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Sunday, June 25, 2017

ISRO & GSLV MK III launcher, GSAT-19

ISRO has been a pioneer of Indian Space programme and has been continuously making efforts to boost India's position in the space programme. Various scientists have contributed in helping ISRO reach to where it is now today. ISRO is world's 6th largest space Agency and it continues to thrive on raising its standards. 

About ISRO:
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), is the space agency of Government of India which was formed in 1969 by the combined efforts of the then Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru and his close aide Vikram Sarabhai (Scientist and innovator) who identified the role of space technology in Nation’s development.

ISRO then came into a structure to attain its mission to provide the Nation with  space-based services and to develop the technologies to achieve its mission independently. Throughout the years, ISRO has been achieving its mission, and in the process, it has become the 6th largest space agency in the world. ISRO has till now launched 90 spacecraft missions (including 2 Nano satellites), 63 launch missions (including Scram jet – TD and RLV – TD), 9 student satellites, 2 re-entry missions and 209 Foreign satellites of 28 countries.

ISRO maintains one of the largest fleet of communication satellites (Indian National Satellite System – INSAT) and remote sensing (Indian Remote Sensing – IRS), which is helpful in giving fast and reliable information. To achieve complete self-reliance, it was essential to develop cost-effective and reliable launch systems which shaped up in the form of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Later, in order to address more heavier and demanding launches Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was developed.

Launchers or Launch Vehicles are used to carry spacecraft to space, India has two operational launchers – PSLV, GSLV and Sounding Rockets. The launchers have been named after the technology from SLV to GSLV and Scramjet Engine – TD in future.
  • SLV:
Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV) which is an all-solid, four stage vehicle weighing 17 tonnes with a height of 22 meters and capable of placing 40 kg class payloads in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). SLV – 3 was India’s 1st experimental satellite launch vehicle on August, 1979 from Sriharikota Range (SHAR) which was partially successful and again on July 18th, 1980 SLV – 3 was successfully launched and there were more launches held in May 1981 and April 1983. The key satellites were Rohini carrying IRS.
  • ASLV:
Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) program was designed to augment the payload capacity to 150 kg, thrice that of SLV–3 for LEO. ASLV with a lift off weight of 40 tonnes, 24 m tall with five stage all-solid propellant vehicle with a mission of orbiting 150 kg class satellites into 400 km circular orbits.
  • PSLV:
Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), lift off mass of 320 tonnes, 44m tall with four stages all-solid and variants of PSLV-G, PSLV-CA and PSLV-XL. It’s the 3rd generation launch vehicle of India. After the first successful launch in 1994, PSLV emerged as a reliable and versatile workhorse launch vehicle of India with 39 consecutively successful missions by June 2017. During the period of 1994 – 2017 the vehicle launched 48 Indian satellites and 209 satellites for customers from abroad. The vehicle successfully launched two spacecrafts Chandrayaan – 1 in 2008 to moon and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013 to Mars.
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II (GSLV MK II) is the largest launch vehicle developed in India, which is currently in operation. The 4th generation launch vehicle is a three stage with four liquid strap-on, 49.13 m height and 414.75 tonnes lift off weight. From January 2014, the vehicle has achieved four consecutive successes.
Sounding Rockets are one/two stage solid propellant rockets used for probing the upper atmospheric regions and for space research. They also serve as easily affordable platforms to test or prove prototypes of new components or subsystems intended for use in launch vehicles and satellites. ISRO started launching indigenously made sounding rockets from 1965 and the experience gained was of immense value in mastering the solid propellant technology.
Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV III) is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by ISRO. The vehicle has two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and cryogenic upper stage. It is designed to carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or about 10 tons to LEO, which is about twice the capability of GSLV MK II.

  • RLV-TD:
Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV – TD) is one of the most technologically challenging endeavours of ISRO, towards developing essential technologies for a fully reusable launch vehicle to enable low cost access to space. Integrated flight management and Thermal protection system evaluation are the mains objectives of RLV – TD.
The 1st experimental mission of ISRO’s Scram Jet Engine towards the realization of an Air Breathing Propulsion System was successfully conducted on August 28, 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), Shriharikota. They carry weight of 3277kg at lift-off.

What is GSLV MK III, GSAT-19 all about? 
What is the reason for launching this satellite? 
How this will be useful for India?


The main mission of GSLV MK III is to carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is about twice the capacity of GSLV MK II. The 1st developmental flight of GSLV MK III, the GSLV MK III – D1 successfully placed GSAT–19 satellite (heavier communication satellite to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) on June 5th, 2017 from SDSC SHAR, Sriharikota.

The satellite GSAT– 9, is a satellite which ISRO is undertaking as a mega experiment at India’s rocket port SHAR. Tapan Misra, director of Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, where the GSAT–19 satellite has been designed, calls it:
“A Game Changer Communications satellite for India”
According to the experts, the satellite can be the first to provide “Internet services using a space-based platform”.

Reasons for GSAT-19 launch & Impact in India

The single GSAT-19 satellite will be equivalent to having a constellation of 6-7 of the older variety of communication satellites in space. Today, out of a constellation of 41 in-orbit Indian Satellites, 13 are communication satellites. A truly “Made in India” satellite that will empower a digital India that is in the making. In fact, scientists at ISRO suggest that GSAT-19 is just a trailer, the real movie which is GSAT-11 satellite will go up in few months that is a mighty communications platform.
  • The new features which are used in GSAT-19 are being tested by launching, which will become an intrinsic part of the systems on future missions and many new technologies.
  • The batteries we have used in the satellite are of Lithium-ion batteries, these batteries have been made so that India’s self-reliance quotient can increase. And similar batteries can be used in cars and other electrical vehicles.
  • Important experiment to understand how to make space-based components more radiation resistant.
  • Internet services may not be unleashed immediately but what the country is putting together is a capability in place which is important specially to connect places that are literally off the fibre optic internet backbone. For example, New Delhi just can’t rely on optical fibres, copper-based telephony and mobile cellular services as alternative.
  • This will not have transponders, and instead it will beam data using multiple frequency beams. According to experts, this feature will also let the satellite beam more data to the ISRO.
Note: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


The doctors looking at Mili Thomas saw a little girl with leukaemia bubbling in her veins. She’d undergone loads of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. But the cancer still thrived. By last June, the 12-month-old was desperately ill. Her parents begged—wasn’t there anything? There was, in a freezer at her hospital—Great Dortmund Street, in London—lied a vial of white blood cells. The cells had been genetically altered to hunt and destroy Leukaemia.

We all have seen those movies where a patient on the verge of death rises magically to live on, but never thought such things would turn into reality, at least not in the immediate future. However, science seems to be on the path where we will soon see such things happening. It seems vague, but fortunately or what I can term it as remarkable this seems to be the coming to be true reality. Science has gone past many barriers to reach this stage.

Immune engineering is the answer to most of the deadly disease. We all know how vital the role of our immune system is, however this very system goes on a backtrack when attacked by diseases like Leukaemia, HIV.

Our immune system is very powerful, 1 teaspoon of blood contains tens of millions of white blood cells. The most important cells that contribute to the defense mechanism are:


These are an essential component of the immune response which are produced in the bone marrow, part of the adaptive immune system, B cells are responsible for generating antibodies to specific antigens, which they bind via B-cell receptors (BCR).


The “T cells” (so-called because they develop in a small organ called the thymus gland) are responsible for many immune responses which include direct attack on foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, or foreign tissues;Of all of the above T cells are the most powerful of the lot, though all cells play an important role but T-cells take up the role similar to Black Cat commandos.

                      T cells attacking cancer cells

T cells are comprised of two types: Helper and Killer.

Helper T-cells respond to problems in our system by rallying the cell troops around the foreign bodies.

Killer T-cells start the onslaught by injecting lethal poison on to the enemy.

When your body’s cells become damaged or infected, they alert the immune system by physically displaying signs of their internal problems on their surface. They do this with molecules called Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) proteins, which have a built-in groove that can hold a fragment of enemy protein up for inspection by passing T-cells.

T-cells wander through your body, scanning MHC molecules as they pass using their own specialist surface molecules, known as a T-cell receptor. Each of your millions of different T-cells have a slightly different T-cell receptor, and will only start to activate if it detects its exact foe. Before it can attack, the T-cell must wait for more orders from other immune cells – this helps prevent friendly fire. But once it receives these orders, it arms its weapons, and then starts to multiply furiously, producing an army of clones.

However, there lies a catch, while T cells can destroy foreign bodies they cannot identify them which is where Immune engineering comes into the scene. Cancer cells are master at fooling the T-cells, however, they are not able to withhold their identity against B-cells. Cellectis, a biotechnology company devised a gene editing method called TALENS (Transcription activator-like effector nucleases), a way of making cuts and fixes to DNA in living cells. The company began developing the treatment in 2011 after a group of doctors reported a way of gaining control over killer T-cells,

The treatment was based on the concept of combining the identifying power of B-cells with the killing power of T-cells thus creating Super T cells.


These super T cells are made using healthy patients’ blood, genetically modified and then injected back to the patient’s body to seek out cancer cells. Targeting the right cells forms an important part of this treatment as it is very essential for the super T cells to identify the right cells and then attack them with precision.


These treatments are based on blood cancers developing from B-cells hence the T cells while destroying the cancer cells destroy the B-cells as well in the process. Patients can survive without B-cells however they need to be on medication throughout their life.

Hence, there still is a large scope of improvement, apart from blood cancer these treatments can be modified for organ specific cancer as well. However, this has paved the way for a light of hope for those who are unfortunate to get cancers such as Leukaemia. This research proves how science can be used effectively to save human life rather than just in making weapons of mass destruction.We shall soon be seeing such things happen more often in the near future.






Note: The views expressed here are those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of DOT as a whole.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ransomware - Showing the importance of backup

Some days back in the month of May, the whole world was hit by what is commonly known as Wannacry Ransomware. The Ransomware gradually encompassed the whole world while centralised mainly around Europe. More than 2,00,000 organizations spread across 150 countries were heavily affected by this attack which caught most of the masses sleeping. 

I would use the word sleeping here because despite so much talks about the online security and precautions a large chunk of the world was caught unaware or perhaps what we should say careless on their part against this huge attack.
Perhaps people really need to be aware about the online security or perhaps companies need to make people more aware about the online security.

What is Ransomware and how does it work?

Ransomware as the term states is a kind of cyber-attack that involves hackers taking control of a computer system and blocking access to it until a ransom is paid. These attacks are mainly undertaken by the cyber criminals for want of quick money. A cyber-attack such as this works only when it is able to control the computer to be attacked which is possible only when some sort of malicious software is downloaded in the target device. This is often done by getting the victim to click a link or download the software by mistake. Once downloaded, the software wreaks havoc by gradually encrypting all the files it can find within a device or a network.

A Ransomware
  • Prevents one from using one’s device.
  • Encrypts files as a result of which they cannot be used unless the Ransom is paid.

The virus Wannacry ransomware wreaked havoc on the organizations demanding huge payments which could not be traced. The reason for the payments going untraced is the use of Bitcoin, the hugely popular virtual currency.

Large companies are often able to spot this attack in the initial phase and can isolate the documents to minimise the damage. Individuals however are not so lucky as they do not have any such measures and they do not have any option other than paying the ransom unless they have created a backup of their information.

Who is responsible for the attack?

A secret group called Shadow brokers who first appeared in 2016 and who is responsible for several leaks containing hacking tools from the NSA ( USA intelligence agency) has been held responsible for carrying out this attack.

Who all were affected?

The online attacks were carried all over the world with around 75000 different computers attacked all over, however, the major organizations hit in the attack were Britain’s National Health Service, Renault- French car making company, FedEX - The International shipper, Russia’s banks, Spain’s company Telefonica and more.

According to Microsoft, it released a security update in the purview of this attack in March, thus, most of the computers running on updated operating systems were protected from this attack. However, those operating systems running on Windows XP were affected. Microsoft stopped its support activities for the OS 3 years back.

               100 million computers still run on Windows - XP                                                    

Situation in India

A cyber security firm Quick heal detected over 48,000 ransomware attack attempts in the country, with West Bengal witnessing the most incidents. The attack was not focussed on any particular industry but it was widely spread across industries especially those organizations which are online and connected.
According to Quick Heal, 60% of the victims were enterprises while 40% were individuals. The top cities affected were Kolkata, Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Pune and Mumbai. 

How to protect yourself?

  • The best protection against ransomware attacks is to have all files backed up in a completely separate system. This means that if you suffer an attack you won't lost any information to the hackers.
  • The best way to protect yourself is to be suspicious of unsolicited emails and always type out web addresses yourself rather than clicking on links. 
  • Another key defence is antivirus programs that can scan files before they are downloaded, block secret installations and look for malware that may already be on a computer. 

Backup your data

Companies today require one to share one's personal information as a pre-requisite of using their services which is why it has become even more important to protect the sensitive data of the customers. Companies also get into financial transactions throughout their business which is also a sensitive data which needs to be protected.

From the perspective of an individual, it is very important for a person to keep a Backup of all the electronics data because of the growing exposure to such attacks. Perhaps this is the reason that creating a backup is very important for any individual to protect himself from these attacks.

To conclude, awareness among the masses need to be spread to make them more cautious of these attacks. Online security systems need to be upgraded continuously while the older systems need to be phased out gradually to minimize the damage from these attacks. The power of data is limitless and if used to exploit the masses can be very dangerous.