Wednesday, October 22, 2008

India Shoots For The Moon In Asian Space Race

India Shoots For The Moon In Asian Space Race (NSI News Source Info) Sriharikota, India (AFP) October 22, 2008: India successfully launched its first lunar mission Wednesday, marking a major boost for the country's space programme and a new step in the fast-developing Asian space race. There were cheers in mission control as the unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 was launched with an Indian-built rocket from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on the southeastern coast.
India's first lunar missionblasted off from the national space centre on the southeastern coast early Wednesday. The unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 was launched with an Indian-built rocket at 6:22 am (0052 GMT) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Chennai. The Chandrayaan-1 is being sent on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface, at a cost of 80 million dollars.
Officials said the lift-off, which took place in cloudy skies at 6:22 am (0052 GMT), was a "great success", with the rocket placing the craft into a transfer orbit around the globe within 19 minutes. "Our scientific community has once again done the country proud and the entire nation salutes them," India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a message. The head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Madhavan Nair, said it was a "historic moment" for the country. "It has been a remarkable performance by the launch vehicle," he said of the lift-off from the national space centre, in the state of Andhra Pradesh and 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Chennai. ISRO is sending the Chandrayaan-1 on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface. It is expected to reach lunar orbit in 15 days. The mission, which will also include the sending of a probe onto the lunar surface, will cost India 80 million dollars. "Today what we have charted is a remarkable journey for an Indian spacecraft to go to the moon and try to unravel the mysteries of the Earth's closest celestial body and its only natural satellite," Nair said. India is hoping the mission will boost its space programme into the same league as regional powerhouses Japan and China. As well as looking to carve out a larger slice of the lucrative commercial satellite launch market, India, Japan and China also see their space programmes as an important symbol of their international stature and economic development. The launch was carried live on most Indian television channels -- with one channel using the emotive theme music for "Star Wars" to accompany the count down. Some critics, however, have questioned the sense in spending so much money on space when hundreds of millions of Indians still live in dire poverty. India started its space programme in 1963, developing its own satellites and launch vehicles to reduce dependence on overseas agencies. It first staked its case for a share of the commercial launch market by sending an Italian satellite into orbit in April last year. In January, it launched an Israeli spy satellite in the face of Iranian protests. But it still has a long way to go to catch up with China which, together with the United States, Russia and the European Space Agency, is already well established in the commercial launch sector. Chinese officials have spoken of a manned mission to the moon in the future, after following the United States and the former Soviet Union last month by carrying out a space walk, and wants to establish an orbiting space lab. Japan has also been boosting its space programme and has set a goal of sending an astronaut to the moon by 2020. Japan's first lunar probe, Kaguya, was successfully launched in September last year. As well as the commercial ramifications, the development of a space race in Asia has security implications, with the potential for developing military applications such as intelligence gathering and space-based weapons. Earlier this year, Japan scrapped a decades-old ban on the military use of space, hoping to remove any legal obstacles to building more advanced spy satellites. South Korea, a late starter in the space race, has launched three commercial satellites since 1995 and launched its first military communications satellite in 2006.

A U.S. Outpost Under Fire In Afghanistan

A U.S. Outpost Under Fire In Afghanistan (NSI News Source Info) October 22, 2008: Since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001, the northern part of the border with Pakistan has been a particular focus of concern for American forces. The borderline there is essentially a legal fiction, an imaginary line that separates people with the same ethnicity and history, drawn across hundreds of miles of terrain so rugged it is impossible to fence off or even fully patrol. Here, one of a number of United States soldiers from the Sixth Squadron, Fourth Cavalry, left Combat Outpost Lowell near Kamu to replace soldiers at a hillside "overwatch" position. Because the majority of the attack was being directed at the adjacent overwatch position, the soldiers stayed on alert and provided cover for the combat outpost below.
Because the overwatch positions are close to one another, it was difficult to tell which high position was being fired upon.
The soldiers rushed for cover and took up defensive positions. Insurgents are able to move largely undetected due to the mountainous terrain.
Just as the soldiers reached the overwatch position, insurgents fired small arms and rocket-propelled grenades into the area. The purpose of these smaller, higher positions is to provide cover and eyes over the main combat outpost. Without these positions, the combat outpost would be more susceptible to attack.
Soldiers returned from overwatch positions to the main combat outpost below, where they are provided with electricity, hot meals and running water.
An American soldier kept watch from a bunker. Such attacks are a daily occurrence in the area.
American soldiers assessed the situation. It is common for the insurgents to attack from several positions simultaneously.

Russia Sees No Point To More US Missile Talks: Report

Russia Sees No Point To More US Missile Talks: Report (NSI News Source Info) Moscow - October 22, 2008: Russia sees no point in pursuing missile defence talks with the United States until Washington comes up with new proposals, a senior Russian official told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday. Moscow "simply doesn't see the point of continuing the same thing. It's necessary to move forward," said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, referring to a series of consultations already held between Moscow and Washington over the United States' controversial missile defence plans. "Currently we are waiting for the United States to firm up the measures of trust and transparency it envisages at US missile defence installations in eastern Europe," Ryabkov said. He added that he saw little chance of progress prior to next month's US presidential polls. Previous consultations had brought "no kind of progress.... We gave the Americans several questions but haven't received answers," Ryabkov said. Russia and the United States have held a series of talks intended to assuage Russian concerns about the facilities Washington plans to install in eastern Europe -- a group of interceptor rockets in Poland and a linked radar in the Czech Republic. Last week the US ambassador to Moscow, John Beyrle, said expert talks between Russia and the United States on the missile shield plans would take place this month. Russia has said the proposed facilities would directly threaten its security because of their location relatively close to Russia's borders. The United States insists the facilities are not directed against Russia, being incapable of protecting against Russia's vast arsenal, but are intended as protection against "rogue states" such as Iran. Measures mooted to address Russian concerns include some degree of access to the facilities by Russian inspectors.
Russia and the United States have held a series of talks intended to assuage Russian concerns about the facilities Washington plans to install in eastern Europe -- a group of interceptor rockets in Poland and a linked radar in the Czech Republic.

Army And LM Support Second Successful International PAC-3 Missile Test

Army And LM Support Second Successful International PAC-3 Missile Test (NSI News Source Info) Dallas TX - October 22, 2008: Airmen of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), supported by Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Army Lower Tier Project Office, have successfully conducted the second international PAC-3 Missile flight test at White Sands Missile Range, NM. The test successfully fired a PAC-3 Missile from a German PATRIOT fire unit with Configuration-3 upgrades. The test demonstrated the Patriot Configuration-3 upgrades to the German PATRIOT ground system, which includes the PAC-3 Missile Segment launcher electronics and the Fire Solution Computer that are necessary to launch PAC-3 Missiles. This was the first time a German PATRIOT launcher had executed a PAC-3 Missile launch. "The successful flight test marks another significant milestone for both the Program Executive Office Missiles and Space and our allies," said Lt. Col. Anthony Brown, PAC-3 Product Manager. "We continue to build on the legacy of this superb weapon system as a key element for the free world's defense." "Our German partners have taken an important step in improving their air and missile defense capability with the Patriot PAC-3 System," said Mike Trotsky, vice president Air and Missile Defense Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "We are very proud to support our German allies in this the second international PAC-3 Missile test."

India, Pakistan Resume Kashmir Trade After 60-Year Freeze

India, Pakistan Resume Kashmir Trade After 60-year Freeze (NSI News Source Info) Kaman Post, Indian Kashmir (AFP) October 22, 2008: India and Pakistan began trading between their respective parts of Kashmir for the first time in six decades Tuesday, raising hopes of a drop in tension in the disputed Himalayan region.
Kashmiris watch as Indian trucks loaded with food items cross into the border town of Chakothi in Pakistani-administered Kashmir on October 21, 2008. India and Pakistan began trading between their respective parts of Kashmir for the first time in six decades, raising hopes of a drop in tension in the disputed Himalayan region. Pakistani Kashmir's Prime Minister Atiqur Rehman said he also hoped the event will "help make headway towards resolving the Kashmir issue."
A convoy of 13 trucks carrying mostly apples set off on the historic trip to Pakistani Kashmir from the Indian zone of the divided state with 14 trucks packed with Pakistani fruit, onions and spices making the journey in the opposite direction. "It is a historic day which will surely help the economy of both parts of Kashmir," said Indian Kashmir's Governor N.N. Vohra as he flagged off the convoy from Salamabad, 12 kilometres (seven miles) from the Line of Control. "I hope it will herald peace in the region," he said of what officials on both sides are aiming to turn into a twice-weekly trading event. Speaking on the other side of the heavily militarised border, Pakistani Kashmir's Prime Minister Atiqur Rehman said he hoped the event would "help make headway towards resolving the Kashmir issue". School children and people on the Pakistan side raised banners bearing the slogans "Kashmir will become Pakistan," and "Long Live Kashmir freedom movement". Kashmir was split into two zones in the bloody aftermath of independence of the subcontinent from Britain 60 years ago. Both India and Pakistan claim the region in full. The largely symbolic crossing shortly after midday was the first time vehicles were allowed to cross Aman Setu or Peace Bridge on the Line of Control since India and Pakistan fought a war over the region in 1947. "Vehicles from both the sides have crossed over making history," senior Indian industries official Pawan Kotwal said at Kaman Post, just near the Peace Bridge, as reporters from both sides waved at each other. A Muslim insurgency broke out in Indian Kashmir in 1989 although militant violence has fallen sharply since the nuclear-armed states began a peace process in 2004 aimed at settling all issues including the future of Kashmir. But in the past few months, the Kashmir valley has witnessed the biggest pro-independence demonstrations since the revolt in 1989, triggering a violent crackdown by Indian security forces. Security was tight for the trade opening with even the fruit subject to security checks. "The items were scanned in x-ray machines," police officer Faisal Qayoom said. The opening of the trade route has been a key demand of Kashmiri separatists. In recent months they led weeks of protests sparked by a decision provide land in the Indian-controlled part of the region to a Hindu pilgrim trust. Although the Indian government backed down, Hindu hardliners staged a punishing blockade of the only road linking the Kashmir valley with the rest of India. Developments that calm tensions will be good news for Indian authorities, who announced at the weekend they would press ahead with polls in Indian Kashmir later this year despite the recent upheavals. Kashmiri truckers from both sides said they were delighted about the resumption of trade. "I'm very happy to be part of this historic moment," said Ghulam Hassan Baba, a driver from Srinagar. "Never in my dreams I had imagined that one day I would drive my truck and go to the other side," said Mazhar Hussain, the driver of the first Pakistani truck said before crossing the de facto border. Hussain, whose lorry carried a huge Pakistani flag, wept on arriving in Indian Kashmir. "This is the day I have lived for," he said, as tears rolled down his cheeks after people embraced him and posed for photographs with him. There was also huge excitement among the people who had lined up to welcome the truckers. Separatists, however, say India still needs to acknowledge Kashmir is disputed, and be prepared to address the issue of the future of the region.

Russia May Revive Yemeni Naval Base

Russia May Revive Yemeni Naval Base
(NSI News Source Info) October 22, 2008: After sending naval combat squadrons to Syria and Venezuela, Russia is now moving to revive its Cold War, Soviet-era naval presence in Yemen. Sergei Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian Parliament, said Yemen and its main port of Aden could become a center for the Russian navy to fulfill "strategic goals" in the coming years. Mironov made his comments during a visit to the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, last Thursday. In reporting his remarks, RIA Novosti noted they were made in the context of the growing piracy threat off the horn of Africa and in the southern Red Sea. It said "authorities in Yemen already have been calling on Moscow to help fight piracy and possible terrorist threats." "It's possible that the aspects of using Yemen ports not only for visits by Russian warships, but also for more strategic goals will be considered," Mironov told reporters. Mironov also suggested Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh might pay a state visit to Russia soon, and the possibility of renewed military technical cooperation between the two countries could then be discussed. Pirates based in chaotic Somalia on the other side of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden from Yemen last month extended their activities closer to the Yemeni coast when they captured a Panamanian oil tanker. Mironov stated that Yemeni authorities had expressed concern that terrorist forces linked to the al-Qaida organization could be operating in Somalia and off its coast and that they might seek to carry out attacks in the Arabian Sea, which carries much of the world's oil export sea traffic from the Persian Gulf. Russia Finishing Indian Guided-Missile Frigate
A Russian shipyard announced it would finish building a new guided-missile frigate for India by early next year. The Yantar shipyard, based in the port city of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, stated Thursday that the frigate was already more than half built, RIA Novosti reported. The ship will be the second in a class of three Project 11356 vessels currently being built in Russian yards for India, and it is scheduled to be handed over to its owners in March next year. India and Russia closed a $1.6 billion deal to build the three Project 11356 Krivak IV-class guided missile frigates for the Indian navy in July 2006. RIA Novosti noted that Russia had already constructed three earlier Krivak-class frigates -- INS Talwar, INS Trishul and INS Tabar -- for India. The Indian navy received them four years ago. The last of the six frigates is scheduled to be received by the Indian navy in 2011-12. The three new frigates will be equipped with the new joint Indian-Russian BrahMos supersonic ship-to-ship sea-launched cruise missile -- SLCM -- system that can fly at Mach 2.8 -- almost three times the speed of sound at sea level and three times as fast as the U.S.-built subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile. The first three frigates in the class were armed with the older Club-N/3M54TE missile system. RIA Novosti said the Krivak-class frigates were 4,000-metric-ton ships that could sail as fast as 30 knots. It described their primary purpose as "hunting down and destroying large surface ships and submarines."
Russia Sends Warship To Fight Somali Pirates
Russia has sent a modern missile frigate to the Horn of Africa region with the capability to fight pirates who are preying on international shipping from the Somali coast. The Russian navy frigate Neustrashimy ("Fearless") "will, in conjunction with warships from other states, work to minimize the threat of pirate attacks," Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said in Moscow Oct. 14, according to RIA Novosti. The announcement that the Neustrashimy was prepared to cooperate with other navies in suppressing the piracy threat was an extension of its original mission, which earlier had been announced as guaranteeing the security of Russian ships sailing in the Red Sea and Horn region, RIA Novosti said. Earlier this month Somali Ambassador to Russia Mohamed Handule said Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had given approval for the Russian armed forces to combat the pirates in Somalia's territorial waters and on Somali territory, the news agency said. Somali-based pirates have taken advantage of the country's power vacuum and lack of any effective government, army or navy to operate with impunity from its land and territorial waters. RIA Novosti said the International Maritime Bureau had monitored more than 30 pirate attacks in the last year, with another 30 already reported in 2008. The Russian government is especially furious over the recent seizure by the pirates of a Ukrainian vessel, the MV Faina, with a cargo of 33 tanks and other heavy weaponry.

DCNS Achieves Automatic UAV Landing On Frigate

DCNS Achieves Automatic UAV Landing On Frigate (NSI News Source Info) Paris, France - October 22, 2008: DCNS has successfully landed a rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in automatic mode on French Navy frigate Montcalm while the ship was under way in the Mediterranean. Until now, unresolved challenges involving UAV recovery by ships at sea have limited their deployment for safety reasons. The experimental solutions available to date have only worked reliably during daylight and in calm seas; two severe limitations for systems that are required to operate round the clock and in poor weather. To overcome these shortcomings, DCNS developed the SADA automatic deck landing and take-off system. SADA takes less than 2 minutes to land a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAV on a moving flight deck up to sea state 5. SADA uses an infrared sensor to accurately track the UAV while generating flight commands to adjust the trajectory until the UAV is positioned to ensure that its harpoon engages the centre of the landing grid. Tracking accuracy is 30 cm which is far better than that achieved by GPS-only systems. Overall safety and reliability are thus assured. SADA features an open architecture and can be readily and unobtrusively integrated with any VTOL UAV and any type of ship. This success is the result of close cooperation between DCNS and Austrian company Schiebel, manufacturer of the Camcopter S-100 UAV that performed the demonstration.

Eutelsat's W2M satellite is delivered by a European/Indian industrial consortium for Ariane 5's next launch

Eutelsat's W2M satellite is delivered by a European/Indian industrial consortium for Ariane 5's next launch (NSI News Source Info) October 22, 2008: The W2M satellite payload for Arianespace’s upcoming Ariane 5 mission touched down today in French Guiana, arriving in a brightly-colored shipping container that underscores the Indian origins of its spacecraft bus.
The W2M satellite is unloaded from an An-124 cargo jetliner at Cayenne’s Rochambeau International Airport in French Guiana. Its protective shipping container carries the colors of India’s flag: deep saffron at the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. The flag’s central symbol – representing a wheel of law – is replaced on the shipping container with a view of the Earth, which is circled by an orbiting telecommunications satellite.
W2M is one of two payloads that Arianespace will orbit for Europe’s Eutelsat aboard the next heavy-lift Ariane 5 – joining HOT BIRD™ 9 on the workhorse launcher’s sixth, and final, flight in 2008. The W2M platform will provide television and radio broadcasting across Europe, and it also carries one steerable beam that can be re-oriented in orbit according to market requirements. Weighing approximately 3,460 kg. at liftoff, the spacecraft will be positioned at an orbital slot of 16 deg. East following its Ariane 5 launch. W2M is the product of an alliance between Europe’s EADS Astrium and the ANTRIX commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). ANTRIX/ISRO supplied the satellite bus, and also was responsible the spacecraft’s integration and test before its shipment to French Guiana. EADS Astrium is prime contractor in charge of overall W2M program management, and the company also designed and built the communications payload. W2M will typically operate 26 transponders in Ku-band, with the capacity for up to 32 depending on operational modes. It has a designed operational lifetime of more than 15 years.