Today’s News Updates – 12.January 2018

SFOORTI Application

To help plan the traffic flows and optimize freight operations, Ministry of Railways have launched Smart Freight Operation Optimisation & Real Time Information (SFOORTI) App for Freight Managers which provides features for monitoring and managing freight business using Geographic Information System (GIS) Views and Dashboard.

Salient features of SFOORTI Application are as below:

With this application, movement of freight trains on Geographic Information System (GIS) view can be tracked.
Both passenger and freight trains can be tracked over Zones/Divisions/ Sections in single GIS View.
Freight business can be monitored.
Comparative Analysis of Zonal/Divisional Traffic.
Analysis of new traffic captured and traffic lost.
This app provides a Bird’s eye view of all Freight Assets in a single window.
Provides end to end Rake movement on Geospatial view
Expected Traffic at Interchange points to evaluate daily performance can be viewed.
Performance of each zone and divisions with respect to loading and utilization of freight assets can be viewed.
Sectional performance monitoring for sections, divisions and zones shall help in traffic routing.
Freight terminal and sidings can be better monitored to ensure better turnaround of rakes.

Importance of Freight traffic:

Freight traffic is the major source of revenue for Indian Railways. Only one-third of the 13000 trains running daily on IR are freight trains, but it accounts 65% of total revenue of IR. Railway Freight traffic is vital for economic and industrial progress of the country.

ISRO Launches Its 100th Satellite

Space agency ISRO has successfully sent up a rocket carrying India’s 100th satellite along with 30 others, four months after failed launch. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV lifted off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.

Facts for Prelims:

The PSLV-C40 placed 31 satellites, originating from seven countries. This is the 42nd flight of the PSLV. The 30 other satellites onboard include two other satellites from India and 28 satellites from six countries — Canada, Finland, France, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The Cartosat-2 satellite, the third in the series, was deployed to relay high resolution scene specific spot imageries. The images will be useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps and change detection to bring out geographical Land Information Systems and Geographical Information System applications.
The mission is a unique one, since the satellites were launched in two orbits. Thirty of the satellites were launched in an orbit 550 km about, and one 359-km above the Earth. This was done through what scientists call the “multiple burn technology” under which the rocket’s engine is switched off and then switched on to control its height.
This is ISRO’s first launch in 2018 and it is also the first after the unsuccessful mission of IRNSS-1H in August last year.


China has sent twin satellites into space on a single carrier rocket, as part of efforts to enable its BeiDou system to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along the Belt and Road by the end of 2018.

This is the first launch of the BeiDou satellites in 2018. The twin satellites are coded the 26th and 27th satellites in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).


The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System is a Chinese satellite navigation system. BeiDou has been described as a potential navigation satellite system to overtake GPS in global usage, and is expected to be more accurate than the GPS once it is fully completed. The current third generation of BeiDou claims to reach millimeter-level accuracy (with post-processing), which is ten times more accurate than the finest level of GPS.

Facts for Prelims: List of Global Navigation Satellite Systems:

GPS of the United States of America.
GLONASS or Global Navigation Sputnik System of Russia.
Galileo of the European Union.
IRNSS or NAVIC of India.
Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) of Japan.


Scientists are planning to launch a small telescope into the Earth’s orbit that will monitor the flares and sunspots of small stars to assess how habitable the environment is for planets orbiting them. The spacecraft is known as the Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat, or SPARCS.


SPARCS is a new NASA-funded space telescope and will be launched in 2021. The mission, including spacecraft design, integration and resulting science, is led by Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE).

The stars that SPARCS will focus on are small, dim, and cool by comparison to the Sun. Having less than half the Sun’s size and temperature, they shine with barely one per cent its brightness.
The heart of the SPARCS spacecraft will be a telescope with a diameter of nine centimetres plus a camera with two ultraviolet-sensitive detectors to be developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Both the telescope and camera will be optimised for observations using ultraviolet light, which strongly affects the planet’s atmosphere and its potential to harbour life on the surface.


Astronomers have discovered that essentially every M dwarf star has at least one planet orbiting it, and about one system in four has a rocky planet located in the star’s habitable zone. This is the potentially life-friendly region where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for life as we know it, and liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface.

Since M dwarfs are so plentiful, astronomers estimate that our galaxy alone contains roughly 40 billion rocky planets in habitable zones around their stars. This means that most of the habitable-zone planets in our galaxy orbit M dwarfs.

Chiru goat

India’s environment ministry has ruled out the possibility of conservation breeding of the Chiru goat, a ‘near threatened’ species whose underfur is used for making the famous Shahtoosh shawls.

What’s the concern?

Chiru goat, which is also known as the Tibetan antelope, has long been hunted for its underfur (Shahtoosh), which is renowned for its quality and has traditionally been transported to Srinagar, where it is woven into an extremely fine fabric used to make shawls.


Last year, the parliamentary standing committee on science & technology, environment & forests had recommended to the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to conserve and breed the Chiru goat, which can then be given to the shawl makers. The panel said this would provide a sustainable livelihood opportunity to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Why the government is not in favour of conservation breeding of Chiru goat?

In 2017, the Chiru goat species was assessed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) because their current population can only be maintained with continued high levels of protection in its natural range and strict controls on trade of the shawls made from its underfur. The government believes that any relaxation in the protection regime of the animal would lead to a rapid population decline due to commercial poaching.

Also, Chiru inhabits the high-altitude Tibetan plateau and requires large a expanse of land for its movement and ranging patterns to fulfil its feeding and breeding requirements. Rearing the goat in captivity is extremely difficult. Besides, any attempt to do conservation breeding of Chiru at very high altitude regions of Ladakh (more than 3,800m) may neither be economical nor feasible as humans cannot be posted there continuously for more than 2-3 months.

Facts for Prelims:

Chiru, or Tibetan antelope, is assessed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature 2017.
The Tibetan antelope is the sole species in the genus Pantholops.
Endemic to the Tibetan Plateau, the Tibetan antelope inhabits open alpine and cold steppe environments between 3,250 and 5,500 m (10,660 and 18,040 ft) elevation.

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