The First Flight of the GSLV Mk-III

As I write this, the GSLV Mk-III would have commenced its 25.5 hour countdown to launch at 1728 hrs (IST) on June 5, 2017. The 3-stage GSLV Mk-III will carry the 3136 kg GSAT-19 to a geostationary orbit. The satellite carries transponders for communication, a scientific instrument to study the nature of charged particles and effect of space radiation on satellites and among various other technologies an indigenously built Lithium ion battery. This will be the launch vehicle’s debut flight and hence called D1.

GSLV Mk-III at the Second Launch Pad
I love the dawn/dusk time view of the launch vehicle. Image Credit: ISRO

The GSLV Mk-III flew last as GSLV Mk-III-X, an experimental flight where it flew with a passive third stage and the CARE payload. The sub-orbital flight was intended to study the launch vehicle configuration and went off successfully. It allowed ISRO to study how the launch vehicle performed in flight. The crew vehicle CARE splashed down in the Bay of Bengal near Andaman and Nicobar islands and was recovered by the Coast Guard.

The GSLV Mk-III is India’s medium lift launch vehicle capable of flying 4 tonnes to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit and 8 tonnes to Low Earth Orbit. It is intended to place India’s heavier communication satellites in orbit. It has two S200 solid fuel boosters attached to a core stage. The core stage has two clustered L110 Vikas Engines. The third stage Cryogenic Upper Stage C25 is powered by the indigenously developed CE-20 engine. The payload fairing also has a “slanted strap-on nose cone for aerodynamic robustness” added to it after the X flight.

Notice the change in language. It is no longer called as first, second, third and fourth stages as in PSLV and the GSLV. The stages are called as booster, core and upper stage.

This will also be the time when the CE-20 will actually fire and take a payload to orbit. It is different from the cryogenic engine on the GSLV which is called CE-7.5. The GSLV Mk-III-X carried the CE-20 but it did not fire.

I had written about the commercial aspects of the GSLV launches in the Wire in 2015 and think that the same holds for the GSLV Mk-III as well. India has already begun developing satellites which require a launch capability more than that provided by the Mk III. An example is the soon to be launched GSAT-11. GSAT-11 weighs 5725 kg and is going to be launched on board the Ariane-5 in 2017-18 and uses the newly developed I-6K bus. This requires development of heavy lift (launch capability to GTO of more than 10 tonnes) launch vehicles. This development would be pursuant to lessons learnt in the development of the GSLV and the Mk-III.

GSAT-19 is largely a communication satellite. It holds improvements in satellite components such as heat pipe, gyros, accelerometers and an indigenous Lithium ion battery. There is very little information that I could find on GRASP (Geostationary Radiation Spectrometer) besides what it says about studying charged particles and impact of space radiation on satellites.

With so much to write about, I was not happy with the initial reportage in the Indian press looking at India’s human spaceflight program (example). I wish they would ask ISRO to share more information on the payload (the science payload as well improvement in space craft instrumentation) and the improvements in the launch vehicle that the GSLV Mk-III X flight enabled.

I wish ISRO and the GSLV Mk-III team all the best and Godspeed!

Becoming a Father

I’m in Palakkad right now. I became a father to a baby girl on April 25, 2017. The experience has been overwhelming. Both the mother and daughter are doing fine. 

I’m back in Palakkad again after a few days here at the end of April for my daughter’s 28th day ceremony. We’ve named her Rithika.

The South Asia Satellite

The ISRO will launch the GSLV tomorrow carrying the South Asian Satellite on board. ISRO calls it the GSAT-9. It will carry Indian transponders that will be used by India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The Wire has a short video describing the significance of the launch and some prior history.

11a8gsat-9seenwithtwohalvesofpayloadfaringofgslv-f09
GSAT-9 seen with the two halves of the payload fairing of the GSLV-F09. Image Credit: ISRO

I think this launch will be important for India for two things. One is to prove, further, the reliability of the GSLV as a launch vehicle capable of regularly delivering communication satellites into orbit. This improves with each launch. As this reliability improves, it brings in business in communication satellite launches as well as reduces India’s dependence on foreign launch vehicles. The second is to improve availability of transponders for users on the ground. Indian transponders can thence be leased and commercialized after meeting India’s requirements.

It would be interesting to see if the use of the transponders by some of our neighboring countries provides them with sufficiently good experience that they will continue using Indian transponders or even ask for multiple transponders. This would make it important again to improve the reliability of the GSLV and the GSLV Mk-III to put enough communication satellites into orbit to service these future requirements. Could then India wean off South East Asian countries from American and European transponders to Indian ones?

Interestingly, this satellite also carries with it an electric propulsion experiment. This satellite is expected to stay in orbit for 12 years. Communication satellites usually  last around 10 years. They have to carry as much fuel for what is known as station keeping. The satellites begin to drift from orbit like kites that we fly. We tug at the kite to keep it at one place and prevent it from drifting too far away. The satellite has no strings attached and hence the satellite will have to use fuel on-board to reach its orbit as well as to stay there.

Using electric propulsion completely for doing station keeping would reduce the amount of fuel the satellite would have to carry. This means we can add more transponders which in turn would mean fewer satellites could meet the requirements. But, this is an experiment and hence ISRO is still carrying the fuel it normally would had the electric propulsion system had not been there. I am also delighted to hear that the GSAT-20 mission flying next year will also carry an electric propulsion system on board. The lessons we learn from the experiment on the GSAT-9 would be incorporated.

Sakhavu (2017)

SakhavuPossible spoilers alert.

Example, is a great way to teach others how to live. Nivin Pauly’s character is a student politician steeped in the ways of modern politics. His image is a façade of good while he indulges in political manoeuvring using unfair means. His plans for subterfuge of a fellow comrade who seems to be in his way towards higher posts in the Party. His plans come to naught when he is asked to donate blood to a Comrade in ICU.

The Comrade’s friend begins the story of the Comrade’s life who launches agitations against the tyrant tea factory owners in Peerumedu. Once this agitation is a success, agrarian workers of the zamindar approach him. The Comrade agitates by working on the fields. Success leads him to further agitation. The Comrade teaches by example to his comrades in the Party by leading from the front, showing how to lead agitations and how to organise workers. Later, as we learn of The Comrade’s home life, we learn he teaches his daughter by example as well. The movie shows us of a time when idealism and a certain political philosophy was needed to end oppression.

Cut to the present, the tea factory is not working due to various issues including labour issues and profitability. The Comrade, urges a wealthy friend to purchase and run the tea factory to help the people who could not migrate from Peerumedu and forced by hunger into prostitution. There he faces the hoteliers who have illegally built on Company land. It is while fighting these land sharks that the Comrade is stabbed and in hospital.

The Company wins a case in court, with the news that the land sharks have been cleared and will become operational again. The movie asks, rhetorically, if the political philosophy that ended oppression in Peerumedu would work in this new world? Is that idealism, rekindled, the need of today?

Communism was a tool that was once used to transform a highly stratified society into one of the better states in India. It addresses only one part of the equation, though. It works only when there is an oppressed and an oppressor. The lines between these two has blurred and one wonders if, as the movie asks, it is the right tool for a polarised society we live in today.

(Watched on 15/04/2017 at the 8 pm show in Inox Cinemas, R City Mall, Ghatkopar, Mumbai)

 

What do I do?

Every time I attend any meetup, I find it difficult to explain why I am there. I attended the Kilter pre-conference meetup in Mumbai today and found myself in a similar predicament.

I limit my introductions to the fact that I work in a public sector bank and don’t go beyond that. People who know me from meeting me at different junctures know me for the various interest I had had when they met me. I have moved on mostly. Currently, just working in a bank and my family keeps me occupied enough to prevent me from doing anything else.

No, that’s not entirely true. I have gotten more and more lazy and hence have not found the time for any of my other interests other than reading. I have, hence, been below the radar.

This then confuses the new people that I meet as to why I am there.

Remembering Wikipedia days

Mahafreed wrote on her blog sharing her writing on Wikipedia in The Times of India in 2010 brought back memories from my good days in Wikipedia editing. In the story she shares  my quote too. The original article is here.

After the early days of Wikipedia editing, things reached a head with the Wikiconference India 2011. Things got subsumed by politics like many other things do in India, if the group is not careful. I left offline activities of Wikipedia and stick to one off editing online. I even changed user ids I used for editing.

I watched Dr. Heather Ford talking about a similar curve on a TEDx talk. She ends the talk saying that Wikipedia needs people to change it from within and with more people participating in the editing to expose it to more points of view.

On WhatsApp forwards

We all get numerous messages which are fake on WhatsApp and forward it without giving it too much thought. Thejesh GN has written on his blog about these forwards, with suggestions on how WhatsApp could handle fake news. 

It is important that you verify things you hear on WhatsApp from another primary source. If you trust the person sending you the forward, do question if he/she thinks the news is true or not. I would suggest using Google News and to visit a news publication you trust or visit the organisation/individual’s website.

Bullet Journal

I used to keep a Bullet Journal way back in September 2015. By November 2015, I was writing so much work related stuff that I didn’t want to open it again. I abandoned it. I found it while surfing Evernote related help videos, in the YouTube suggested videos for you.

I found inspiration here and here and instructions here to dust off the old bullet journal from my diaries rack and use it again. Have kept it ready for use. Haven’t seen too many guys using it here in India, though. Examples welcome.

Dave Ramsey and his Baby Steps

In the beginning of 2016, I found myself in debt again. It was a suffocating feeling because small debts had grown large. It had not grown large enough to warrant selling anything to stay afloat but I knew it could get there. I was looking for a way out of debt and was searching online for ways to deal with it. It was during this search that I found Dave Ramsey and his Baby Steps.

Ramsey suggests that the way to stay out of debt (and this includes using your credit card), is a behavioral change. And the person whose behavior is to be changed is yours and not anyone else’s. Understanding and getting behind this idea is critical to permanent change. Ramsey says that getting out of debt and staying on a written budget gets us to a point where we can harness our greatest wealth building tool – our income – and use the money saved to invest and to give.

While his ideas seems to be tailored for US audiences, I think his message is useful to us in India and to me personally.

Ergo I still have to work hard to keep me from using my credit card, I have tremendously improved in knowing that I own the credit card and it will not own me. Ramsey suggests plastic surgery – cutting up your credit cards with scissors and shutting it down.

If you think you’re at that stage in life where you’re feeling overwhelmed and need space to breathe – watch the Dave Ramsey Show on YouTube if you like to watch stuff or read his book, The Total Money Makeover. It is one of the several ways to get back financial peace.