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South Korea's new space agency to help compete in global space race

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Seoul, May 26 (IANS) With the opening of the nation’s full-fledged space agency, South Korea is set to make its mark on the global space stage, aiming to transform into a powerhouse and join the elite space race led by the private industry.

The Korea AeroSpace Administration (KASA) will open its doors on Monday, focusing on fostering local companies that can play key roles in space development projects and helping the country develop a global-level space industry and space economy, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday.

“Until now, the country’s space development projects have been led by the government,” Yoon Young-bin, KASA’s inaugural chief, said earlier.

“The most important role of the space agency will be supporting the private sector to lead space development.”

He pointed out that the world’s space industry is moving toward the so-called “new space” era, where private companies are actively leading innovation in space technologies with more economic feasibility.

“The global paradigm is shifting,” Yoon said, noting that top space companies, such as SpaceX, have developed reusable space rockets and launched a group of small satellites with capabilities similar to medium- and large-sized satellites.

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To keep up with this trend, South Korea established KASA, the Korean version of the US NASA space agency, located in Sacheon, approximately 300 kilometres south of Seoul.

The 293-member agency will lead the nation’s space programs, such as the moon and Mars exploration, and bolster South Korean companies’ competitiveness in the global space industry.

Two years ago, the South Korean government announced its plan to land a homegrown spacecraft on the moon in 2032 and Mars in 2045 as part of efforts to become one of the top-five global space powers.

South Korea was a latecomer in the highly advanced industry but is currently considered the seventh-strongest space power after having successfully developed the 200-ton space rocket Nuri in recent years.

The country also plans to develop a next-generation rocket, KSLV-III, and make three launches in 2030, 2031, and 2032, with the third launch carrying a moon spacecraft aboard.

Experts at home and abroad welcomed the establishment of KASA, expecting the agency to help South Korea make a significant leap in the space sector and participate more in international cooperative research projects.

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“It is difficult to have international competitiveness in the space industry without technological development in various related fields,” Kim Seung-jo, former chief of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, said. “But South Korea has the world-best level of cutting-edge technologies in most of the fields.”

He called on KASA to set future-oriented goals for space projects that need patience and passion from a long-term perspective.

Earlier this month, NASA officials also expressed expectations for expanded space cooperation with Seoul following the establishment of KASA, underscoring the importance of South Korea’s expertise for international space projects.

They also advised KASA to “learn lessons” from failures.

To leverage expertise and experience from the world’s top space power, KASA has named John Lee, a retired senior executive from NASA, as its deputy administrator in charge of space missions and policies, the second-highest position at the new institution.

John Lee said he would work to adapt the US space agency’s strengths to KASA in a Korean context and align Korea’s space projects with international standards, Yonhap news agency reported.

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Meanwhile, the local space industry voiced hopes for KASA, asking it to provide more consistent support to big and small companies and facilitate their participation in international space projects.

“The country’s space projects have been centred around the government and big companies until now, but I hope KASA can also support smaller-sized companies that have been overlooked,” said Park Jae-pil, the founder of space startup Nara Space.

“There are many Korean companies with space technologies that can contribute to international projects, and I believe KASA will open a channel for that,” he added.

KASA aims to foster more than 2,000 space-related companies and create about 5,00,000 new jobs in the field.

–IANS

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Bengaluru hospital successfully performs rare heart re-transplant

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Bengaluru, June 20 (IANS) Doctors at a city hospital here on Wednesday said they have successfully performed a rare heart re-transplant procedure in the country.

The 32-year-old engineer, who had first heart transplant in 2016, went through recurrent heart failure and frequent hospitalisations in the next seven years and finally underwent a complex re-transplant in December last year.

While initial complications arose due to bleeding and rejection episodes, meticulous management with regular biopsies and close monitoring has ensured a successful recovery, said the cardiologists’ team led by Dr. Nagamalesh U.M. from Aster Hospitals.

“The patient’s post-transplant course included significant bleeding events due to the second surgery and the ongoing requirement for blood thinners and rejections. However, through meticulous monitoring and regular endo-myocardial biopsies, these challenges were effectively managed,” said Dr. Nagamalesh, Director-Heart Failure, Transplant and MCS Programme, Aster Hospitals.

The patient has completed six months of the second heart transplant with no further complications.

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For the patient, the past few years have been a “medical rollercoaster”.

“Finding out that I needed a second transplant was a setback, however the exceptional team of surgeons extended their support throughout my treatment journey. I am immensely grateful,” said the patient.

–IANS

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Doctors witness surge in 'lupus' cases in north India due to heat waves

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New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) As heat waves continue in north India, doctors are witnessing a surge in cases of ‘lupus’, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s own system is targeted, leading to multiple organ affection and damage, a doctor said on Wednesday.

Heat waves are causing an increase in the prevalence of lupus that affects the skin, joints, and kidneys among other organs. People who have lupus frequently experience flare-ups and increased symptoms as the temperature rises.

Dr Lalit Duggal, Senior Consultant, Rheumatology & Clinical Immunology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, said on Wednesday that 6 to 10 cases of lupus have been reported due to the heat waves.

This disease primarily affects women, and that too in their childbearing age between 15 to 45 years.

“Unlike many other rheumatologic disorders, this disease can affect any system of the body, including the skin, joints, lungs, kidneys, gut, liver, heart, and brain. The patient may present just with an unrelenting fever,” Duggal said in a statement.

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“Therefore, a high index of suspicion and awareness of the complications should direct the physician to diagnose this problem early and initiate treatment,” he added.

As per the doctor, several environmental factors can be possible triggers of an underlying genetic background. The triggers may include sun exposure, smoking, oral contraceptive use, postmenopausal hormones, viral infections, etc. The most obvious recognisable lesions are red patches that are highly photosensitive over the cheeks and the nose resembling the marks of wolf bites from where it takes its name — lupus.

Ulcers in the mouth, nose, and genital area can also be features of lupus.

“More sinister affection of this disease may include kidney disease with loss of proteins in the urine and irreversible damage if not treated,” he cautioned.

According to him, treatment depends on the severity of the disease and the type of organ affected. For example, skin involvement can be treated with local application of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50 per cent, and hydroxychloroquine with or without low-dose steroids. Aggressive immunosuppression would be required for more severe disease, including organ environment, such as kidneys, lungs, brain, etc.

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With good control of the disease, the patients can lead a normal healthy life, but they have to be under the close supervision of experts, Duggal noted.

–IANS

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CERT-In, Mastercard join hands to bolster cybersecurity for financial sector

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New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), under the IT Ministry, on Wednesday said it has joined hands with financial giant Mastercard to promote cooperation and information sharing in the area of cybersecurity related to the financial sector.

The two entities will leverage their shared expertise regarding the financial sector in the fields of cybersecurity incident response, capacity building, sharing cyber threat intelligence specific to the financial sector and advanced malware analysis.

“Cybersecurity is the need of the hour and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is committed to ensuring that people on digital platforms are secure, as this warfare is not on the ground but in cyberspace,” Minister of State of Commerce & Industry, and Electronics and IT Jitin Prasada said.

“I am confident that this is an important milestone that will benefit not only both entities but also the public at large,” he added.

Mastercard and CERT-In will hold training programmes and workshops for cyber-capacity building, the latest market trends, and best practices to enhance the cyber security of financial sector organisations. The two entities will also share relevant cyber threat trends, technical information, threat intelligence, and vulnerability reports to strengthen the financial sector information security in the country.

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“The company is delighted to collaborate with CERT-In to fortify India’s financial digital ecosystem, which has powered unprecedented growth in the country,” said Gautam Aggarwal, Division President, South Asia at Mastercard.

–IANS

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Ancient India wasn't just economic, cultural leader in world but also of science, tech: Ola founder

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New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) Ola Founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal on Wednesday expressed his joy over the inauguration of the new campus of Nalanda University by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bihar’s Rajgir, saying that ancient India was not just the “economic and cultural leader of the world, but also of science, technology and knowledge”.

He thanked PM Modi for inaugurating the campus envisioning the future of the country’s global thought leadership.

“Thank you PM @narendramodi ji for inaugurating the new Nalanda University campus and envisioning a future of India’s global thought leadership,” Aggarwal wrote on X.

“I had the opportunity to visit the new Nalanda University and the ancient ruins last year,” he added.

The foundation stone of Nalanda University was laid in 2016. It has 24 large buildings constructed for Rs 1,749 crore.

The new campus comprises two academic blocks with a total of 40 classrooms, providing seating for approximately 1,900 students.

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It also includes two auditoriums, each with a capacity of 300 seats, and a student hostel that can accommodate about 550 students.

Additionally, the campus offers various other facilities, including an international centre, an amphitheatre with a capacity of up to 2,000 individuals, a faculty club, and a sports complex.

–IANS

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28 pc GST on gaming firms triggered a cascade of repercussions: Report

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New Delhi, June 19 (IANS) The 28 per cent GST on skill-based online games has triggered a cascade of repercussions, including funding constraints, reduced growth trajectories, job losses, and heightened uncertainty across the sector, a report said on Wednesday.

Since October last year, a uniform 28 per cent GST has been imposed on the full value of bets placed in online games, while the gaming companies seek to levy 28 per cent GST on Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR) that is earned by the industry.

A review of the levy may be discussed at the upcoming GST Council meeting on June 22 but nothing has been finalised yet.

A joint report by Ernst & Young (EY) and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) has shed fresh light on the profound challenges faced by India’s pay-to-play online skill gaming industry following the recent GST tax amendments levying 28 per cent on deposits.

The report highlighted the impact of the pay-to-play model that has been at the receiving end of the revised GST regime. The games are fantasy games, card games and casual games.

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According to the findings, since 2019, the Indian gaming sector has attracted FDI of $2.6 billion from domestic and global investors and 90 per cent of the FDI was attracted in the pay-to-play format of the online gaming sector.

“Since October 2023, some companies reported a complete withdrawal of global marque investors just at the onset of the new GST regime,” the report stated.

Before the amendment, the GST cost constituted 15.25 per cent of the revenue. However, since October 1, 2023, the GST cost has increased manifold, with GST now consuming 50-100 per cent of the revenue for 33 per cent of companies and even surpassing total revenue for startups.

“These startups now have to operate at a loss,” the report argued.

Notably, the impact of the GST also depends upon the formats. For instance, in the case of casual games, the exponential increase in GST is threatening the business viability.

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“Over half of the sector’s enterprises are either staring at stagnant revenues or shrinking topline, with 25 per cent experiencing growth declines of up to 50 per cent. This marks a stark departure from previous growth rates exceeding 100-200 per cent,” said the report.

Decreased margins due to increased GST (being absorbed by the companies) had a ripple-down effect in employee layoffs and a complete pause in hiring specialist skills such as technology, product, animation, and design.

“Most companies have reported impacted jobs in terms of no hiring, layoffs, and shutting down operations altogether. The new GST regime has created concerns around the viability of the sector and is keeping away the right talent from joining the workforce, further exacerbating the sector’s woes,” said the report.

The report recommended amending the valuation mechanism for online money games to levy GST from the current “full-face value of total deposits” to GGR/platform fees — the amount retained by online gaming platforms for operating a game.

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In October last year, the GST authorities issued show-cause notices demanding as much as Rs 1 lakh crore from online gaming companies for tax evasion.

–IANS

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