GSAT-5P to be launched on December 20

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 13, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

On December 20, 2010, India will replace the ageing INSAT-2E communications satellite. The satellite has served India since 1999 by providing telecommunication, television broadcasting and meteorological services.

The launch of GSAT-5P which is to take place from Sriharikota will use the Russian cryogenic engine for the third stage of the GSLV. Hence, this is designated as the GSLV Mk-I. The vehicle is already on the launch pad and was moved there and anchored on Sunday. Last week, the satellite, GSAT-5P was placed inside the heat shield.

The significant events before launch between 4 and 4:30 pm 5:30 pm on December 20, include a full systems check today, followed by a launch rehersal without the liquid and cryogenic fuel on December 17.

There has only been one successful PSLV and one failed GSLV that has taken place this year in Sriharikota this year. I am guessing scientists will be anxious to get this launch right. This is another reason why the spotlight is falling back on this launch. The GSLV has been a programme with mixed results with 3 successes and 3 failures.

Once ISRO updates its website with more information I will carry more detailed article on the subject here.

[This post is based on this news report.]

Wikipedia Mumbai Meetup 5

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 12, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Update: Having written this at 1 am in the morning, I missed out on some facts related to the discussion towards the end of the meeting. I have now added this along with a processed pictures from the meeting.

Today was the 5th meetup of Mumbai Wikipedians. The main idea behind the meetup was to enable Erik Möller, Danese Cooper and Alolita Sharma of the Wikimedia Foundation to meet with Mumbai Wikipedians and discuss some of the technical issues faced by Indian Wikipedians. The meetup was held at the Homi Bhaba Centre for Science Education Campus in Anushakti Nagar, Mumbai. The meeting began with a basic introduction of Wikipedia, an attempt to understand the Indic text input issues, local caches, a few Wikipedia-based projects to try and explain similar possible Indian collaborations and technical issues.  The meeting was attended by 10-20 people but was very engaging and exciting!

The meeting started at 6:30 pm and went all the way upto 9 pm at night. It began with a round of tea, coffee and biscuits. After tea, we moved in to a lecture hall on the ground floor of the campus. Erik began the talk by a brief introduction of Wikipedia and the work of the Wikimedia Foundation. We then got some insights into how the Foundation ran Wikipedia on top of just 450 servers with a low budget compared to that of giants like Google and Facebook. The trend seemed pretty counter-intuitive. Erik reiterated the points made by both Barry Newstead and Jimmy Wales on their previous visits on why they have considered India an important destination. He added that much of the traffic from India was going to the English Wikipedia.

Erik then went on to question the Mumbai Wikipedians on the various input options available to them on the Hindi Wikipedia. Kundan Amitabh being the expert in such matters was urged to demonstrate the inscript keyboard technique that he had shared in the last meetup. Erik asked about the in-built transliteration tool as well as the one provided by Google for purposes of editing. Moksh Juneja was of the opinion that while the phonetic (transliteration) tools were useful for small edits, the larger edits required the inscript keyboard method. Nagarjuna G suggested that during his workshops, he suggested the use of inscript keyboard to those who were going to learn from the beginning and the phonetic tool to those who were used to English keyboards. He too agreed, though, that in the long run, the inscript keyboards being the standard was more preferable.

Moving on, Erik suggested the Wikipedia Bookshelf as the go-to place for various resources on Wikipedia. He showed the various resources available on the page for beginners and hoped it could be printed and localized. Towards the end of the meetup, Nagarjuna G selected Moksh Juneja and Vivek Cherian to begin the localizing effort. Erik also pointed to examples such as the US Public Policy Initiative and a reference for school and college education projects based on Wikipedia that he started. The reference grew to act as a set of resources that school and college educators could use.

Danese Cooper (I incidentally tweeted her name as Denise, apologies for that) then took on the technical side of Wikipedia. I could not really catch onto some of the technical details she mentioned and hope that Vivek Cherian will catch on to this on his blog. I will link to his post here. The interesting things that I could make out from the talk was that a sum total of 4 people of her 60-member group worked on keeping Wikipedia up and running. She also mentioned a need for a sysops from Asia who could take the timeframe between her people in Europe and Australia. She said that their current data center dated back to the ones used by Jimmy Wales and that they hope to soon move datacenter to Ashburn, Virginia being a datacenter hub. She suggested that those interested in the technical aspects join up on the wikitech mailing list. A list of all Wikipedia related mailing lists is available here.

We then moved on to watching some of the videos created by Wikipedians at Wikimania 2010. These were created with the basic idea of getting people interested in Wikipedia and encouraging them to edit Wikipedia. They also pointed us to some of the screencast tutorials that would help Indian wikipedians create local content that would enable us to use this as an education tool. Again, Wikipedia Bookshelf has resources to help Wikipedians create video content.

Erik then showed us the “Create a book” tool which can be found under “Print/Export” on the sidebar. The tool allows us to select pages from around Wikipedia and add them as pages into a book. These can then be routed through PediaPress, which prints out the copy of a book from near your locality or exported to an offline open source reader such as Kiwix.

Erik then showed how the Encyclopedia of Life project worked. He also talked about some of the work that the Foundation was doing to enable some of the expert comments to be made available to the wikipedia article as a way of giving back. He suggested ideas like a tab on top of a page for pointing to reviews about the content of a page by an expert on EoL.

Moving on to the question and answer session, Shambulingayya asked the question of institutional collaboration with IIT-B and Wikimedia Foundation, India. The idea was welcomed. Kundan also suggested that this can be used to the advantage of improving articles on science and technology on Wikipedia. I also welcomed it. Danese provided a similar example of such a collaboration started by Wikipedian Liam Wyatt who used his passion for Wikipedia and Museums to bring about an interesting project with the British Museum. Erik added that a session called Backstage Pass enabled Wikipedians to visit the Museum for one day, then meet in a room and work on adding content to Wikipedia and sufficiently improved the article to best article status. The British Museum went along with the project seemingly because it received more traffic from sites like Wikipedia. This was leveraged by Wyatt to improve Wikipedia itself allowing the Museum website to get more attention.

Erik then showed off the openmoko WikiReader. This little gadget has an offline, low power utilisation, microSD card content of Wikipedia running on AAA batteries. The latest copy of wikipedia can be downloaded by removing the SD card and connecting it with internet. Erik asked for suggestions on how this could device could be useful in the Indian context. He also suggested that these could be locally produced at a lower cost since this had an open hardware architecture. In connection to small readers, Moksh asked about mobile accessibility. Danese pointed to the mobile version of wikipedia and confessed they did not know where to concentrate their efforts on for developing on mobile devices. She speculated on the growth of smart phones in India and said they were not sure whether to put in the effort to make Wikipedia readable on currently simple GPRS phones if the smart phones market would have cheaper alternatives available.

The end of the meetup quiz was won by Shambulingayya who got the copy of the book, Good Faith Collaboration. We then had a photo-op and moved out as night descended.

We had planned on the 10th anniversary celebration of Wikipedia. I, Moksh and Kundan have been requested to meet and discuss things once again and post the idea on the mailing list to take forward the idea of the Wikipedia X Celebrations in Mumbai. Vivek also jumped in with better ideas on the way back home for which Moksh gave us a ride. We hope to get some ideas and put it on the Wikipedia in Mumbai mailing list.

My photos from the event can be found at Wikimedia Commons. I will soon upload them onto Picasa and share them here.

I just missed out on sharing this as I was writing this very early this morning at 1:30 am. Nagarjuna G shared that they were currently working in HBCSE to digitize copies of Marathi Vishwakosh. He had already written to the Secretary of the digitization project to make the copies available under the Creative Commons License and in unicode text. This would enable Wikipedians to use this as a base for several articles on Wikipedia in Marathi. As an answer, Bishaka Datta shared that in speaking with the Observer Research Foundation had made some headway and a suggestion to do the same could be made with the Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Falcon-9 and Akatsuki Link Bunch

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 10, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I have not added any information on two huge publicity events, the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon-9 with Dragon and the Venus orbital injection failure of Akatsuki. This is because there has been plenty of good coverage on each subject in the blogosphere that I will only be happy to link to.


Daniel Fischer’s Cosmic Mirror has a link bunch on Akatsuki with news and blog stories. Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society blog has the best coverage on the subject – here, here and here (in reverse chronology). There was a rather long pause before the failure became apparent. There was a huge rush on twitter and elsewhere to learn of what had happened to the spacecraft. Emily had made use of twitter’s Japanese users to translate into English some of the information which was released in Japanese first. JAXA, Japan’s space agency will now carefully check the spacecraft health and thrusters before deciding what they plan to do with the spacecraft and whether it will survive the 6 years before it is in a position to try Venus orbit injection again.

Below is the video posted to YouTube by Emily Lakdawalla on how Akatsuki would meet Venus again after 6 years:

Falcon 9

As the news of Akatsuki’s failed orbit injection spread through the English-speaking world, SpaceX began preparations for its launch. William Pomerantz on The Launch Pad does the best blog on this subject here. The launch is seen below:

This one was strange. The first launch aborted while I was about to board the bus after the talk at Nehru Planetarium. The launch occured when I got off at the bus stop near my home. The P-POD release announcement came after my dinner and SPLASHDOWN! of the Dragon capsule in the Pacific was when I was ready to go to sleep. Odd timing!

Book Review: Known Turf by Annie Zaidi

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 10, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I finished reading this book way back in August but did not get around to writing a review for it. I bought this book after seeing Joseph Thomas’ note. By the time he reviewed it his opinion had changed a bit. Just shows you how long ago that was.

I have read Annie Zaidi’s articles when she was in Frontline but not her blog. The book, though is mostly about her first foray into journalism and her beat visiting goondas in Northern India and the strange aura that surrounded them. She moves from understanding what moves these people from goondaism to what generally is lacking in provisions provided by the Government and moves towards human interest stories.

One of my favourite parts is where she talks about an Indian’s love for tea. I share this love but have started limiting my consumption of this liquid slowly. It is very difficult. She then moves to her blogging life and her work with the Blank Noise project.

Sadly, after this I have started going more towards music. Exams in between meant that this transitition was not as smooth as it could have been.

Talk by Jaydeep Mukherjee on Space-Time Telescopes

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 09, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Last week, it was my friend Srinivas who informed me that Jaydeep Mukherjee would be delivering a talk at Nehru Planetarium. I had missed his talk the last time although I had the chance to meet him at his home. The talk was held today at Nehru Centre. During his talk, Jaydeep dealt with some basic astrophysics, Einstein’s concept of Space-Time and about some of the current and future NASA-funded telescopes.

After a brief introduction by Planetarium Directior Piyush Pandey on the Astronomy Lecture Series and Dr. Jaydeep Mukherjee, the talk began in earnest. He began with the Big Bang and corrected that the Big Bang was not really an explosion, a common misconception created by the terminology used. He stressed on the point again and again throughout his talk and also in the Question and Answer session. He talks about the first light from 400,000 years after the Big Bang when the stars first began to appear and right upto the present epoch. He uses images from Hubble to demonstrate that we look back into time using a telescope and so really these are time machines.

He began the description of telescopes with the famous Hubble Space Telescope went on to the SWIFT telescope and WMAP. He then stayed a bit on Chandra X-Ray Telescope (perhaps because it was its 10th anniversary and Chandrasekhar’s birth centenary). He explained using two examples of a supernova remanant and a galaxy about how Chandra turned our understanding of the hidden mechanisms in these. For the supernova remnant, he selected the famous Crab Nebula which was seen as a supernovae in 1054 AD. His slide mentioned that the supernovae was seen by Chinese and European astronomers. Wikipedia says Arab instead of Europeans. He showed how observations from Chandra helped in understanding the remnant’s structure. For the galaxy, he took a recent example of a galactic cannibalism and explained how Chandra added another dimension to the picture and revealed the inner structure.

He then moved on to the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble-successor as it is famously known as. He explained how the funding scenario in the United States of America meant that the Telescope would be further delayed than the 2014 year he mentioned on his slide. He also explained why there could be cost overruns in the mission. His analogy involved the house redecoration and how a new item found during the process could add to the cost as the process evolved.

He then moved to space time and gave us a simplistic idea of what Space-Time was. He then followed it up with the Gravity Probe B mission. The mission wanted to try and test Einstein’s explanation of curving of space-time curve as gravity. They did this with very highly precise gyroscopes (which Jaydeep stressed took about 40 years in development) that tested narrow changes in angular position. This change in position would not be seen if we accept Newton’s concept of gravity. But, changing angles showed that Einstein’s explanation of gravity was correct. I have over-simplified it here for brevity. If you are curious, you can find out about this here.

He then introduced us to a second mission, LISA. The idea behind LISA is to check for gravitational waves. To shorten, Jaydeep’s slide which compared electromagnetic and gravitational waves, gravitational waves move masses and electromagnetic waves move charges. LISA hopes to detect this movement in masses. This effect is so small that there needs to be three spacecrafts spaced a 5 million kms from each other in a triangular formation if there is to be hope of detecting these waves. In the Question and Answer session, Jaydeep agreed that this area was also small but was defined by modern technological capabilities rather than anything else.

I enjoyed his talk thoroughly. In the Question and Answer session, a little girl on the same row as me asked an intelligent question: “How do you know that the light from the Sun travels to Earth in (approximately) 8 minutes and not in 6 or 7 minutes?” This question set a rather high bar of expectations for questions but I believe was not met by the adult members in the audience including me. Jaydeep had bought goodies from NASA (brochures on Chandra and what I think is a sort of NASA flag) which were for people who asked questions but the writer of this blog got one for just being there.

The evening ended while we were expecting the news of the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon launch vehicle. I boarded the bus when the Abort was called and the Falcon lifted off when I got off the bus!

Terrestar-1: To provide internet connection to the not connected

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 07, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

The company that owns the communication satellite, Terrestar-1 went bankrupt this October. An organisation called A Human Right, which seeks to connect everyone and advocate internet connection as a basic human right, is considering buying this satellite.

For this, they have launched a new website called – Buy This Satellite. Here, they advocate a 3-phase plan for acquiring this satellite. They are currently in phase 1, trying to raise $150,000. They have managed to raise $26,200 so far. This money will go into developing a business plan, getting a technical team together and ironing out the legal and business wrinkles.

Interestingly, Suyash Tiwari, Director, Telecom Innovation Lab at Tata Consultancy Services is on board as an advisor for this project as well as for the organisation. This is an interesting Indian angle to the story.

Eventually, their hopes are to establish the satellite into a place where it can provide Internet access to countries like Papua New Guinea or those in Africa that have not been connected to the Internet.

Thanks to Keith Cowing for the hattip.

French President visits ISRO

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 06, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Not many heads of state come and visit the high-tech labs within India’s space agency, ISRO. Perhaps the fact that the development of Megha-Tropiques and Saral were on, led the French President to visit the facility with First Lady Carla Bruni.

ISRO Chairman Radhakrishnan’s opening remarks on how ISRO was helped in its propulsion systems technology by the French. He revealed that ISRO had signed a deal with ARIANESPACE to launch India’s GSAT-8 in 2011 and GSAT-10 in 2012. He revealed that perhaps INSAT-3D would also be launched using ARIANESPACE’s launch vehicle. INSAT-3D was to be launched on board a GSLV Mk-2. Perhaps it’s failure to launch this year has pushed launches of critical satellites into ARIANESPACE. The only major deal to have been signed is with EADS Astrium, for which ISRO had built the Eutelsat-W2M and HYLAS-1.

The French President’s remarks seem to have been directed at a more general audience than in ISRO itself talking about the United Nations, Afghanistan and Nuclear and  education Co-operation.  Further into his speech he said two lines without elaborating much but which are interesting: “We will launch Indian satellites from Kourou, and European satellites from India. CNES and ISRO will develop a new research programme together.”

India already uses Kourou to launch various of its satellites but no pure European commercial satellite has been launched by India. For now, PSLV may be able to afford Europe a cheaper flight option than perhaps EADS. In an earlier report, EADS had suggested this as a possibility. The French President did not confirm this, though. The second line is interesting because of the shape this new research programme will take.

The other interesting statement from the French President’s speech is the “an unprecedented technological experiment that India is conducting to understand its population” reference. I am not aware of this experiment at all and have been trying to understand this reference.

Indo-French Nuclear Co-operation

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 06, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

Vaiju Naravane of The Hindu writes about the Indo-French nuclear co-operation specifically talking about the deal with French nuclear company, Areva. I have been learning of the Jaitapur Nuclear Plant project mostly through Greenpeace and their Nuclear-Unsafe campaign. Sadly, Areva’s defences in public have not been very effective and have even been countered.

The Times of India today and the Greenpeace blog earlier reported on the protests against the Jaitapur Plant. It has been interesting to see a growing number of controversial projects coming up along the Maharashtra and Orissa coastlines.

I am personally not 100% against nuclear power. I am concerned about India putting in lots of public money to obtain a nuclear technology that is still in stages of refinement. In the software world, this is like downloading the beta or developers version of a software. One does not download such software if one does not know about the software’s vulnerability and issues. Similarily, investing money without having experience or an authority in new nuclear plants, India should have played it more safely than it has. Hopefully, better sense prevails.

Back from a Break…

Note: I wrote this on my earlier blog hosted as I recovered the text from the WayBack Machine. This post appeared on December 02, 2010 as per the time stamp. I’m trying to collect here again all my old writings spread on various blogs.

I finished writing my only exam that I had to write today. This exam has been the source of many pains and also led me to miss many things including Dr. Maqbool’s talk which I had written about in these pages. This is just a heads-up saying I’m back and sharing a few random links to space articles that I missed in the past few days.

1. Dr. Syed Maqbool Ahmed’s talkpress report + Srinivas’ take on Dr. Ahmed’s day in Mumbai and his talk.

2. An ongoing Astronomy festival in Bengaluru with participation from ISRO. The festival runs till December 5, 2010. I have sadly not seen many post event blog reports yet.

3. Abhilash M from the ISRO Inertials Systems Unit writes on The Voyage Blog  on the World Space Week celebrations done by ISRO in Kerala.

4. Anantha Krishnan writes about India’s success in developing indigenously electro-hydraulic servo valves (ESHVs) which have aerospace applications. It was developed by a team at Centre for Aerospace Products, Hyderabad.

5. Srinivas also shared an aspect of Chandrayaan-I hitherto not well known. He shared information on how the Parkes Observatory was used to help Chandrayaan-I get data down to Earth 24×7.

6. This last week, ISRO-built satellite Hylas-1 for Astrium and Avanti, launched from Kourou. The ISRO Press releases on the launch and its subsequent placement in geostationary orbit. Also, Srinivas’ account is here.

With that, we now return to the normal scheduled programme. Coming over to the blog, you will find that it has been simplified even more.

India going to study the Sun

This blog post was recovered from the Way Back Machine and may have existed on many avatars of the previous blogs that I owned. Some links are broken.

Immediately after the successful launch of Chandrayaan-I, then ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair announced Aditya-1, a spacecraft to study our Sun. Updates coming over the last one month have updates on this ISRO mission as well as interest in Solar Physics.

Aditya-1 is a 100 kg spacecraft under development by ISRO in association with Udaipur Solar Observatory, Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Radio Astronomy Centre and National Centre for Radio Astrophysics. This Rs. 50 crores space based solar observatory will be in a 600 km low Earth orbit and is expected to fly in 2012 close to Solar Maxima.The spacecraft will

Reports indicate that the Indian Institute of Astrophysics has completed the design of the solar coronagraph. ISRO is working on developing the detectors and thermal structure. First spacecraft prototype is expected in 2011. While the main idea is to study coronal mass ejections (CMEs), ISRO hopes to utilise the data to know how to better protect its satellite systems in orbit.

The IIA is also involved in the development of a ground based solar observatory in the Himalayas with national and international mission. The fabrication of the telescope is expected to begin in 2010 with IIAp has already floated the tender.