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BENGALURU: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), which has already tied up with multiple countries to get help with various facets of India’s first human spaceflight mission — Gaganyaan — is now in talks with the US’ NASA, examining if it can gain access to some critical technologies relating to astronaut safety.

“Given that Covid-19 has already affected the timeline of the mission, we are hoping to expedite it by accessing some technologies that are already ready. NASA and Isro had been exploring a long-term partnership for the human spaceflight programme, and this could be a start,” a source said.

TOI reported earlier this month that Ganganyaan may miss the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Modi because of the pandemic.

Isro chairman K Sivan, while confirming that the agency has initiated talks with NASA, however, said that they were in a very nascent stage and no decision on whether or not there would be a partnership has been made.

“We will still be developing things ourselves, but we are looking at accessing some of the technologies, like green propulsion, life-support systems and so on, given the tight schedule. Nothing has fructified so far,” Sivan said.

Isro, as reported by TOI earlier, had been in talks with space agencies from at least three countries including the US for astronaut training and finally decided to partner with Russia because of the tight schedule it had to meet for Gaganyaan.

If talks turn into a partnership then the US, which has been keen on partnering on Gaganyaan, would become the third country to be helping Isro launch India’s first astronauts from Indian soil.

As on date, four Indian astronaut-elects are training in Russia as part of Isro agreement with Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of Russian space agency Roscosmos, which has been in talks with Isro for some life-support systems. Russia has also started production of customised space suits for the astronauts, while the French space agency has also partnered with Isro.

Sam Scimemi, director, International Space Station (ISS), Nasa headquarters, had told TOI in January: “We were in discussions, I think the Russians and Isro were prepared to move a lot quicker which I think was advantageous for the Indian space agency given the timeframe that you’ve been given to send humans into space.”

What expedited the Russia agreement was also the fact that India was slightly more familiar with Russian systems given that Rakesh Sharma had flown to space on a Soviet mission in 1984.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Bihar assembly election phase 1: 31% candidates with criminal cases

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NEW DELHI: In the phase one of Bihar assembly

2020, as many as 328 (31%) candidates are with criminal cases and 244 (23%) are with serious criminal cases, according to a recent analysis done by the election watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). The watchdog analysed self-sworn affidavits of 1064 out of 1066 candidates contesting phase one of the election.

Among political parties, RJD has fielded most number of candidates with criminal background, followed by BJP.

Also, out of the 1064 candidates analysed by the watchdog, 375 (35%) are crorepatis. The average assets of candidates contesting phase 1 election is Rs 1.99 crores.

Of this 9% candidates have wealth of Rs 5 crore and above, while 12% have wealth between Rs 2 and Rs 5 crore.

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INDIA

Pandemic to shave off 40% operating profit of pvt hospitals: Report

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MUMBAI: The pandemic will eat up around 40 per cent of the operational profit of private hospitals this fiscal, as billing has plunged drastically due to the virus outbreak and the resultant proclivity of people to avoid hospitals for non-emergency situations, says a report.

The Crisil report released on Tuesday, however, noted that a large number of pandemic cases, which though is low-margin, will get these hospitals an additional revenue to the tune of 15-20 per cent.

Further, with the relaxation in lockdown and travel restrictions, footfalls have started improving from July, helping bed-occupancy levels.

The report also expects bed-occupancy levels to stabilise 65-70 per cent of the pre-lockdown levels in the second half of the fiscal. This, along with additional revenue from the pandemic treatment will help limit overall decline in revenue to 16-18 per cent, as against 17 per cent annual growth logged in the two preceding fiscals, it said.

Since the pandemic-driven lockdowns that began late March, hospitals have been on a crisis path as people began to avoid going to hospitals for regular consultations and began to postpone elective surgeries, which have been the most lucrative procedures for any hospital, especially organ transplants among others.

“A triple whammy of postponement in elective surgeries, revenue loss from the highly profitable medical tourism segment, and increasing costs will lead to 35-40 per cent reduction in operating profit of private hospitals this fiscal,” Crisil said.

The report is based on the analysis of 40 hospitals, including 36 rated by the agency, which account for over Rs 36,000 crore of the sector’s revenue.

Even though the trauma and emergency treatment account for 28-30 per cent of revenue continued, but at a much lower level, given the fewer accidents during the lockdowns.

On top of these, medical tourism, which accounts for 10-12 per cent of revenue but gets the highest margins, especially for large hospitals, came to a complete standstill, due to travel restrictions imposed as part of the lockdowns.

However, the pandemic is set to bring them around 20 per cent of the revenue despite low margin.

“Treating COVID-19 patients is expected to provide an additional revenue stream and may contribute 15-20 per cent to revenue this fiscal. But it is not as profitable as other revenue streams. Additionally, given the high fixed cost structure of hospitals, lower overall occupancy will result in lesser absorption of overheads.

“This, coupled with the increased cost of safety and sanitation will lead to 35-40 per cent decline in operating profit this fiscal,” the report said.

Weakened operating performance accentuated cash-flow challenges in the first half and to manage the situation, hospitals have deferred 35-40 per cent of planned capex for this fiscal, and are now resorting to short-term debt funding.

About a third of the agency-rated hospitals also availed moratorium for loan repayments which supported their liquidity during the first half.

Nonetheless, the credit outlook for the sector remains moderately negative, with credit metrics being impacted primarily by lower profit, the report said adding that the deterioration in performance is expected to be only temporary, and a strong bounce-back is likely in the next fiscal supported by pent up demand.

“Elective surgeries cannot be postponed indefinitely and medical tourism is also expected to recoup as travel restrictions ease. We expect a healthy 25 per cent revenue growth in fiscal 2022, and operating profitability to recover to pre-pandemic levels, including due to lower share of less-profitable treatment for the pandemic patients,” the report said.

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Rajnath Singh approves new DRDO procurement manual to facilitate indigenous defence industry

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NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday approved a new procurement manual for Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to encourage the participation of the Indian industries in research and development activity to facilitate the indigenous Defence Industry.

Rajnath Singh said that the new manual will help towards realising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of Atma Nirbhar Bharat.

“The new DRDO Procurement Manual will facilitate the indigenous Defence Industry by simplifying the processes and ensuring their participation in design and development activities. PM-2020 will help towards realising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of Atma Nirbhar Bharat,” defence minister Singh tweeted.

The new DRDO Procurement Manual will facilitate the indigenous Defence Industry by simplifying the processes and en… https://t.co/cfSfIzJ3Kn

— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) 1603177544000

Prior to Singh’s tweet, Office of Defence Minister (DMO) had announced the approval of a new procurement manual for DRDO to achieve the goal of self-reliant in Defence industry.

“Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh has approved a new DRDO India Procurement Manual (PM-2020) to encourage more participation of the Indian Industry including startups and MSMEs in Research and Development activity and also to achieve the goal of self-reliance in Defence,” DMO tweeted.

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