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In Defence Production, Give Private Sector a Chance

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The government’s recent decision to ‘corporatise’ the 250-year-old Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) and re-group its 41 units into seven product-oriented defence public sector undertakings (DPSU), has come not a day too soon. While this may be a step in the right direction, its success would be measured by the enhancement in efficiency, productivity and work-ethic this new paradigm can infuse in workers and management of the newly-minted entities. It may be apt to focus on the ‘public versus private’ debate in defence production.

It is a sad irony that focus on the public sector has led us to overlook the crucial role played by pioneering private entrepreneurs, epitomised by individuals such as Seth Walchand Hirachand and two Danish engineers, Holck-Larsen and Kristian Toubro, in laying a sound industrial foundation for India. While the former established Walchandnagar Industries in 1908, Hindustan Aircraft in 1939 and the Scindia Shipyard in 1941, the Danish duo set up L&T in 1938. Despite nationalisation and other headwinds, private entrepreneurs such as these have made crucial, early contributions to India’s DIB.

India’s post-independence quest for self-reliance has seen many successes, but when it comes to the DPSUs and the OFB, their record is lacklustre. Exclusion of private enterprise from defence-production, may have served to protect the DPSUs from competition, but it has also served to curb ingenuity, innovation and initiative in our DIB.

Within the defence sector, military-aviation is seen as a ‘low-hanging fruit,’ mainly because the government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is, now a monopoly supplier to the military. In over seven decades, HAL has, apart from indigenously designing and building aircraft, also licence-produced an estimated 3,000 aircraft, spanning three generations of technology. It has built a few thousand aero-engines of British, French and Russian origin, to power these aircraft. However, captive customers and absence of competition have engendered complacency in this public-sector giant, leading to indifferent quality-control, low productivity, and listless customer-support.

While India’s public sector warship-building industry has done much better, in terms of indigenous design, innovation and product-improvement, here again, exclusion of the private sector has ill-served the industry – or the country. Despite successive governments promising to provide a ‘level playing field’ for the private-sector shipyards, a determined MoD bureaucracy has succeeded in starving private players of orders; despite the DPSUs having their hands full.

It was with the aim of instituting “a functional mechanism to encourage broader participation of the private sector ….in the manufacture of defence platforms and equipment” that the government introduced, in 2016, a policy on ‘Strategic Partnerships in Defence’. The concept envisaged institution of healthy competition between DPSUs/OFB, and selected private sector companies, to be designated ‘strategic partners’ (SP). But within two years, the MoD seemed to have abandoned the critical objective of this scheme, and permitted DPSUs and the OFB to compete for SP status, placing private industry at a clear disadvantage.

This became evident when Expressions of Interest (EoI) were first invited for a requirement for 111 naval utility helicopters (NUH) in May 2019. EoIs were received from five private companies, and although the MoD had sought bids only from private firms, HAL too has jumped into the fray, with two bids.

Similar has been the case of Project 75-I, which envisages construction of six diesel submarines for the Indian Navy. Apart from two private sector responses, there were also two from PSU shipyards and a fifth one from a public-private joint venture (JV). Each candidate will be required to tie up with a foreign submarine manufacturer, and then bid for the contract, but the dice will, obviously, be loaded in favour of DPSUs.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry has protested to the MoD about “dilution of the SP model,” adding that while the private sector has had to struggle for orders, state-owned entities, have enjoyed undue advantage due to their access to government-funded infrastructure and the ability to cross-subsidise bids through other orders, received by nomination.

The needs of the armed forces have ensured that DPSUs generally have full order-books. To take the example of HAL, apart from a recent IAF order of 83 Tejas fighters, worth `45,000 cr, HAL can look forward to an endless demand for new-build trainers, fighters, and helicopters, as well as many upgrade programmes for in-service aircraft/helicopters. On the other hand, the Project 75-I and the NUH represent a rare window for the private sector to make a break-through and establish the private-public synergy whose absence has contributed to India’s dependence on foreign sources for defence hardware.

It is against this background that one must view PM Narendra Modi’s renewed focus on self-reliance. Visualising defence-manufacturing as a critical area, the aatma-nirbharta campaign brings focus on it. The private sector must be considered, as much of a national asset and stakeholder in attainment of aatma-nirbharta, as the public sector; its contribution, in no way diminishes the latter.

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Source: https://www.eletimes.com/in-defence-production-give-private-sector-a-chance

Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

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Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Accion Systems raises $42 million in Series C to accelerate development of 4th-gen propulsion system

Published

on

Space propulsion developer Accion Systems has closed its most significant funding round yet. The company raised $42 million in a Series C led by Tracker Capital, bringing its valuation to $83.5 million.

Along with the investment, Tracker Capital also acquired a majority stake in the company. This latest injection of capital will facilitate the development and manufacturing of the company’s fourth generation propulsion system, dubbed the tiled ionic liquid electrospray (TILE) system.

The TILE system uses electrical energy to push charge particles (ions) out its back to generate propulsion. While ion engines have been around for decades, Accion uses a liquid propellant, an ionic liquid salt, instead of gas. The liquid is inert and non-pressurized, meaning there’s no risk of explosion. It also results in a product that doesn’t need bulky components like ionization chambers, and an overall smaller and lighter weight system relative to the spacecraft – key considerations in space, where every gram of payload has a high price tag.

“It lets us build really, really small systems,” Accion co-founder Natalya Bailey explained to TechCrunch. “Instead of trying to take an existing ion engine the size of a Prius and shrink it down, we can start with very small systems because of this propellant.” And she does mean small – each thruster tile is about the size of a postage stamp.

The TILE system is also scalable and modular, meaning it could feasibly be used on anything from cubesats to propelling an interplanetary spacecraft, Accion CEO Peter Kant added in a recent interview with TechCrunch. “It’s one of the few occasions where the total addressable market and the actual addressable market that we can serve are pretty closely aligned and almost overlap,” he said.

The newest generation of the TILE system is the same size as its predecessors, but Accion is increasing the number of emitters on a given chip – emitters being the technology that actually shoots out the ions, generating the momentum – by almost tenfold. “We get more ions per area and that gives us a whole lot more thrust with the same amount of space,” Kant said.

Accion is looking to ship the first fourth-gen thruster systems in the middle to late summer of 2022.

The TILE system was developed by Accion co-founders Natalya Bailey and Louis Perna while the two were at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The tech generated a ton of interest from big aerospace companies, but they decided to found Accion in 2014 rather than sell. The company manufactures and assembles its product at its facility in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

The TILE system was onboard commercial spacecraft, one with Astra Digital and one with NanoAvionics, that went up on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch at the end of June. Accion started by focusing on serving smaller spacecraft first, like cubesats, but Bailey said that was just the beginning.

“We’re going after that segment initially, and then intending to reinvest our learnings in building larger and larger systems that eventually can do big geostationary satellites and interplanetary missions and so on. The systems that went up on the most recent launcher [is] probably good for a satellite up to about 50 kilograms [. . .] For us, it’s on the smaller end of where we intend to go.”

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/07/21/accion-systems-raises-42-million-in-series-c-to-accelerate-development-of-4th-gen-propulsion-system/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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Aerospace

Live coverage: Russia set to launch new space station science module

Published

on

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a Russian Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Nauka science module for the International Space Station. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.

NASA TV

Roscosmos webcast

NASA TV’s live coverage of the launch begins at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) and is in English. Roscosmos’s live video stream begins at approximately 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) and is in Russian.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2021/07/21/proton-nauka-launch-mission-status-center/

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