Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tesla's chief shows off high-speed train plan Hyperloop

Never let it be said that Elon Musk, a serial entrepreneur who was a co-founder of PayPal and the electric car company Tesla Motors, is afraid to think big.

Musk on Monday harked back to the days of the late-1990s tech bubble - when no idea seemed too big or too expensive - by showing off plans for a project that seems the stuff of science fiction.

The hypothetical project is called the Hyperloop, a high-speed train that would take people to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 30 minutes. That is a speed of almost 800 miles an hour.

The first unanswered question among many for Musk's ambitious vision is who exactly would build this 400-mile transportation system. Musk suggested someone else should do it. But if no one takes the baton, he might do it. Or not.

Beyond that, the details of who would pay for the Hyperloop, how it would be built and how long that would take are also unclear. But Musk theorized that if he devoted all of his energy, he could have a prototype done within one to two years. He estimated the project would cost around $6 billion and tickets would cost $20 per trip.

"It doesn't seem plausible to me," said Richard White, a professor of American history at Stanford and author of "Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America." "I'm suspicious about everything, especially cost."

White added, "How's he going to build this thing for $6 billion? You can't even build the Bay Bridge for that much money." The still-unfinished renovations of the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco and Oakland are expected to cost $6.3 billion.

So don't pack your bags just yet. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek on Monday, Musk said he regretted mentioning the Hyperloop last year, saying that he has no time to work on the project and instead has to run SpaceX and Tesla Motors, his two other companies.

Musk first mentioned Hyperloop last summer and detailed it further in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. In July, he announced on Twitter that he would show the designs for the high-speed train on Aug. 12. As promised, a 57-page "alpha design" plan was posted online Monday that explained how such a train would work.

Musk has clearly put a lot of thought into the design. The document he released explains that the high-speed train would become "truly a new mode of transport - a fifth mode after planes, trains, cars and boats." The Hyperloop would transport people in "pods" that would travel through tubes. The tubes would be mounted on pylons that could be designed to withstand earthquake movements.

Musk took swipes at the California High-Speed Rail that is being built and headed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. This train, while real, is not expected to be completed until 2029 and will cost an estimated $68.4 billion to build.

"When the California 'high-speed' rail was approved, I was quite disappointed, as I know many others were, too," Musk wrote, while saying that the Hyperloop would cost $6 billion to build. It is not clear how he arrived at this cost estimate.

If anyone could build such a train, it is probably Musk. Critics railed against him when he first broached the idea for private space travel with Space Exploration Technologies, of Hawthorne, Calif. Otherwise known as SpaceX, Musk's company proved critics wrong last year when it launched its Falcon 9 rocket.

But Musk's assertion that he does not want to be the leader of the Hyperloop project has some people wondering if it will actually be built.

During a news conference, Musk seemed to waver over whether he wanted to be involved with the project. "I'm somewhat tempted to at least make a demonstration prototype," he said. "I've sort of come around a little bit on my thinking here that maybe I should do the beginning bit and build a subscale version that's operating."

In the paper released Monday, Musk acknowledged that there had been other proposed ideas for a train similar to the high-speed train over the years. "Unfortunately," he wrote, "none of these have panned out."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Aircraft carrier 'INS Vikrant' will have great significance for India: China

Chinese defence experts have said 'INS Vikrant' would have great significance for India as it would allow the Indian Navy to wade into the Pacific Ocean - which Beijing considers as its backyard.

"This bears great significance to Indian Navy. It makes India only the fifth country after the US, Russia, Britain and France to have such capabilities," Senior Captain Zhang Junshe, Vice-President of China's Naval Research Institute, told the state-run CCTV today.

India launched its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier today, a landmark moment in the $5 billion or 500 crores project that seeks to project the country's power and check the rising influence of China.

The Indian Navy will have lead over China as it will have two aircraft carriers by the end of this year with INS Vikramaditya, the re-fitted carrier from Russia joining INS Viraat, which is already in service even though Vikrant was expected to be operational by 2018, he said.

"Which means by the end of this year India will become the only country in Asia to have two aircraft carriers. This will enhance the overall capabilities especially the power projection capabilities of the Indian Navy," Zhang said.

Ruling out any race for more carriers in the region, Zhang defended India and China having more carriers since they have vast coasts and huge populations and the importance of defending the sea lanes far from home due to dependence on external trade.

Last year China launched its first aircraft carrier, Lioning. Its hull was imported from Ukraine and refurbished in China.

China also subsequently launched J-15 aircraft to operate from its deck. The ship with over 50,000 tonnes displacement will have about 30 aircraft on its deck.

China is reportedly building two more aircraft carriers but their schedules are not known yet.
Zhang earlier told the state-run China Daily that with Vikrant, the Indian Navy will be more capable of patrolling distant oceans.

"India's first self-made carrier, along with reinforced naval strength, will further disrupt the military balance in South Asia," he said.

India is very likely to quicken its pace to steer eastward to the Pacific, where the US and China are competing to dominate.

The launch of the Vikrant as well the first nuclear submarine Arihant also aroused the curiosity and concerns among analysts from different state-run think tanks in China.

"The new indigenous carrier will further strengthen India's naval power and also add some bargaining chips with the world's major military vendors such as Russia," Wang Daguang, a researcher of military equipment based in Beijing told the Daily.

Song Xiaojun, a military commentator in Beijing, said the Vikrant uses technology from the 1980s and thus serves as an experiment for the Indian Navy to set technical standards for
future vessels.

India milestone as it launches own aircraft carrier INS Vikrant

India launched its first indigenously-built aircraft carrier on Monday, a landmark moment in the $5 billion or 500 crores project that seeks to project the country's power and check the rising influence of China. (Launch in pics)

The INS Vikrant comes into full service in 2018,  and makes India the fifth nation to have designed and built its own aircraft carrier, pushing ahead of China to join an elite club that includes Britain, France, Russia and the United States.

"It's a remarkable milestone," Defence Minister A.K. Antony said as he stood in front of the giant grey hull of the ship at a ceremony in the southern city of Kochi. "It marks just a first step in a long journey but at the same time an important one."

The ship, which will be fitted with weaponry and machinery and then tested over the next four years,  has a flight deck more than twice the size of a football field.
Its power  unit can light up the entire city of Kochi, where it's being built. The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), MiG-29K combat jets and a range of helicopters will be deployed on the carrier.

The INS Vikrant, which means "courageous" or "bold" in Hindi, is a 40,000-tonne vessel which will carry Russian-built MiG-29 fighter jets and other light aircraft.

India already has one aircraft carrier in operation - a 60-year-old British vessel acquired by India in 1987 and renamed INS Viraat - but it will be phased out in the coming years.

Russia is also set to hand over a third aircraft carrier - INS Vikramaditya - later this year after a bitter row over the refurbished Soviet-era warship caused by rising costs and delays.

On Saturday, India announced its first indigenously-built nuclear submarine was ready for sea trials, a key step before it becomes fully operational. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a "giant stride" for the nation.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

INS Vikrant, India's first indigenous aircraft carrier.

Its flight deck is over twice the size of a football field, its power unit can light up the entire Kochi city and the cabling is enough to cover the distance between the city and Delhi. INS Vikrant, India's first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC), to be launched on Monday, is the biggest warship to be built in the country. It will also mark India's entry into a select club of countries capable of designing and building a carrier of this size.

Being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited, the IAC is expected to be a centrepiece of Indian Navy's power in the coming years and will be equipped with modern weapons systems including long range surface-to-air missiles (LR SAM) and close-in weapons system (CIWS).

The aircraft carrier will be launched into water on Monday by Elizabeth Antony, wife of Defence Minister AK Antony. It will be re-docked for erecting the island superstructure (for flight control systems) above its flight deck and the remaining underwater work.

The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), MiG-29K combat jets and a range of helicopters will be deployed on the carrier.

INS Vikrant will be 260 metres in length and 60 metres in breadth and can attain speeds in excess of 28 knots (56 kilometres per hour), said Commodore Saibal Sen, additional principal director, Naval Design.

"There will be about 2,500 km of power cabling and 1,000 km of other cabling and it will have power generation capacity of 24 MW which must be the peak power load of Cochin city," Commodore Sen told IANS.

He said carrier can deploy over 30 aircraft and helicopters.

Standing majestically at the Cochin shipyard with its ski-jump (on the flight deck) giving it a muscular appeal, the aircraft carrier will have an approximate displacement (weight) of 18,500 tonnes at its launch.

The warship is decorated with flags, colourful umbrellas and buntings in an apparent reflection of the joy of personnel who have strived for years to put in place its structure and install gas turbines, engines, gear box and other heavy machinery.

Major outfitting work is expected to be completed by 2016 after which extensive sea trials will be conducted.

The carrier is expected to be delivered to the Navy by the end of 2018.

CSL chairman Commodore K. Subramaniam said that several innovations have gone into making the warship, including special grade high tensile steel and pontoons to provide additional float at the time of launch.

"IAC is a big step towards self-reliance. Only a handful of countries operate such vessels and only a few who can build them," Commodore Subramaniam said.

Navy officials said India will be the fifth country after the US, Russia, Britain and France to have the capacity to design and build aircraft carriers of 40,000 tonnes and above.

The aircraft carrier has been designed by Indian Navy's design organisation.

Vice Admiral KR Nair, controller, Warship Production and Acquisition, said every Indian will feel a sense of pride that the country has launched an aircraft carrier.

"For people like us who have been associated with the production, the feeling (of pride) is that much more," he said.

The aircraft carrier's long take-off strip will be 206 metres and short take-off will be 145 metres. It will have a crew of about 1,560 personnel.

Officials said that the Navy plans to have three aircraft carriers, one each for the seas along the eastern and western coasts and one for requirements of maintenance.

Aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) is expected to be delivered to the Navy by the end of this year.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Giant stride for country: PM on Nuclear reactor INS Arihant's success

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday congratulated scientists and defence personnel on the reactor on India's first nuclear submarine INS Arihant going critical, calling it a "giant stride" in the progress of the country's indigenous technological capabilities.

"I am delighted to learn that the nuclear propulsion reactor on board INS Arihant, India's first indigenous nuclear powered submarine, has now achieved criticality," Mr Singh said in a statement.

"Today's development represents a giant stride in the progress of our indigenous technological capabilities. It is testimony to the ability of our scientists, technologists and defence personnel to work together for mastering complex technologies in the service of our nation's security," he said.

Extending congratulations to all those associated with the important milestone, particularly the Department of Atomic Energy, the Indian Navy and the Defence Research and Development Organization, Mr Singh said he looked forward to the early commissioning of INS Arihant.

In a major step towards completing its nuclear triad, India activated the atomic reactor on-board the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant paving the way for its operational deployment by the Navy.

After the nuclear reactor is activated, the agencies concerned can work towards readying the warship for operational deployments soon.

INS Arihant has been undergoing trials at Navy's key submarine base in Vishakhapatnam and would be launched for sea trials soon since the nuclear reactor has gone critical.

Nuclear reactor on INS Arihant goes critical; huge step forward for India's N-triad

Moving towards completing its nuclear triad, India on Friday night activated the atomic reactor on-board the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant paving way for its operational deployment by the Navy soon.

Top government sources told NDTV that all systems of the indigenously made nuclear reactor are "go" and the submarine will soon be launched to sea on the Eastern coast.

"We are gearing up for the sea trials of Arihant," the then Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief V K Saraswat had told reporters in May.

Nuclear triad is the ability to fire nuclear-tipped missiles from land, air and sea. After the nuclear reactor is activated, the agencies concerned can work towards readying the warship for operational deployments soon.

According to earlier reports, the DRDO has also readied a medium-range nuclear missile BO-5 for deployment on the Arihant and its last developmental trial was held on January 27 off the coast of Vishakhapatnam.

So far, the US, Russia, France, China, and the UK have the capability to launch a submarine-based ballistic missile.

Though this comes as good news for India's defence capabilities, there is some concern over the overall strength of India's submarine fleet. India has 14 conventional submarines that run on either battery or diesel and are aging and outdated. Each of them will have completed the standard life-span of 25 years by 2017.

The nuclear submarine will help India achieve the capability of going into high seas without the need to surface the vessel for long durations.

Conventional diesel-electric submarines have to come up on surface at regular intervals for charging the cells of the vessel.