Science & Technology
The global market of advanced electromechanical technologies
In 2019, the last year for which we have complete data, the global industry of transformers and similar technology was estimated to be worth 60 billion U.S. dollars.
The world of the future will be increasingly electrified and energy, in particular – anyway abundant – will be used ever more economically, rationally and selectively.
Here the companies operating in this sector will work more in the future: not only tools and devices that use electricity, but smart machines that save and control electricity, thus protecting the environment and also mankind.
A double function in the same device that is not found in other types of energy and technologies of motion and industrial processing.
Electricity – often naively praised by Futurists – will be the real energy of the future: in 2050 global demand for electricity will be 38,700 terawatts per hour, about 30% higher than the levels reached in 2006.
A terawatt is equivalent to 1,012 watts. A watt is equal to one joule per second, but a joule is equal to the energy transferred to or the work done on an object when a force of one newton acts on that object in the direction of the force’s motion through a distance of one metre.
Finally, the newton is the force needed to accelerate one kilogram of mass at the rate of one metre per second squared in the direction of the applied force.
Here are some memories of physics studied at high school that give us an idea of how wide, universal, rational and efficient the current electromechanical technology is.
And how it is by far the cleanest, most useful and reasonable technology. Certainly there is the parallel theme of energy sources, but the important aspect – at least for the time being – is that the “source” is quickly converted into electrical energy.
In Italy, also due to the particular conditions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, electricity consumption has decreased by 13%, but renewable sources of electricity have already exceeded 50%, while oil demand has fallen by 30% (and this will be the main driver of the Middle East geopolitical transformations) and the one for methane – a clean but non-renewable energy – by 18%.
It should be noted that electricity imports have plunged by 70%, due to a drop in markets and to greater and more efficient use, with a 7% increase in renewable energy imports.
Not considering the unpredictable pandemic cycles, electricity – its cycles, its prices and its technologies – is increasingly at the core of energy markets, while the consumption of non-renewable sources, linked to a sometimes still 19thcentury-style factory system – currently archaic and often even uneconomic -is declining structurally.
This holds true for the West, but also for the so-called Third World which, thanks to cutting-edge electromechanical technologies, could avoid the “Manchesterian” and maximum energy-dissipating phase that the West has experienced since the second half of the 19thcentury almost to date.
Hence the current but, above all, future increase in the size of the market for transformers and the other electrical energy production/processing systems.
From the so-called Pacinotti ring, discovered near Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, to current technologies, the rate of growth in the energy efficiency of electrical systems has been over 34% for every decade since 1950.
Compared to the other sectors, this is a truly remarkable result: the efficiency of non-renewable energy has grown, on average, by 14%, while that of non-electric renewables has risen by 16% per decade.
With a level of investment in the oil sector that, considering only technology, is incomparably higher than the rate of investment recorded for R&D in the electromechanical sector since 1950.
For some time, however, investment in renewables has been larger than investment in non-renewable energies, with a rate of development of new technologies that is higher in countries characterised by more recent or lower industrialisation. This is not strange. The particular conditions in developing countries have led all local governments to make careful assessments of environmental, energy, social and fiscal risks.
We will therefore overcome the old colonialist and now unreal idea of a developing world that opposes the West, competes downwards with standard costs or even becomes only a burden for the post-industrial West – an archaic Cold War concept that is no longer grounded scientifically.
In this case, the relationship between electricity, its production and its application to economic and social development will be pivotal.
Innovations in production mechanisms -far beyond the old Toyota system and the most modern “island” processing – will only and inevitably be possible by using electricity, which is the most “plastic” of energy systems and, above all, it is valid for both production and communication, social, service and non-directly productive activities.
You can still use oil to run a factory – stuff for suicide entrepreneurs – but it would be ridiculous to still use it to light houses up.
Electricity, as it is, also applies to factories and hospitals, cars and trains, as well as TV sets and computers.
Hence maximum energy flexibility but, above all, the possibility of using the same basic technologies also in very different sectors.
For shunt electrical reactors, which are essential in the electromechanical market of the future, a 6.1% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR)is expected to be recorded between 2020 and 2025.
Hence fast increase in the efficiency of electrical systems and strong need to protect networks from unexpected voltage peaks, as well as complexity of the new motion transmission systems and, finally, their easy continuous control.
Everything suggests that this market will keep on developing strongly even after the above mentioned five-year period.
According to 2019 data, the reactor market is worth 2.9 billion U.S. dollars.
The drivers of this sector are, first of all, the stable growth of the electricity market, the users’ very strong demand for greater system efficiency, but also the structural need to reduce losses in transmission systems or in Transmission-Distribution (T&D) systems, as well as in grid technology and in the various production-use-control systems for renewables.
There is also the expansion of investment (and of the market itself) in smart grids. This will be central in post-Covid-19 economies.
They are electricity grids equipped with smart sensors that collect information in real time, thus optimising energy distribution, often very considerably.
There has already been investment in smart grids alone to the tune of 200 billion U.S. dollars, at least until this year and as from 2016, of which 80 billion U.S. dollars in the EU alone, especially in the transmission sector, but most of the R&D funds will be shared between the United States and China.
Obviously besides smart grids and their efficiency, the issue of installation costs is being much studied.
This will be decisive for the deployment of these networks in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
As to the distribution of nuclear reactors – another key, but forgotten issue of electromechanics, which is not at all an “outdated” technology, but always (obviously) to be perfected and controlled, precisely with our smart networks and the above described electromechanical systems – we know that the United States still has 95 of them still in operation, France 57 – a legacy of De Gaulle’s foresight – China 47, Spain 7 and Germany 7.
Italy has nothing, of course. We entrusted the main energy choices of our time to a popular referendum, full of hidden funding.
As Gòmez Dàvila said, “people do not elect those who take care of them, but those who dope them”.
The robotics market is also in a phase of great changes.
It is expected that in 2025 the global market for industrial robots will be worth 209.38 billion U.S. dollars.
Just to give an example of the growth rate recorded in the sector, the year before forecasts pointed to 165.26 trillion U.S. dollars.
In 2019 the world market for robotics was worth 62.75 billion U.S. dollars, with a huge CAGR for our times of low profit, i.e. 13.5% from 2020 to 2027.
In the Czech language robot means “hard work”, but it derives from an old Slavic root, rabota,which means “slavery” (etymology is always very useful) and robotics was born as the creation of automata that imitate-replace human work.
Just as Artificial Intelligence – another function with a very high electromechanical impact – was born to make a machine imitate human thought. It is not so, in fact, but this is what appears to users.
We could say this is an “analog” idea of the man-machine relationship, while I foresee that, in a short while, we will be able to imagine a “digital” connection between man, work and machine – just to use again the metaphor of electrical communication.
In other words, robots will most likely not imitate human work in its traditional forms, but will create their own autonomous working systems, outside the old factory system or the working mechanisms that Marxism considered “alienating”, i.e. the transfer of energy and the “living” ideas of human work into the “dead” product.
As a basic idea, robots were born from a Czech Cubist painter. No wonder.
Probably we should still tell the story of how much contemporary art has influenced technology – also and above all in the myth of automation.
Just think here about ferro fluids and their compositions inside a magnetic field…the true birth of optical art…but we will talk about this later on.
Robotics was born in the 1960s as a project, but later as an industrial reality and finally as a system for perfecting human tasks and functions- at the time, above all, with regard to time, but currently in relation to the form and function of the product, besides the social connection it implies.
While the old factory system implies the mechanism of fragmented and divided work, linked to the production chain, the robot’s new activity implies – in perspective – the use of labour force for command-control functions and not for the direct processing of the finished product.
There is the risk that in the future – as Nobel Prize winner Mike Spence and Barack Obama’s economist Jason Furman said – the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which immediately takes over not only production, but also people’s daily lives (the use of apps, banks, etc.) may quickly make society so unequal that it will no longer permit normal democratic representation and the very survival of the poor walks of society.
Revolution 4.0 and globalisation can become a toxic mix for modern societies, a mix that could lead them to forget not only Pellizza da Volpedo’s Fourth Estate, but also the sacred Principles of the 1789 French Revolution.
Anot very recent – albeit very lucid – study by McKinsey’s Global Institute comes to our help. It analyses the impact of labour automation on 46 countries, which account for 80% of the workforce, and also on 2,000 widespread work tasks and functions. McKinsey’s finding is that the parts of work that can be fully automated would be even less than 5%.
In cauda venenum, however, 60% of occupations is made up of activities that can be automated, possibly only partially.
This is the real robotics market for Small and Medium Enterprises, not the “cubist” myth of completely replacing human labour in large companies.
In the development of robotics, however, what will really make the difference will be hardware which, in the future, will be three times the investment in software and eight times the size of financing in services.
As is well-known, low-wage and low-skilled jobs are the most liable to robotization. Hence how can these people be supported?
Obviously with electronic systems, as well as with AI to retrain them for new tasks and functions – supported in any case by modern energy networks fit for purpose.
It was Ernesto Rossi – unforgettable liberal economist, pupil and friend of Einaudi – who invented the so-called Cassa Integrazione Guadagni (the Redundancy Fund)ex novo.
Not an unworthy pourboire, but real support, while workers were being trained in new factory technologies.
In Ernesto Rossi’s time, the technological cycles lasted about ten years. Currently, depending on the sector, they last at most two years. This is the real problem, which must be solved with the same imagination as Ernesto Rossi’s.
Incidentally, instead of talking about bonuses, this would have been necessary not two years, but five years ago.
And here society is really changing: shortly Amazon could make its Amazon Go technology available, so that retailing will be possible only for very few shops.
The Ford F delivery van now includes a single robot carrying packages from the vehicle to the recipient’s door.
ABB has already installed over 400,000 industrial robots which, according to the best calculations, are supposed to replace further 400,000 workers.
In the near future there will be the robotic barmen, the “smart” cafeterias, but obviously the bartenders of some hotels downtown will always have their loyal clients.
Here we are talking about the low profile of service and quality.
Hence does Pellizza da Volpedo’s Fourth Estate no longer work? We will see in the future. Who repairs, updates, cleans, arranges and organises robots? We will not completely absorb the current workforce expelled from the old Manchesterian and Fordist assembly lines, but much will be possible.
Considering the very low – almost irrational – interest rates and the large mature sectors of the economy, with very low value added for workers with repetitive tasks, as well as a brand new mass of patents in AI (and in electromechanical technologies), it is quite obvious that venture capital goes directly to automation.
The jobs in essential sectors that can now be automated are 50 million in the whole Western world, with a currently incalculable share also in developing countries.
The planned wage cut could be worth 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars. So much for State incentives – here capital is quickly heading to automation and hence to the smart and technologically safe electrification of networks, including transformers, shunts, smart grids and smart electrical sensors.
Science & Technology
Considerations on asteroids and dangers near and far
The solar system is the first stage in the human exploration of space. Observation and the desire to learn more about the sun, moon and stars spanned the journey of human beings from prehistoric times to modern civilisation.
With the advent of the space age, humans emerged from the cradle of the earth and launched a series of ambitious explorations. The solar system as we know it today consists of the sun and many smaller celestial bodies. Based on physical properties such as mass, shape and orbital characteristics, these smaller celestial bodies are divided into planets, dwarf planets, small celestial bodies and the Oort Cloud (which defines the cosmographic boundary of the solar system). The Oort Cloud is where the icy objects that we see as a light trail arrive and return from. It is 0.03 to 3.2 light years away and is home to around 100 billion asteroids and comet-like objects. It envelops our solar system like a huge shell and its growth and evolution have been the subject of numerous studies over the years. However, no one had yet succeeded in analysing it in its entirety.
With the launch of NASA’s mission Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) – which took place on 8 September 2016 – attention was turned to asteroids. In this article we will look, in particular, at what asteroids are and why to explore them.
An asteroid is a small celestial body. In astronomy, the name asteroid is used to refer to units of the inner solar system (bounded by the orbit of Jupiter) that orbit the sun.
There is a large number of asteroids in the solar system, mainly distributed in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and the Kuiper belt outside Neptune. Their size ranges from one metre to 800 kilometres. Astronomers classify asteroids into those of the main belt – the near-Earth asteroids, Trojan asteroids (minor bodies sharing a heliocentric orbit with Jupiter), Kuiper belt asteroids, centaurs (a class of icy planetoids), etc. – according to their orbital positions.
Compared to other celestial bodies in the solar system, asteroids have the characteristics of small size, large number and long origin. More than a million asteroids have been discovered and there are currently about 20 known asteroids with a diameter of more than 200 kilometres, while about 99% of asteroids have a diameter of less than 100 kilometres. In terms of numbers alone, they are certainly the most numerous in the solar system.
Most asteroids are located in an area between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, known as the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt lies between 2.1 and 3.3 AUs from the sun. The astronomical unit (AU) represents the average distance between earth and the sun, i.e.149,597,870.707 kilometres.
The total mass of all the rocks in the asteroid belt, however, is still much less than the mass of the moon. It is estimated from existing observational data that their total mass may only be a small percentage of that of the moon.
Thousands of asteroids have also been discovered in Jupiter’s orbit, known as Trojan asteroids. They gather around Jupiter, forming an approximate triangle with Jupiter and the sun. In terms of celestial mechanics, this orbit can be kept stable between the gravitational forces of the sun and Jupiter.
As ever more objects are discovered, they are collectively referred to as Trojan asteroids. The number of Trojan asteroids is far lower than that of the main belt asteroids. In 2018, at its 30th General Assembly in Vienna, the International Astronomical Union changed this naming convention, allowing it to be named after Olympic athletes, as the number of known Jupiter Trojans, which are currently over ten thousand, far exceeds the number of the available names of the Trojan War heroes in Greek mythology.
Asteroids are currently the only ones among the various types of celestial bodies that can be named according to the wishes of the discoverers and are internationally recognised after being examined and approved by international organisations. Because of the seriousness, uniqueness and permanent immutability of asteroid naming, it has become a recognised honour worldwide to bear the name of an asteroid.
The asteroid name consists of two parts: the first is the permanent number and the second is a name – for example 1 Ceres discovered on 1 January 1801 in Palermo by Giuseppe Piazzi (1746-1826), etc.
In recent years, the detection of asteroids has become one of the main directions of development in the field of deep space exploration of the major countries in the race for space. Asteroids, comets, etc. are all “fragments” left over from the early days of the solar system’s formation, and the same holds true also for the “materials” that form planets and dwarf planets, which are generally believed to have formed before planets.
Asteroids preserve the original components from the early days of the solar system and may contain important clues to the origin of life and water on earth. They are important samples for studying the origin and evolutionary history of the solar system.
It has been speculated that the asteroid belt may be the remnant of a mysterious planet that was destroyed in a giant cosmic collision in ancient times.
As small bodies in the solar system that are less conspicuous in mass and volume, most asteroids revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits like the eight major planets (I say eight because on 24 August 2006, after 76 years of “statistical” presence, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet in the aforementioned Kuiper belt). The orbital pattern based on classic rules, however, is often broken and asteroids wander on their own, with their characteristic dangerousness. Most of the holes, of large and small craters on the Moon are, indeed, the “credit” of asteroids, which well records the history of the unexpected visits of these celestial bodies, which are small but not so small as to leave no trace.
While the moon’s impact craters tell of asteroid visits, to date 190 craters have been discovered on earth, with diameters ranging from a few hundred metres to tens of kilometres, and a few even over 100 kilometres, with ages ranging from 50 thousand to two billion years, distributed mainly in North America, Europe and Oceania.
In astronomy, the concept of near-earth asteroids is defined as those asteroids whose minimum distance from the earth is within 0.3 AUs, i.e. 44,879,361.2121 kilometres.
The asteroids with a diameter of more than 140 metres within the minimum orbital distance of 0.05 AUs (7,479,893.53535 kilometres, which is about 20 times the distance between earth and the moon), are referred to as near-earth asteroids (potentially dangerous asteroids) that pose a potential threat to the earth. When the distance between the asteroid and the earth is 7,479,893.53535 kilometres, it can be captured by the strong gravitational force of the earth, change its orbit and run towards the earth until it collides). This danger exists in at least one-tenth of the total number of asteroids.
Because of the existence of these asteroids, the earth is always in danger. The dangers of asteroids striking the earth are mainly earthquakes, tsunamis and environmental disasters caused by very high velocity impacts, as well as panic among people not only in the vicinity of any impacts. The size of damage depends on the mass and velocity remaining after passing through the atmosphere, and these two parameters are related to the asteroid’s initial mass, initial velocity, asteroid structure and angle of impact.
The asteroid enters the earth’s atmosphere at very high speed, forming an extremely strong shock wave at high temperature and high atmospheric pressure, which first causes ionisation of atmospheric molecules and emits light, and then explodes and disintegrates under the interaction of a high-speed superforce and aerodynamic heat.
Disintegrated fragments with a smaller diameter will be reduced to ash in the atmosphere, while disintegrated fragments with a larger diameter will hit the earth surface, quickly releasing the enormous kinetic energy they carry.
If the impact occurs on land, the rocks break, melt and even gasify forming craters, while the shock waves generated by the impact cause strong earthquakes and tsunamis, triggering forest fires. Various gases (such as sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide), dust and burning ash produced by the surface rocks fill the entire atmosphere and block sunlight.
If the impact occurs in the oceans, huge waves of hundreds of metres and strong tsunamis and earthquakes are produced, and the area of thousands of kilometres along the coast will be extensively flooded. A large amount of seawater evaporates, a large amount of seabed sediments and rock dust are thrown into the stratosphere to remain for a long time, and a large number of living organisms in the ocean would die.
Throughout history, asteroids have frequently struck the earth. Sixty-five million years ago, an asteroid with a diameter of about 10-13 kilometres hit the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico at a speed of about 20 km/s, forming a crater with a diameter of 198 kilometres, causing 50% to 60% of the earth’s biological extinction. This is considered the cause of dinosaurs’ extinction.
On 30 June 1908, an asteroid with a diameter of about 30-50 metres hit the earth at a speed of 30-40 km/s and exploded over the Tunguska River (near Vanavara, located in the then Enisejsk Governorate in Siberia). It was equivalent to between 10 and 15 megatons, i.e. to about a thousand Hiroshima bombs, burning 80 million trees over two thousand square kilometres.
Asteroid transits still occur frequently today. Astronomers have been keeping a close eye on near-earth asteroids. According to data from the Minor Planet Centre, 22,268 near-earth asteroids were discovered in February 2020 alone, of which 906 have a diameter of more than one kilometre and 2,073 pose potential hazards.
At present, earth-threatening asteroids are continuously discovered through sky-tracking observations to calculate changes in their orbits and give early warning.
Science & Technology
Communication as a realm of human enigmatic growth
In March 2023 UMEF Swiss University hosted a special guest Richard Hill, Ph.D. who is a former senior ITU staff member and who is an expert on telecommunications and Internet governance and related matters. Dr Hill holds a Ph.D. in Statistics from Harvard University and a B.S. in Mathematics from M.I.T. He has facilitated numerous complex international negotiations regarding sensitive policy matters, including Internet governance.
As a high representative of ITU he introduced us to the history of systematic communication; as a specialized agency of the United Nations, responsible for many matters related to information and communication technologies, ITU was established on 17 May 1865 as the International Telegraph Union, making it the first international organization. Prior aim was to manage the first international telegraph networks and ceaselessly foster to connect the world. Over the years, the Union’s mandate has expanded to cover the development of telephony, the radiocommunications, satellites, and most recently, the telecommunications-based information age. Along the way, ITU’s structure and activities have evolved and adapted to meet the needs of this changing mandate.
ITU’s work in radio communications began in 1906 when the first International Radiotelegraph Conference gathered 30 maritime states in Berlin to draw up the first International Radiotelegraph Convention. The Bureau of the International Telegraph Union (ITU) was designated by the Berlin Conference to act as the central administrative organ for a variety of tasks arising from the Convention. In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Conference in Washington established the International Radio Consultative Committee (CCIR) to study technical and operating questions related to radio communications and to issue recommendations on them. In 1947, at the joint International Telecommunication Conference and International Radio Conference in Atlantic City, the International Frequency Registration Board (IFRB) was created to act as an administrative body to regulate the use of frequencies. In 1992, the Union’s Additional Plenipotentiary Conference in Geneva undertook a reform of ITU to give the Union greater flexibility to adapt to an increasingly complex, interactive, and competitive telecommunications environment.
The 1868 International Telegraph Conference, in Vienna, decided that ITU would operate from its own bureau in Berne, Switzerland. It began with just three members of staff. In 1948, the headquarters of ITU were moved from Berne to Geneva.
Dr. Hill today works in Geneva. He has a long professional background in Information Technology (IT) and Telecommunications. He was Department Head, IT Infrastructure Delivery and Support, at Orange Communications (a GSM operator), responsible for delivering and maintaining the real-time, fail-safe computing infrastructure for the company to support over 300 online agents and related applications such as billing. He was previously the IT Manager at the University of Geneva.
Dr. Richard Hill is currently involved in discussions on the use of and the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs), including the Internet and its governance at both the national levels (in Switzerland) and the international level.
In this respect we need to rethink, recreate, and readjust our perception on questions and comments as follows:
- AI and the influence on the humanity as whole is a big question. Context, socio-cultural, economic, and political backgrounds of historical intercorrelations, sounds as a password for enigma decryption. Can we discern progress from growth? (discontinuity, divergence etc.)
- Whilst each epoch has its defining technology determining economic, social, and political success, in today’s times we witness the omnipotent reality of cyber digital realms. They are full of wonder, puzzle, and unknowingness. What is in the future there for us, not being colonized yet with our meanings? Is there anything left?
- Consequential, ethical questions are battling the scope of academic and policy debates. Not just carbon, electronic footprint, moral and ethical dilemmas are in the core of our concerns, not just regarding ethics, but also fairness, justice, transparency, and accountability.
This is precisely the reason why historical, philosophical, and cultural contexts are important for the future safety in digital age. The environment in which contemporary challenges of e-communications are ingrained is the heir of history, philosophy, culture, and technology intertwined developments. Latest have burst into digital transformation, triggering new questions on “social contract” and common sese of the world. If the context is altered daily, social landscape is requesting new deal.
This is the reason why we have no other choice than to step back and reflect on the future of humanity.
We need to ask ourselves what defines us as human race?
What defines AI as a tool for progress and a tool for growth?
Where are common ethical algorithms and standards we ought to manage our actions and lives accordingly?
We had a strong debate, referring on above stated and other themes and issues. Since our guest has published articles on these matters, made presentations at academic conferences, submitted papers to intergovernmental organizations, and participated in multi-stakeholder discussions, the exchange of opinions was fruitful and optimistic.
Dr Hill is currently an active domain name arbitrator and an accredited mediator. As an activist, he has experience in using digital tools to affect international negotiations. He was the Western European Rapporteur for EDIFACT, responsible for the organization of the EDI standardization efforts in Europe.
Today Mr. Dill is a president of the Association for Proper Internet Governance, member of the JustNet Coalition, and was the vice-chairman, external affairs, of the Swiss chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-CH), a Swiss non-profit organization.
He contributed to the Hewlett-Packard (HP) internal manual on best practices for remote working and remote management. Prior to joining HP, he worked as a Research Statistician for the A.C. Nielsen company in Europe, a large marketing research company, and as a systems designer and consultant for a small software company in Cambridge, Mass. that specialized in applications for managing financial portfolios. Prior to that, Richard worked in software development for M.I.T. and the National Bureau of Economic Research (N.B.E.R).
 Electronic Data Interchange for Administration, Commerce and Transport is an international standard for electronic data interchange developed for the United Nations and approved and published by UNECE, the UN Economic Commission for Europe.
Science & Technology
New discoveries and advances ranging from the BRICS countries to Israel, Japan and South Korea
In the previous article we discussed new discoveries and scientific advances ranging from the United States of America to Russia, Great Britain, Germany and Finland. In this article we will look at breakthroughs in further countries.
For the first time the Hayabusa 2 probe of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) has brought back gas from asteroid 162173 Ryugu (the orbit of which is close to that of the Earth) discovered in 1999. The mission was launched on 3 December. On 27 June 2018, the probe reached the asteroid orbiting it at a distance of about 20 kilometres. After about one year and a half of measurements and surveys, the probe began its manoeuvres to approach the Earth on 13 November 2019, carrying the samples collected on Ryugu‘s surface in a capsule. On 6 December 2020, the capsule containing the samples collected on the asteroid re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere to land in the Australian desert, while the Hayabusa 2 probe continued its mission by heading into deep space to reach the 1998 KY26 asteroid.
The analysis of these gases may reveal the history of the aforementioned celestial body and help scientists further clarify the history of the solar system as it evolved. Japanese scientists detected more than twenty amino acids in the samples collected by the Hayabusa 2 probe. This is the first evidence of the existence of amino acids outside of Earth and has important implications for understanding how these vital organic molecules arrived on Earth. The analysis of the samples also showed that water on Earth may have been brought by asteroids from the outer edge of the solar system. The latest research unravels the mystery of how the ocean formed on Earth billions of years ago.
Scientists at Hokkaido University discovered that essential pyrimidine nitrogen bases (found in nucleic acids) – which make up DNA and RNA – may have been brought to Earth by carbon-rich meteorites. The research team analysed three of these meteorites and, in addition to the compounds previously detected in them, the aforementioned pyrimidine bases, such as cytosine and thymine, were found for the first time in concentrations of parts per billion. The research results show that this type of compound can be produced by a photochemical reaction and reach the Earth via meteorites, which may play an important role in the genetic function of the first manifestations of life on our planet.
Let us turn to Brazil, which is the only country in the Southern hemisphere which masters aerospace technology, with satellites, rockets, vehicles and launch sites. The Brazilian government places space activities at the top of its priority development agenda. Space research carried out by the Agência Espacial Brasileira focuses mainly on Earth observation, communication and meteorology. At the same time, Brazil is also strengthening the construction of infrastructure and the training of human resources for such studies.
The People’s Republic of China is an important aerospace cooperation partner of Brazil. The aerospace departments of China and Brazil actively implement the Cooperation Plan 2013-2022 of the National Space Administration of China and of the Brazilian Space Agency, respectively, and continue to expand into satellite exploration, manned spaceflight, including deepening studies in the field. There are plans to build a new cooperation platform in the areas of space technology, space applications, space science and ground equipment, personnel training, measurement and control support, as well as launch services.
In Brazil the China-Brazil Space Weather Joint Laboratory and the Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia started a new cooperation at the beginning of April 2022. The two parties jointly established tools and equipment for scientific research and implemented data sharing. The collaboration succeeded in bringing the remote city of Santarém (Pará State) onto the map of an international sensor network for space meteorology research. It is also the latest tool in the South American magnetometer network shared between the Chinese Meridian Project and the Estudo e Monitoramento Brasileiro do Clima Espacial (EMBRACE).
In terms of international cooperation, on 25 May 2022 the BRICS countries (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) established the Joint Space Cooperation Committee, which officially opened the joint observation and data sharing of the “constellation” of remote-sensing satellites of these States. The “constellation” consists of six existing satellites from the BRICS countries. Carlos Moura, director of the Agência Espacial Brasileira, said that the creation of a virtual “constellation” of remote-sensing satellites between the space agencies of the BRICS countries and the establishment of a data-sharing mechanism will help address the challenges faced by human beings such as global climate change, major disasters and environmental protection.
In Israel, too, the promotion of lunar satellite exploration and of private aerospace innovation has achieved remarkable results. As early as 2022 Israel has increased its support for the private aerospace industry and has achieved a number of notable technological advances concerning space. On 6 January 2022, the Israel Innovation Authority announced a grant of six million dollars to eleven private aerospace companies for the development of new space technologies. The above-mentioned companies cover many technical fields such as the Internet of Things (IoT), i.e. the so-called “smart objects”. We are not just talking about computers, smartphones and tablets, but above all about the objects that surround us in our homes, at work, in cities, in our everyday lives. The IoT was born right from the idea of bringing the objects of our everyday life and experience into the digital world.
Israel, however, is also developing the space construction of small satellites, new materials, lunar oxygen production, advanced sensors and Hall thrusters. Over the next five years, IIA plans to fund USD 180 million to continue supporting the development of the private aerospace industry.
Last year the Israeli defence company Rafael launched a “constellation” of high-resolution, high-revision satellites. The image resolution is less than 30 cm. At the same time, the revision time of the ground-based target of less than 10 minutes can be achieved by drawing the orbit of the “constellation”. Pictures of the same ground-based target can be continuously taken at intervals of several minutes. Furthermore, the Israeli Ministry of Defence’s Ofek satellite programme won the Israel Defence Award 2022. In 2020 Israel had launched the Ofek-16 satellite, which is the programme’s third-generation satellite, weighs approximately 300-400 kilograms, and has an orbital altitude of 600 kilometres. All Ofek satellites are launched by the Shavit carrier rocket from the Palmachim air base in Israel, on the Mediterranean coast.
The Israeli non-profit aerospace organisation SpaceIL is preparing to launch the country’s second lunar probe in 2024 or 2025. The plan will carry multiple lunar experimental devices: the first experimental project was defined in late August 2022 and its content was to test the stability of drugs on the moon, under the responsibility of scholars from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In October 2022, the Ben-Gurion University of Negev and the Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology (QASMT) created a research group that announced they would use a probe to conduct tests on plant growth on the Moon.
Meanwhile, France is investing in the construction of the Internet via satellite. Last year the French company Thales, together with the US company Qualcomm and the Swedish group Ericsson, planned to connect smartphones directly to satellite communications via small groups of satellites around the Earth over the next five years, in order to provide 5G coverage in areas not covered by terrestrial antennas, thus providing a service that lies between satellite telephone systems and satellite Internet providers such as Starlink. The project plans to invest eight billion euros. Thales will build the satellites; Qualcomm will supply the smartphones and Ericsson will install the terrestrial core network. This project has led to a shift from competition to cooperation between telecommunications and satellite companies in the field of networks.
In terms of space planning and investment, in September 2022 France held the International Astronautical Congress in Paris and announced that it would invest over nine billion euros in space from 2023 to 2025 for the development and expansion of the space industry.
At EU level, the European Space Agency (ESA) held a Summit last November and decided that the budget for the following three years would be EUR 16.9 billion, a 17 per cent increase, but less than the EUR 18.5 billion requested by its Director General. The funds are mainly provided by Germany, France and Italy. The new funding allows the continuation of the European programmes on Ariane 6 and Vega launchers, while enabling Europe to participate in the global competition for small launchers. The EU will also provide support for Moon and Mars probes in order to expand cooperation with the United States of America in Moon and Mars exploration.
In the Republic of Korea (South Korea) the second test launch of the domestically produced Nuri rocket successfully placed several satellites into orbit on Tuesday, marking an important step in the efforts to restart its space programme after the failure of an initial test in 2021.
At 4 pm on 21 June 2022, the Korean rocket was successfully launched from the Naro Space Center on the country’s Southern coast. A 162.5 kg satellite designed to test the rocket’s performance successfully made contact with a base station in Antarctica after entering orbit.
On 30 November 2021, the South Korean government had released the fourth basic plan for space development, proposing five main tasks relating to the development of the space industry, i.e. expanding the scope of space exploration; sending manned spacecraft; developing the South Korean space industry; overseeing and supervising space security issues; and conducting space-related research.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has clearly stated his State’s intentions to land on the Moon in 2032 and on Mars in 2045. Some South Korean academic circles, however, have called this into question, as the Republic of Korea’s talent pool, budget, and technical level in the aerospace sector cannot objectively support the expected effort.
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