CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/02/2024

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 20/02/2024

Use dictionary meaning of ‘forest’, SC tells Centre

(General Studies- Paper II and III)

Source : The Hindu

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, issued a significant order, maintaining the expansive interpretation of the term ‘forest.’

  • This decision preserves the inclusive definition of ‘forest,’ covering approximately 1.97 lakh square km of undeclared forest lands.
  • The ruling came in response to petitions challenging the 2023 amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, designed to curb deforestation and ecological imbalance.

Key Highlights

  • Background:
    • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, aimed at preventing deforestation, faced challenges due to amendments introduced in 2023.
    • Critics argued that the amendments, particularly Section 1A, narrowed the definition of ‘forest’ to declared forests and lands recorded as forests in ‘government records’ after 1980.
    • Petitions contended that the amended Act significantly diluted the definition of ‘forest.’
    • The Center, in response, denied any intention to reduce forest coverage.
    • It highlighted an ‘explanation’ to Section 1A, expanding ‘government records’ to include lands recognized as forest by state or union territory authorities, local bodies, councils, or recognized communities.
  • Supreme Court Directive:
    • The Supreme Court directed the government to revert to the “dictionary meaning” of ‘forest,’ as established in a 1996 Supreme Court decision (T.N. GodavarmanThirumulpad case).
    • The court, in the 1996 decision, had given a broad interpretation to ‘forest’ to preserve green expanses regardless of their nature, classification, or ownership.
    • The court clarified that the term ‘forest’ should not be confined to lands recorded as forests in government records.
    • Instead, it should adopt the broad dictionary meaning established in the 1996 decision, aligning with the original intent of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
    • This definition will persist until States and union territories compile a “consolidated record” of all lands categorized as ‘forest’ in government records, covering forest-like areas, unclassed, and community forest lands.
    • The court mandated the preparation of this consolidated record, stipulated in Rule 16 of a November 29, 2023, Environment Ministry notification.
    • The exercise is expected to take a year, during which the principles outlined in the GodavarmanThirumulpad case must be observed.
    • The Environment Ministry is tasked with issuing a circular to States and union territories in this regard.
    • States and union territories are required, within two weeks, to submit “comprehensive records” of forest lands identified by their expert committees in line with previous Supreme Court orders.
    • The deadline for forwarding these records is March 31, 2024, and the Environment Ministry is to publish them on its website by April 15, 2024.
  • Control on ‘Zoos or Safaris’:
    • The court directed that the establishment of “zoos or safaris” by any government or authority should not be approved without the final consent of the Supreme Court.
    • This directive underscores the court’s commitment to environmental conservation.
  • The directives aim to ensure comprehensive documentation of forest lands and prevent unauthorized development that could harm ecological balance.

About the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980

  • The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 is an important legislation enacted by the Government of India to regulate the diversion of forestland for non-forestry purposes and to conserve forests and ensure their sustainable management.
  • The key provisions of the Act include:
    • Restrictions:
      • The Act restricts state governments and other authorities from making decisions regarding forestland without prior approval from the central government.
      • It also prohibits the conversion of forests into agricultural lands, grazing lands, or for building business or residential units.
    • Approval for Non-Forest Purposes:
      • The Act requires that any non-forest activity such as mining, industry, or infrastructure development that involves the use of forest land must obtain prior approval from the central government.
      • This is to ensure that forest land is utilized judiciously, and its diversion is compensated through afforestation and reforestation measures.
    • Advisory Committees:
      • The Act empowers the central government to establish advisory committees to offer advice regarding forest conservation matters.
    • Central Government’s Authority:
      • The power to grant approval for the diversion of forest land lies with the central government.
      • State governments, private individuals, or entities seeking to use forest land for non-forest purposes must submit proposals to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) at the central level.
    • Penalties:
      • The Act imposes penalties, including fines and jail terms of up to 15 days, for violating its provisions.
    • Amendments:
      • The Act has been amended several times to expand its coverage and clarify regulations, most recently with the introduction of the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill, 2023.

About the Forest Conservation Amendment Bill, 2023

  • The Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 introduces several major changes to the existing Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • Expansion of Scope:
    • The Bill introduces a Preamble, expanding the scope of the Act.
    • Renames the Act to Van (SanrakshanEvamSamvardhan) Adhiniyam, 1980, emphasizing its provisions’ potential.
  • Applicability on Various Lands:
    • Initially applicable to notified forest land, the Act now extends to revenue forest land and lands recorded as forest in government records.
    • Amendments seek to streamline application to recorded forest lands, private forest lands, plantations, etc.
  • Exemptions:
    • The amendment exempts certain forest lands from the purview of the Act, including land near border areas for national security projects, small roadside amenities, and public roads leading to a habitation.
    • Exemptions include strategic projects related to national security near international borders.
    • It also exempts certain types of projects and activities, such as zoos, eco-tourism facilities, and reconnaissance surveys, from requiring prior approval from the central government.
  • Provisions for Development:
    • Extends existing provisions allowing the lease of forest land to private entities to include Government companies.
    • Aims to facilitate development projects and maintain uniformity in Act implementation.
  • New Forestry Activities:
    • Adds new activities like infrastructure for frontline forest staff, ecotourism, zoo, and safari to recognized forestry activities.
    • Surveys and investigations in forest areas will not be considered non-forestry activities.
  • Empowering Local Communities:
    • Encourages activities like establishing zoos, safaris, and ecotourism, owned by the government outside Protected Areas.
    • Aims to raise awareness, protect wildlife, and create livelihood opportunities for local communities, promoting overall development.
  • Scope Restriction:
    • The amendment restricts the scope of the Act to only certain forest lands, excluding land that was not officially classified as ‘forests’ but satisfied the dictionary meaning of the word.
    • This redefinition of ‘forest’ in Indian law significantly narrows the applicability of the Act.
  • Advisory Committees:
    • The amendment empowers the central government to establish advisory committees to offer advice regarding forest conservation matters.

Greece’s gateway to Asia, India’s gateway to Europe

(General Studies- Paper II)

Source : The Hindu

The state visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to New Delhi on February 21-22 marks a significant step in fortifying the strategic relationship between India and Greece.

  • The groundwork for this collaboration was laid during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Greece in August 2023, generating enthusiasm among Greek political leaders and business figures.

Key Highlights

  • Historic Ties and Mutual Opportunities:
    • The visit underscores the historical friendship between India and Greece, with both nations recognizing the mutual benefits of a strategic partnership.
    • Prime Minister Mitsotakis emphasizes the potential for India to use Greece as a gateway to Europe, while Greece sees India as an essential entry point to Asia.
  • Prime Minister Mitsotakis expresses a strong commitment to strengthening bilateral ties and cooperation across various sectors.
    • The momentum generated by PM Modi’s visit to Athens is expected to be further accelerated through the current visit.
    • A high-level Greek business delegation accompanies Prime Minister Mitsotakis, reflecting the interest of Greek business leaders in India’s potential as an Asian gateway and a manufacturing base for global operations.
  • Strategic Importance of Security and Stability:
    • Both Greece and India, situated in strategically crucial regions, acknowledge their roles in the global system and the geopolitical volatility of their respective areas.
    • Recent events in the Red Sea highlight the interconnected security, stability, and prosperity of the East Mediterranean (Greece’s location) and the Indian Ocean regions.
    • The term “prisoners of geography” is used to describe the strategic importance of both nations, recognizing the geopolitical challenges they face.
    • Political leaders in India and Greece recognize the urgent need to build a strategic relationship given the compelling strategic reasons and geopolitical volatility in their regions.
  • Advancing Bilateral Relations:
    • The collaboration between India and Greece spans strategic, military, and business domains, gradually gaining momentum over the years.
    • While the pace has been measured, various levels of cooperation have emerged.
    • Military Collaboration:
      • The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force engage in joint exercises with the Greek armed forces, fostering strategic ties.
      • Reciprocal exercises are planned to enhance military cooperation.
    • Business Engagement:
      • Business ties are evolving, with notable instances of collaboration.
      • An Indian construction company partners with a major Greek counterpart in constructing a new airport in Crete.
      • Indian investments in the Greek food industry and the presence of an Indian shipping company in Athens signal growing economic links.
    • Investment and Banking:
      • Indian-Canadian billionaire PremWatsa, CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings, is a significant long-term foreign investor in Greece, advocating it as the best European country for investment.
      • Greek systemic banks collaborate with major Indian financial institutions to globally sell mutual fund products.
    • Potential Economic Corridor:
      • Economic reforms by the Mitsotakis government position Greece for sustainable growth.
      • Greece’s emergence as the reliable eastern flank of the EU and NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean, coupled with defense industry developments, lays the groundwork for the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC).
      • Economic reforms in Greece and its strategic positioning create favorable conditions for Indian-Greek business partnerships.
      • Ongoing efforts to construct the IMEEC offer a significant avenue for economic collaboration between India, the Middle East, and Europe.
    • Support for EU-India Relations:
      • Greece actively supports deeper EU-India relations.
      • The country works towards the swift conclusion of the EU-India Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), anticipating it as a catalyst for bolstering bilateral economic ties.
    • Enhancing People-to-People Ties in Greece-India Relations
      • With the Greece-India strategic partnership gaining momentum, there is a recognition of the vital role that people-to-people ties play in preserving ancient linkages and fostering modern collaboration.
      • Cultural and Educational Ties:
        • Emphasizes the value of closer people-to-people ties to maintain cultural heritage amid modernization.
        • Advocates for increased university student exchange programs to facilitate mutual understanding and familiarity.
        • Calls for more cultural exchanges and media cooperation to strengthen bonds between the two nations.
        • Encourages think tanks in both countries to collaborate, fostering joint scholarship and research endeavors.
      • Travel Links:
        • Stresses the need for establishing more travel links between Greece and India, facilitating easier movement and deeper cultural exchange.
      • To further enhance the ties, government policymakers and businesses are urged to follow the lead of political leaders in fostering closer ties.

About the bilateral relations between India and Greece

  • India and Greece have a long history of cultural and trade ties that date back to ancient times.
  • These historical connections laid the foundation for a diplomatic relationship that has evolved and strengthened over the years.
  • Ancient Connections:
    • Cultural Ties:
      • India and Greece share ancient cultural ties, with influences seen in philosophy, art, and literature.
      • The exchange of ideas between ancient Indian scholars and Greek philosophers, particularly during the Hellenistic period, contributed to the intellectual development of both civilizations.
    • Trade Routes:
      • Historical trade routes connected the Indian subcontinent and the Mediterranean, facilitating the exchange of goods, including spices, textiles, and precious stones.
      • These routes, often referred to as the Silk Road, played a significant role in fostering economic interactions.
    • Modern Era:
      • Diplomatic relations between India and Greece were established in 1950.
      • Over the years, both countries have expressed a commitment to strengthen political, economic, and cultural ties.
    • Economic Ties:
      • Economic relations between India and Greece have gained momentum in recent years.
      • The trade balance has seen fluctuations, but efforts have been made to enhance economic cooperation.
      • India has been exporting pharmaceuticals, machinery, and textiles to Greece, while Greece has been exporting items like chemicals, machinery, and minerals to India.
      • Greek companies have shown interest in sectors such as infrastructure, renewable energy, and tourism in India.
      • In terms of recent economic ties, India and Greece have committed to doubling bilateral trade by 2030.
    • Bilateral Meetings:
      • High-level bilateral meetings have taken place to discuss economic cooperation and enhance ties.
      • In August 2023, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Greece during which the two countries agreed to upgrade bilateral ties to a strategic level and double the two-way trade by 2030.
      • The two main forums for conducting bilateral talks are the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) and Foreign Office Consultations (FOC).
        • The JEC, which was set up in 1983, is headed by MoS (Commerce) on the Indian side and the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs on the Greek side.
      • Tourism: Tourism is a significant aspect of economic relations. Both countries have recognized the potential for promoting tourism, with initiatives to encourage people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges.

The recent report on local fintech players

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Hindu

The Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology, in its report to Parliament, has raised concerns about the overwhelming presence of fintech apps owned by foreign entities in the Indian digital payments ecosystem.

  • The report emphasizes the need to promote local players and highlights the following key points:

Key Highlights

  • UPI Dominance and Discrepancy:
    • UPI commands a substantial 73.5% share of total digital payments in terms of volume in FY 2022-23.
    • However, its share in terms of value is significantly lower at 6.67%, raising questions about the existing ecosystem.
  • Regulatory Feasibility:
    • The Committee suggests that regulatory bodies like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) would find it more feasible to control local apps compared to foreign apps operating in multiple jurisdictions.
    • Fintech companies owned by foreign entities, including Walmart-backed PhonePe and Google Pay, dominate the Indian fintech sector.
    • PhonePe holds the leading market share in volume (46.91%), followed by Google Pay (36.39%) for the period between October to November 2023.
    • NPCI’s BHIM UPI has a meager 0.22% market share in terms of volume.
  • NPCI’s Volume Cap Regulation:
    • The Committee’s recommendations align with NPCI’s imposition of a 30% volume cap on UPI transactions facilitated by third-party apps in November 2020.
    • Apps exceeding the specified cap were given until December 31, 2024, to comply with the directive to maintain market equilibrium and protect the UPI ecosystem.
    • The compliance deadline, initially set for two years, was extended to December 31, 2024, by NPCI in December 2022.
    • The extension aims to provide existing and new players, both banks and non-banks, with an opportunity to scale up consumer outreach for UPI’s growth.
  • Concerns over Fraud in Fintech Ecosystem
    • Money Laundering Through Fintech:
      • The Committee observed instances of fintech companies, such as the Abu Dhabi-based app Pyppl, being exploited for money laundering by Chinese investment scamsters.
      • The foreign jurisdiction administration of such apps makes it challenging for Indian law enforcement agencies to track the flow of money from scams.
    • The fraud to sales ratio, representing fraudulent transactions compared to the total transactions in a financial year, has remained around 0.0015% in recent years.
    • As of September 2023, the ratio stood at 0.0016%, indicating a relatively low percentage of fraudulent transactions in the overall financial ecosystem.
    • The percentage of UPI users affected by frauds was 0.0189%.
  • Implications for the Fintech Ecosystem:
    • Local fintech players are seen to have a “natural advantage” in understanding the Indian market, customer behavior, and local infrastructure.
    • Foreign fintechs, while excelling in new technologies and global connectivity, may lack a deep understanding of the local ecosystem.
    • Striking a balanced mix between local and foreign fintech players is essential, varying across areas such as payments, lending, wealth management, and insurance.
    • Regulatory emphasis on accountability and compliance with local laws is considered critical.
  • McKinsey’s Insights on Instant Payments:
    • McKinsey’s Global Payments Report (September 2023) notes that instant payments in India, particularly through UPI, contribute less than 10% of future revenue growth.
    • Although UPI generates minimal transaction fees, the report emphasizes the uplift from no-fee cash events and the elimination of hidden costs associated with managing cash transactions.
    • The shift in consumer behavior towards digital payments is seen as enhancing security and increasing access to digital commerce channels.

About the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)

  • The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is an organization that operates retail payments and settlement systems in India.
  • Established in December 2008, NPCI is a not-for-profit entity registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013.
  • The corporation was initiated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).
  • Objective:
    • The primary objective of NPCI is to create a robust payments infrastructure in India and promote a less-cash economy.
    • NPCI aims to provide efficient and cost-effective retail payment systems that cater to the diverse needs of the Indian population.
  • Key features of NPCI include:
    • Operating retail payment systems like National Financial Switch (NFS), Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), RuPay card affiliation, National Automated Clearing House (NACH), Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS), and Cheque Truncation System.
    • Launching innovative payment solutions like the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), which enables instant money transfers via mobile applications and QR codes.
    • Serving as an umbrella body for all retail payment systems in India.
    • Expansion efforts beyond India’s borders, aiming to facilitate cross-border payments and remittances
  • Note: NPCI operates under the regulatory framework and oversight of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Saturn’s moon Mimasmay have ocean under its crust

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Hindu

Astronomers propose that Mimas, one of Saturn’s major moons and known as the “Death Star” due to its cratered surface, might harbor a liquid ocean about 20-30 km beneath its icy shell.

Key Highlights

  • Mimas was considered an unlikely candidate for hosting an ocean due to its heavily cratered surface, resembling a space station in Star Wars.
    • Scientists analyzed Mimas’s orbital motion using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
    • Librations or oscillations in Mimas’s motion suggested the possibility of either an elongated silicate core or a global ocean.
    • Initial calculations assuming Mimas as entirely solid led to a dead end in determining gravity coefficients and changes in orbit.
  • Subsurface Ocean Hypothesis:
    • Researchers shifted to the hypothesis of a subsurface ocean, exploring how it would affect Mimas’s movement based on deformed layers, gravity coefficients, and librations.
    • The theoretical approach allowed them to explore the possibility of a liquid ocean beneath Mimas’s icy shell.
  • Viscoelastic and Hydrostatic Layers:
    • The outer icy layer of Mimas is modeled as viscoelastic, displaying both viscous and elastic properties.
    • Interior interfaces are assumed to be hydrostatic, implying a state of rest.
    • Calculations from the model indicate that the icy sheet covering Mimas would need to be 20-30 km thick to align with observational data.
    • Simulations regarding heat released andMimas’s eccentricity,suggest that Mimas’s ocean may have formed between 2-25 million years ago.
    • The study proposes that Mimas may have a hydrothermally active core, similar to observations of Enceladus, another moon of Saturn known to have a global ocean beneath its crust.

About Saturn and its Moons

  • Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun in our solar system and is easily recognizable by its stunning ring system.
  • It is a gas giant, primarily composed of hydrogen and helium.
  • Saturn has a total of 82 known moons.
  • Physical Characteristics:
    • Saturn is characterized by its prominent ring system, which consists of a series of icy particles and debris in orbit around the planet.
    • The rings are divided into several distinct ringlets.
    • The planet has a diameter of about 116,464 kilometers (72,366 miles), making it the second-largest planet in our solar system after Jupiter.
  • Atmosphere:
    • Saturn’s atmosphere is primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, with traces of methane, ammonia, water vapor, and other compounds.
    • The planet exhibits bands of clouds, storms, and a hexagonal-shaped jet stream near its north pole.
  • Rotation and Day Length:
    • Saturn has a rapid rotation, completing a full rotation on its axis in about 10.7 hours.
    • A day on Saturn is significantly shorter than a day on Earth.
  • Magnetic Field:
    • Saturn has a strong magnetic field, and its magnetosphere is the second-largest in our solar system, after Jupiter.
  • Major Moons of Saturn:
    • Titan:
      • Titan is Saturn’s largest moon and the second-largest moon in the solar system.
      • It has a thick atmosphere primarily composed of nitrogen, with traces of methane and ethane.
      • Titan’s surface features include lakes, rivers, and vast sand dunes, making it a target of interest for scientific study.
      • It is the only moon in our solar system with a dense atmosphere.
    • Enceladus:
      • Enceladus is known for its active geysers erupting from its south pole.
      • These geysers release water vapor and icy particles into space.
      • The presence of liquid water beneath its icy crust makes Enceladus a key target for astrobiology studies.
    • Mimas:
      • Mimas is notable for its large Herschel Crater, which gives it a resemblance to the Death Star from Star Wars.
      • The impact that formed the Herschel Crater nearly shattered Mimas, but it somehow survived.
    • Iapetus:
      • Iapetus has a two-tone appearance, with one hemisphere significantly darker than the other. This is known as the “yin-yang” moon.
      • The leading hemisphere is dark and heavily cratered, while the trailing hemisphere is much brighter.
    • Rhea:
      • Rhea is the second-largest moon of Saturn.
      • It has a relatively neutral color and a surface covered with water ice.

Why the GSLV rocket is nicknamed ‘naughty boy’?

(General Studies- Paper III)

Source : The Indian Express

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite on February 17, 2024, using the GSLV-F14 rocket.

  • While INSAT-3DS aims to enhance Earth monitoring capabilities, the spotlight was on GSLV, colloquially termed the ‘naughty boy’ due to its high failure rate. Key points include:

Key Highlights

  • INSAT-3DS Mission:
    • INSAT-3DS is a new-generation meteorological satellite designed for advanced monitoring of Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans, and environment.
    • It aims to augment existing meteorological satellites, providing improved weather and climate prediction services, early warnings, and disaster management support.
  • GSLV’s Track Record:
    • GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) has been one of ISRO’s primary rockets, alongside PSLV and LVM3.
    • GSLV had a notable failure rate, with four unsuccessful launches out of 15 attempts, leading to its colloquial nickname, the ‘naughty boy.’
    • GSLV faced a setback in August 2021 when attempting to launch the EOS-03 earth observation satellite.
    • A deviation from the trajectory and loss of power resulted in the rocket falling into the Andaman Sea.
    • Despite a successful launch in May 2022, uncertainties persisted regarding GSLV’s performance.
    • The INSAT-3DS launch garnered significant attention due to GSLV’s track record, with the recent successful flight easing concerns.
    • GSLV’s performance is crucial for maintaining confidence in India’s satellite launch capabilities.
  • Challenges with GSLV’s Cryogenic Engine
    • The GSLV rocket, known for its capability to carry heavy payloads, has faced challenges primarily due to its cryogenic engine, which powers the final stage of the flight.
    • Cryogenic Engine Issues:
      • GSLV’s primary setbacks stem from its cryogenic engine, which operates on liquid hydrogen as fuel.
      • Cryogenics, dealing with materials at extremely low temperatures, poses unique challenges.
      • Liquid hydrogen, the main fuel, requires handling at temperatures nearly 250 degrees Celsius below zero, while oxygen, needed for combustion, must also be in liquid form.
    • Origin and Technology Transfer:
      • GSLV’s cryogenic engine is based on a Russian design, with India attempting to reverse-engineer it.
      • In the late 1980s, Russia agreed to supply cryogenic engines and technology to ISRO, but the deal faced opposition from the United States due to concerns over missile technology proliferation.
      • The deal was eventually called off, and while Russia supplied some engines, technology transfer did not occur.
    • Reverse-Engineering Efforts:
      • India utilized the supplied engines for launches in the 2000s and subsequently attempted to reverse-engineer the technology.
      • However, challenges persisted with the reverse-engineered engine, contributing to GSLV’s uneven track record.
    • Impact on ISRO:
      • The difficulties with GSLV’s cryogenic engine have posed operational challenges for ISRO, impacting the reliability and success rate of GSLV missions.
      • Despite setbacks, ISRO continues efforts to overcome these challenges and improve the performance of GSLV.
    • Indigenous Cryogenic Technology
      • India has successfully developed its own cryogenic engine, featuring a design entirely crafted within ISRO.
      • This engine, distinct from GSLV’s Russian-inspired cryogenic engine, uses a different combustion process and draws parallels with Arianne rocket designs.
      • The indigenously developed cryogenic engine powers LVM3, ISRO’s most potent rocket, responsible for missions such as Chandrayaan-2 and Chandrayaan-3.
      • LVM3 has completed seven flights without encountering technical issues, showcasing the effectiveness and reliability of the home-grown technology.
    • GSLV’s Current Status:
      • The recent successful launch of INSAT-3DS aboard GSLV has momentarily alleviated concerns surrounding the rocket’s track record.
      • GSLV, often labeled the ‘naughty boy’ due to its higher failure rate, has been under scrutiny, particularly for its cryogenic engine troubles.
      • GSLV faces a critical test in the upcoming launch of the NISAR satellite, a collaborative mission between ISRO and NASA.
      • NISAR’s mission significance and international collaboration highlight the importance of GSLV’s reliability and success.

About the GSLV

  • The Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is a family of expendable launch vehicles developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to launch satellites into geosynchronous transfer orbits (GTO) and low Earth orbits (LEO).
    • The GSLV program was initiated by ISRO to have an indigenous capability for launching heavier payloads into geosynchronous and low Earth orbits.
    • GSLV complements the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in meeting a broader range of mission requirements.
  • Variants:
    • GSLV comes in different variants, with each variant denoted by a specific mark.
    • GSLV Mk II and GSLV Mk III are the prominent variants.
    • GSLV Mk II is designed for launching payloads into GTO, while GSLV Mk III is capable of carrying heavier payloads and is intended for both GTO and LEO missions.
  • GSLV Mk II:
    • GSLV Mk II is a three-stage launch vehicle.
    • The first stage is powered by a liquid engine, the second stage by a liquid engine, and the third stage by a cryogenic engine.
    • It is capable of carrying payloads in the range of 2,000 to 2,500 kg to GTO.
  • GSLV Mk III:
    • GSLV Mk III is the heaviest and most powerful launch vehicle developed by ISRO.
    • It has two solid boosters, a liquid core stage, and a cryogenic upper stage.
    • GSLV Mk III has been employed for significant missions, including the launch of Chandrayaan-2 (India’s second lunar exploration mission) and the test flight of the Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD).
  • Cryogenic Upper Stage:
    • GSLV Mk II and Mk III both use cryogenic upper stages in their configurations.
    • The cryogenic upper stage employs liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants, providing efficient propulsion for the final phase of the launch.
  • Significant Missions:
    • GSLV has been utilized for various important missions, including the deployment of communication satellites like INSAT and GSAT series, navigation satellites, and Earth observation satellites.
    • GSLV Mk III, in particular, played a pivotal role in India’s human spaceflight program (Gaganyaan mission).
    • The GSLV Mk III has also been identified as the launch vehicle for future interplanetary missions, such as the proposed Aditya-L1 mission to study the Sun.

What is GTO and LEO?

  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) are two types of orbits used in spaceflight.
  • Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is an orbit around Earth with an altitude of less than 2,000 km.
    • Satellites in LEO orbit the Earth at a high speed and complete one orbit in about 90 minutes.
    • LEO is commonly used for communication and remote sensing satellite systems, as well as the International Space Station (ISS) and Hubble Space Telescope.
  • Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) is an elliptical orbit that performs a three-dimensional transfer from LEO to Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO).
    • GTO is used to get satellites from LEO to GEO, which is an orbit around Earth with an altitude of approximately 35,786 km.
    • Satellites in GEO orbit the Earth at the same rate as the Earth rotates, so they appear to remain stationary above a fixed point on the equator.
    • GTO is commonly used for communication and meteorological satellites.