also used on the J-10. The production version will require yet-to-mature indigenous engines."

"One question that may go unanswered for a long time concerns the degree to which cyberespionage has aided the development of the J-20."

- China's J-20 Stealth Fighter In Taxi Tests


"....the Chinese are still seeking engines for a fourth-generation fighter from Russia, an indication that they are "still encountering problems" with development work toward the fifth-generation aircraft, the J-20."

"....the prototype's body appeared to borrow from the F-22 and other U.S. stealth aircraft, but they couldn't tell from the photographs how advanced it was in terms of avionics, composite materials or other key aspects of stealth technology"

"China was probably several years behind Russia, whose first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, made its first flight in January 2010, but that Beijing was catching up faster than expected"

"The Chinese prototype looks like it has "the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35,"

- A Chinese Stealth Challenge?


"....still represent a major breakthrough in China's aircraft manufacturing capability"

"J-20s symbolize an end to the era in which China produced its military aircraft simply by copying foreign models"

"Large improvements are expected for the Chinese stealths in the next 10-15 years, and they will be neck-and-neck with, or even exceed, their U.S. and Russian counterparts once China develops more advanced power and radar systems"

- China reportedly developing stealth fighters


"Russia has supplied 32,000-pound thrust 117S engines for the J-20, which would be adequate for an aircraft in the 80,000 pound class - with perhaps lower supercruise performance and agility than an F-22, but with larger weapon bays and more fuel"

"The 117S comes with 3D vectoring and the engines appear widely enough spaced for that to work. This might mean that the V-tails could be locked out in normal cruising flight"

- China's Stealth Striker


"At first glance% this fighter has the potential to be competitive with the F-22 and to be an efficient F-35 killer"

- Photos of Chinese 5th-Generation Fighter Revealed

% emphasis is mine


"The J-20 offers one item from this list (#7).  I’m not convinced that the PLAAF has any other items from this list, although China seems to be making some progress with #9."

- J-20 vs. F-35, One Analyst’s Perspective


"First, it looks like a delta, not a lambda....That has some signature implications, with what looks like an almost unswept trailing edge, because edges scatter forward and backwards."

"Despite Russian concerns over China's reverse-engineering of its products, the lure of Chinese money and access to China's micro-electronics base is strong. And if Russia has permitted the export of the latest 117S engines for the J-20, it tells us a lot"

- J-20 - Denial Is Not An Option


"A lot of people have called J-10 program the "Apollo program" of China's aviation industry. I have a feeling that the J-20 program will become that way too"

"China's current civilian programs will help J-20 and vice versa"

- My thoughts on J-20


"just because the front end of the J-20 looks like an F-22 does not mean that it is an F-22 clone"

"A related source of error is an attempt to exploit the appearance of a new Chinese or Russian system to support a pre-existing belief system"

- How Not To Think About The J-20


"the airplane depicted in the snapshots apparently has many of the right characteristics for a fifth-generation stealth-fighter prototype: a chiseled front-section, triangular wings, all-moving tailplanes"

"Even if the photos are real and the J-20 exists as more than blueprints, there’s probably no cause for alarm"

"it could take a decade or more for the J-20 to appear in numbers that make any difference in the Pacific balance of power"

- Is This China’s First Stealth Fighter?


A Russian take on the J-20

The future of China's fifth-generation stealth fighter


"....the plane could be years away from being operational"

"despite the new sophisticated weapons systems being developed, Beijing has not demonstrated the ability to use their various weapons systems together in the kind of a sophisticated combined warfare that the U.S has mastered"

- Top Navy Officer: U.S. Misjudges China’s Arms Technology


"We're anticipating China to have a fifth-generation fighter ... operational right around 2018"

"there were a lot of unknowns about China's next-generation fighter, which would be a follow-up to nearly 500 fourth-generation fighters considered at a technical parity to older U.S. fighters"

- U.S. downplays Chinese stealth fighter status

Also posting the two reports/papers put out by APA. Though the data put out by them is worth pouring over, over and over if required, inferences they draw may not be all that it is. Emphasis on may. Read them for the data. For conclusions, discretion to be used.


Chengdu J-XX [J-20] Stealth Fighter Prototype: A Preliminary Assessment


What China's New J-20 Stealth Fighter Means for the F-35 JSF and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

* 4th generation, going by the Chinese nomenclature

A video of the J-20's undergoing high-speed taxi trials has found its way to Youtube.

China's stealth aircraft Chengdu J-20 undergoing high-speed taxi trials



New videos of the J-20 aircraft have made their appearance

The J20 4th/5th Generation Stealth Fighter A

China's newest stealth fighter aircraft, Chengdu J-20 (J-XX) undergoing tests on the runway

The J20 4th/5th Generation Stealth Fighter C

The second J20 4th/5th Generation Stealth Fighter cell phone video

J-20 canards actuation




Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Space Shuttle Launch video footages - the best of the best

Or so the video was titled - not without justification, though. Was going to post it the last time, but then chose something else at the end.
NASA has released this amazing video compilation of the launch sequence of the Space Shuttles using footage obtained from the more than 125 cameras it uses to film the launch from different locations for its post-launch analyses.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Suggested Weekend reading 2010.12.26

Some stuff I found interesting this week.

Admittedly, I know not much almost nothing about Dr. Binayak Sen, who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court for engaging in acts of sedition against the Republic of India, or nature of his work. Precedence showing judgments passed by lower courts in India being overturned by higher courts also do not give any reassurance regarding the rationale or motivation behind the ruling. However, opinions of two individuals who come across as balanced, objective individuals through their messages posted on the Internet, had the following to say about the Doctor and the ruling in his case.


Possibly Related posts:

Suggested weekend reading - Science, Engineering & Technology [2010.12.11]

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My T.E. Mechanical AutoCAD drawings

Raju ban gaya Con man – seek your revenge