Why ISRO’s Scramjet Engines are ‘The Need of the hour’ ?


From the MARS Orbiter mission (Mangalyaan) to the recent successful Flight Testing of domestically designed Scramjet Engine, we have come a long way in the field of space research. We have seen undeterred success in the satellite launches using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle(PSLV) till date.

Why Scramjet Engines are ‘The Need of the hour’ ?

To understand Scramjet let us travel back in history, when the term ‘Jet Engines’ was the buzzword. One biggest advantage of a Jet Engine is that it can be used to take off from the runway. Jet Engines can take us up to MACH 3.5, that is 3.5 times the speed of sound (1Km/s). So a Jet Engine cannot take us into the Hyper-sonic regime which is about MACH 5. The main limitation in the Jet Engine is that the speed of flow that passes through the COMBUSTION chamber is very much Sub-Sonic. A Jet Engine primarily consist of 4 blocks. First is the Intake, followed by the Compressor, then comes the Combustion chamber  finally the Exhaust. The role of the compressor in a Jet Engine is to raise the level of Pressure and Temperature. But when we are operating at very higher speeds, the Intake and the Compressor has to reduce the flow to sub-sonic levels to facilitate the Combustion chamber. This process of slowing down generates a great amount of Pressure and Temperature, high enough to facilitate the combustion. So the role of Compressor and Turbine(that drives the compressor) becomes futile.

When you discard Compressor and Turbine in a Jet Engine, you end up with a Ramjet. A Ramjet Engine needs the air to to be pushed into its intake at Super Sonic, which then is reduced to Sub Sonic levels. But the act of pushing air into the Ramjet (called RAM-effect) increases the temperature to higher levels. At that point of time, we needed a Jet Engine which can keep the speed of flow at Super Sonic levels even inside the engine and also weigh less(without compressor, turbine and other mechanical overheads). Thus a Scramjet was developed. The oxygen needed by the Scramjet Engine for combustion is taken from the atmosphere passing through the vehicle, instead of from a tank on-board unlike the previous systems. This makes the craft lighter and faster.

The Scramjet technology significantly cuts down the cost of launching rockets by reducing its weight by more than half. On July 30, 2002, the University of Queensland’s HyShot team and international partners conducted the first ever successful test flight of a Scramjet. Though 14 years looks like a long period, but for a country with an economy like us, this is a phenomenal achievement. The Hyshot team had funding across the globe but Hyshot 1 failed miserably. But in a jiffy,we have come an inch closer in establishing a reusable space transport system for every future mission of ours. This is what, that makes ISRO stand tall in the Space Race– A low-cost, indigenous and a successful Scramjet mission in the very first attempt.

Duly quoting….

This test-bed could be a pathfinder for a future unmanned reusable launch vehicle that could take off like a rocket, deploy a satellite in orbit, and return to Earth and land on a runway. ”


Following the Scramjet, ISRO is all set for revolutionary missions in the next 10 years. That includes India’s first manned mission into moon, the Chandraayan 2; the SAARC satellite, a communication cum meteorology satellite which is regarded as the Brainchild of Mr.Narendra Modi; Aditya 1, the first Indian mission to study the sun; NISAR mission, the biggest collaboration of all time between two key players in Space Research-  NASA and ISRO. ISRO’s budget for a fiscal year is just 3 percent of the NASA’s budget. So it cannot and should not be seen as a competition. ISRO is already a key player in the field of Space Exploration and with the years to come, ISRO will be regarded in the same way as that of NASA.


Understanding our existence


NASA had predicted the Perseid Meteor showers on Aug 11th and 12th. The annual event in August is due to a comet “Swift Tuttle” which flew around the Sun in 1992. Although the next trip around the Sun is only in 2126, the remnants of the comet is what causes the meteor shower. Earth passes every year through the trail of debris left behind by the comet. Scientists from NASA had predicted at least 60-200 shooting stars per hour in the northern part of the sky

The predictions in the southern hemisphere of our planet was not quite promising. But, being an ardent space enthusiast since childhood days, I wasn’t the one to give up on even the slightest opportunity. I spent quite a bit of time on the roof of the house hoping to catch some live action of this interstellar event (and also come up with wish or two).

Of course living in the heart of Chennai city has its perks; but not tonight. The darker the sky, the better are your chances of spotting them. The light pollution and dust from the surroundings caused a dip in my enthusiasm, as all I could see was a bright moon and a smog filled sky. After an hour of patience filled wait, the metropolitan glow really had me annoyed. Slowly as I began to accept the fate, I plunge into my mind. As I probe into my thoughts, questions about our life and existence pour out like a water from a broken dam.

All the activities, struggles, joy, hatred and war exist only on an insignificant small scale when compared to the whole expanding universe. I wonder why we get stuck in the cycle of life and death. Sometimes, all it takes is looking up at the vast sky and understanding how our living is just a tiny tiny fraction of a much larger creation. Some say that we are all as old as the universe itself because matter in its form can neither be created nor destroyed.

“Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravity of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future.”

— H. G. Wells, The Time Machine, 1895

With a broken heart I crawl into my bed giving up my hunt for meteors this year. With unanswered questions pricking my mind, I close my eyes. Then it all starts. As I try to sleep, I get lost in galaxies that are yet to be found.

My fascination for space keeps on increasing as I try to contemplate the answers behind our evolution and purpose of life.

We Are Nothing But a Pale Blue Dot!


Whenever I feel like am in deep crap I climb up the terrace of my house and gaze at the stars, transcending those boundaries fabricated by men into the vast and ever mysterious space, devoid of dust, differences and hatred. The infinite ever present tranquil space which keeps on insisting us every day, that there is a lot more in this universe to be explored, to be understood and there are even more that rather can’t be understood with just the limited years of experience in Earth where the Universe itself is 13.82 billion years old. At times, I feel like the whole outer space is bursting out in laughter at us, the poor us, at our insatiable hunger for exploring the space outside the Earth, where we are still laying down in Ground Zero in understanding the very neighbors, the family with so much hullabaloo among us, the tantrum between each nations, where no single step is taken to establish concordance among us but we spend crores and crores of money to win the Space Race in venturing into the deep fathoms of tranquil outer space and never learning from the Universe how it remains placid with a population number so humongous that can’t even be compared with the human population back at home.

Over the past few months, a lot is happening in the space exploration. The mysterious sighting of The Martian Woman, Kepler mission’s single largest finding of planets (has verified 1,284 new planets) to date, Possibility of planetary migration by Kepler – 223, ISRO’s Desi GPS etc.., Out of all, the one thing which awestruck meCarl was one remarkable finding of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble Space Telescope had done the impossible. It had surprised every scientist by looking back in time. It calculated the distance to the most far away galaxy from the earth named GN-Z11, which is 13.4 billion years ago. To put it in a simple way for a layman to understand, the image produced by the Hubble Space Telescope is actually showing how this galaxy looked 13.4 billion years ago.

Now comes the complicated part, how are these distances between 2 cosmic objects measured. Due to expanding nature of universe, the distance between 2 cosmic objects is measured by determining the degree to which the light from galaxy has been shifted by the expanding universe. This is called Redshift. Higher the value of Redshift, more distant is the object. The previous largest Redshift value measured was 8.68 for EGSY8p7 and the GN-Z11 galaxy’s Redshift value is measured around 11.1.


According to me, (There is always a Not My Opinion option) if the images what we are seeing are 13.4 billion years old, then we are viewing how Universe is emerging few million years after Big Bang. This galaxy (13.4 billion years ago) is 25 times smaller than the Milky Way Galaxy(present) for a person sitting inside the 2016 calendar, now if we go back 13.4 billion years in time (which is not possible, yet) where universe was just emerging this GN-Z11 would pose as the Supergiant galaxy in the Universe. If we presume some forms of life exist in GN-Z11, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is actually viewing the past of those life forms in real time.

Mind blowing isn’t it?

Keep tracking my column in The Opinion to know more about Space.(There is always a no comments option)

A sneak peek in to the next article on space:

We all know the Saturn’s moon is Titan. European Space Agency (ESA) in October 15, 1997 launched Cassini-Huygens an unmanned spacecraft into space, which entered into Saturn’s orbit on July 1, 2004. Huygens probe from the Cassini-Huygens mission got separated on December 25, 2004 and landed safely on Saturn’s moon Titan on January 14, 2005. This was the first time we ventured into the outer Solar system. Now NASA is planning on to steer the spacecraft into the Saturn’s atmosphere after the end of the mission to prevent the contamination of Titan’s surface by terrestrial microbes.

To be continued..

The Reign of Smartphones

Smart Phones

High Dynamic Ranging, 13 mega-pixel camera, 8 mega-pixel front camera, giga bytes of RAM, Snapdragon-810 processor quad core etc…!! These technical terms were only used by IT professionals a few years back. But nowadays these are the most trending and commonly used terms on a daily basis. The ubiquitous smart devices have not only entered the markets, but also announced their arrival in our lives and day to day usage. With the advent of phones having multi-tasking capabilities and price tags below the range of 10k, it’s a common sight to see a smart phone in the possession of all.

With Samsung breaking the barrier by crossing the most number of smart phones sold a year and other competitors reinventing the various technologies, people find it indeed a really hard task to keep their fingers off the phones.

We all know the capability of these gadgets but all these technological advancements find themselves on the back foot when it comes to its wide influence on the teenagers and adults. Agreed that it makes life interesting and facile but it’s really heart breaking to see kids glued to it the whole time rather than being out of their houses and indulging in physical activities. People are so much engrossed in the “virtual-reality” that they fail to notice and pay attention to the things happening around them. We can often find kids failing to respond to the calls of their parents as they are deeply engaged in a game. If you are a parent, would you rather see your eight year old sweating it out in a tennis-court/swimming pool, or surf the subways on your smart phone?

I remember the time when my achievements in academics earned me a nice English willow cricket bat during my school days. For a whole week, I enjoyed the envious looks of my mates. However, the current scenario is such that, the kids nowadays, are being promised a new phone in exchange of high grades. It makes me wonder if this is how people define a generation gap. If so, I simply pity the kids who are deprived of any form of physical activity. Teenagers tend to fall a victim to the “virtual world” and become couch potatoes.

How hard could it be to not use your cell phones for a couple of hours? Turns out, it is very hard. I find people seeing their phones every 5 minutes even though they haven’t received any kind of notification. Such is the influence of this addiction. And just when people started worrying about the high charge consumption of the phones, the manufactures came up with a new product; “The Power Banks”. As the power bank found its way into the market, it of course, became an instant hit, much to the delight of many. It was introduced with a motive of keeping you “always connected”. Is it really that necessary?

There are also some other major causes of concern; privacy and security. With photos and data automatically getting uploaded to the cloud, there are lots security issues. They seem to be secure and safe, but all it takes is a good hacker. There were lots of leaked personal photographs of celebrities that came to light when the cloud database got hacked once. That’s when the alarm bells started ringing and the companies implemented counter measures. Still, there are a lot of ignorant people. With the e-mail accounts automatically getting synced to the phone, it just makes phishing easier. It is simpler to hack an account synced on the smart phones when compared to laptops or desktops. It generally happens when people connect to a free wireless source internet and unknowingly, they become a sitting duck. Hence, it is necessary to stay very cautious.

I’m not trying to play the blame-game here and go poking fingers at all. I myself am a victim to this addiction. I just want to stress on the fact about how much these are influencing our life style in a negative way too. There are a lot of productive ways in which the smart phones can be used but one needs to draw a clear and decisive line between its proper usage and addiction.

We humans are indeed becoming the slaves of our own creation.
I really miss those days when phones were just used for the sake of communication with others. The population then, was a much more interactive and a prudent one.