13 September, 2020
- Any Non-Political Body can get FCRA Exemption + Foreign Funds and NGOs FAQ (Polity & Governance)
- Oxford Vaccine Trials to resume in U.K. + Why is Phase-3 of Vaccine Trial Complicated? â FAQ â (Science & Technology)
- Has Economic Slowdown hit EPFO Earnings? - FAQ - (Economy)
- Are there Re-infection Fears Around COVID-19 - FAQ (Science & Technology)
- Science behind air-breathing Scramjet Engine (Science & Technology)
- Question for the Day
UPSC Current Affairs: Foreign Funds & NGOs - FAQ + ‘Any non-political body can get FCRA exemption’ – Pg 12 + 08
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Polity | Mains: GS Paper II
Sub Theme: FCRA| Recent Amendment to FCRA | SC Judgement | Impact of the Judgment on Right to Legitimate Protest |UPSC
Context: The Home Ministry has clarified that it has the power to exempt in the public interest “any person or association or organisation” not being a political party or a candidate for election from the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.
Clarifications by MHA on Exemption from FCRA Provisions
- The clarification came in response to a report in these columns on Saturday headlined “Questions over FCRA nod for PM CARES”. According to the Ministry, Parliament had given powers to exempt any association or organisation, not being a political party, from provisions on receiving contributions under the FCRA.
- Using these powers, the Centre had issued an order in June 2011 under which the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) was exempted from all FCRA provisions. Similarly, the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was granted exemption through a Central government order dated March 28, 2020.
- Six other organisations, including the Overseas India Development Foundation and Bharat Ke Veer, have been extended similar FCRA exemptions.
- “Vide gazette notification dated 1st July, 2011, the Central government has also exempted all such entities which were created by a Central Act or a State Act and also compulsorily audited by CAG - Comptroller &Auditor General from all provisions of the FCRA,”.
- This exemption category was “further expanded” by a January 30, 2020, gazette notification that exempted entities created by Central or State government orders or any entity “fully controlled and owned” by the Central or State governments from FCRA requirements and audit by the CAG.
What is the FCRA?
The FCRA regulates foreign donations and ensures that such contributions do not adversely affect internal security. First enacted in 1976, it was amended in 2010 when a slew of new measures were adopted to regulate foreign donations. The FCRA is applicable to all associations, groups and NGOs which intend to receive foreign donations. It is mandatory for all such NGOs to register themselves under the FCRA. The registration is initially valid for five years and it can be renewed subsequently if they comply with all norms. Registered associations can receive foreign contribution for social, educational, religious, economic and cultural purposes. Filing of annual returns, on the lines of Income Tax, is compulsory. In 2015, the MHA notified new rules, which required NGOs to give an undertaking that the acceptance of foreign funds is not likely to prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India or impact friendly relations with any foreign state and does not disrupt communal harmony. It also said all such NGOs would have to operate accounts in either nationalised or private banks which have core banking facilities to allow security agencies access on a real time basis.
Who cannot receive foreign donations?
Members of the legislature and political parties, government officials, judges and media persons are prohibited from receiving any foreign contribution. However, in 2017 the MHA, through the Finance Bill route, amended the 1976-repealed FCRA law paving the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more shares.
The amendment, according to legal experts, followed accusations that the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress had been receiving foreign funds for political activities from the U.K.-based Vedanta Group from 2004 to 2012. The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a public advocacy group, had filed a public interest litigation petition at the Delhi High Court in 2013 against both parties for violating FCRA norms by accepting foreign funds. Both parties challenged a High Court order, which had termed the donations illegal in 2014, and moved the Supreme Court. They withdrew the petitions after the FCRA was amended retrospectively.
How else can one receive foreign funding?
The other way to receive foreign contributions is by applying for prior permission. It is granted for receipt of a specific amount from a specific donor for carrying out specific activities or projects. But the association should be registered under statutes such as the Societies Registration Act, 1860, the Indian Trusts Act, 1882, or Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956. A letter of commitment from the foreign donor specifying the amount and purpose is also required. In 2017, the MHA suspended the FCRA of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), one of India’s largest public health advocacy groups, on grounds of using “foreign funds” to lobby with parliamentarians on tobacco control activities. After several representations by the PHFI to the government, it was placed in the ‘prior permission’ category.
When is a registration suspended or cancelled?
The MHA on inspection of accounts and on receiving any adverse input against the functioning of an association can suspend the FCRA registration initially for 180 days. Until a decision is taken, the association cannot receive any fresh donation and cannot utilise more than 25% of the amount available in the designated bank account without permission of the MHA. The MHA can cancel the registration of an organisation which will not be eligible for registration or grant of ‘prior permission’ for three years from the date of cancellation.
Have there been suspensions in the past?
According to MHA data, since 2011, the registration of 20,664 associations was cancelled for violations such as misutilisation of foreign contribution, non-submission of mandatory annual returns and diversion of foreign funds for other purposes. As on September 11, there are 49,843 FCRA-registered associations.
What about international donors?
The government has also cracked down on foreign donors such as the U.S.-based Compassion International, Ford Foundation, World Movement for Democracy, Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy. The donors have been placed on a ‘watch list’ or in the ‘prior permission’ category, barring them from sending money to associations without the MHA’s clearance.
To whom FCRA is applicable?
- As per Section 1(2) of FCRA, 2010, the provisions of the act shall apply to:
- Whole of India
- Citizens of India outside India; and
- Associate Branches or subsidiaries, outside India, of companies or bodies corporate, registered or incorporated in India
Who can receive foreign contribution?
- Any “Person” can receive foreign contribution subject to following conditions
- It must have a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme.
- It must obtain the FCRA registration / prior permission from the Central Government, specifically Ministry of Home Affairs.
- It must not be prohibited under Section 3 of FCRA, 2010.
Who are prohibited to receive foreign contribution?
- As defined in Section 3(1) of FCRA, 2010, the following are prohibited to receive foreign contribution:
- candidate for election;
- correspondent, columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner, printer or publisher of a registered newspaper;
- Judge, Government servant or employee of any corporation or any other body controlled or owned by the Government;
- member of any legislature;
- political party or office bearer thereof;
- organization of a political nature as may be specified by the Central Government.
- association or company engaged in the production or broadcast of audio news or audio visual news or current affairs programmes through any electronic mode, or any other electronic form or any other mode of mass communication;
- correspondent or columnist, cartoonist, editor, owner of the association or company referred to in point (g).
- Individuals or associations who have been prohibited from receiving foreign contribution.
How can permission to accept Foreign Contribution be obtained?
- There are two modes of obtaining permission to accept foreign contribution according to FCRA, 2010:
- Prior Permission
What are the eligibility criteria for grant of registration?
- For grant of registration under FCRA, 2010, the association should:
- be registered under an existing statute like the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 or Companies registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013 for Charitable Purposes
- Normally be in existence for at least 3 years and has undertaken reasonable activity in its chosen field for the benefit of the society for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilised.
What are the eligibility criteria for grant of Prior Permission?
- Prior permission is granted for receipt of a specific amount from a specific donor for carrying out specific activities/projects. For this purpose, the association should meet following criteria:
- be registered under an existing statute like the Societies Registration Act, 1860 or the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 or section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 etc;
- submit a specific commitment letter from the donor indicating the amount of foreign contribution and the purpose for which it is proposed to be given; and
- For Indian recipient organizations and foreign donor organizations having common members, FCRA Prior Permission shall be granted to the Indian recipient organizations subject to its satisfying the following:
- The Chief Functionary of the recipient Indian organization should not be a part of the donor organization.
- At least 75% of the office-bearers/ members of the Governing body of the Indian recipient organization should not be members/employees of the foreign donor organization.
- In case of foreign donor organization being a single person/individual that person should not be the Chief Functionary or office bearer of the recipient Indian organization.
- In case of a single foreign donor, at least 75% office bearers/members of the governing body of the recipient organization should not be the family members and close relatives of the donor.
What are the conditions to be met for the grant of registration and prior permission?
- In terms of Sec.12 (4) of FCRA, 2010, the following shall be the conditions for the grant of registration and prior permission:
- The 'person' making an application for registration or grant of prior permission-
- is not fictitious or benami;
- has not been prosecuted or convicted for indulging in activities aimed at conversion through inducement or force, either directly or indirectly, from one religious faith to another;
- has not been prosecuted or convicted for creating communal tension or disharmony in any specified district or any other part of the country;
- has not been found guilty of diversion or mis-utilisation of its funds;
- is not engaged or likely to engage in propagation of sedition or advocate violent methods to achieve its ends;
- is not likely to use the foreign contribution for personal gains or divert it for undesirable purposes;
- has not contravened any of the provisions of this Act;
- has not been prohibited from accepting foreign contribution;
- the person being an individual, such individual has neither been convicted under any law for the time being in force nor any prosecution for any offence is pending against him.
- the person being other than an individual, any of its directors or office bearers has neither been convicted under any law for the time being in force nor any prosecution for any offence is pending against him.
- the acceptance of foreign contribution by the association/ person is not likely to affect prejudicially –
- the sovereignty and integrity of India;
- the security, strategic, scientific or economic interest of the State;
- the public interest;
- freedom or fairness of election to any Legislature;
- friendly relation with any foreign State;
- harmony between religious, racial, social, linguistic, regional groups, castes or communities.
- the acceptance of foreign contribution –
- shall not lead to incitement of an offence;
- shall not endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
SC Judgment – Organisation of Political Nature cannot receive foreign funding
Supreme Court has held that Central government cannot brand an organisation as ‘political’ to deprive it from receiving foreign funds under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 for legitimate forms of dissent to aid a public cause. Central Government under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act and its Rules are empowered to prohibit organisations from receiving foreign funding if such organisations can be categorised as “organisation of a political nature”.
Summary of the Judgment
- Organisation supporting agitation without political cause cannot be penalised - Any organisation which supports the cause of a group of citizens agitating for their rights without a political goal or objective cannot be penalized by being declared as an organisation of a political nature.
- Organisations supporting bandhs need not be for political cause - Organizations that support public causes by resorting to legitimate means for dissent such as organizing bandhs, hartals, strikes etc. shall not come within the ambit of the ban in terms of the FCRA.
- Need for Balance between objectives of FCRA & Rights of Organisation - A balance has to be drawn between the object that is sought to be achieved by the legislation and the rights of the voluntary organisations to have access to foreign funds.
- Ensure values of a sovereign democratic republic are protected - The purpose for which the law prevents organisations of a political nature from receiving foreign funds is to ensure that the administration is not influenced by foreign funds. Prohibition from receiving foreign aid, either directly or indirectly, by those who are involved in active politics is to ensure that the values of a sovereign democratic republic are protected.
- Organisation having no connection with active politics can use foreign aid - Such voluntary organisations which have absolutely no connection with either party politics or active politics cannot be denied access to foreign contributions.
- Organisation channeling foreign funds for political parties - Court held that those organisations which channel foreign funds for political parties are strictly prohibited to receive foreign funds under FCRA.
- Thus, the Court ruled that it only those organisations which have connection with active politics or take part in party politics are covered by Rule 3 (vi) and those organisations which are not involved in active politics or party politics do not fall within the purview of Rule 3 (vi).
Impact of the Judgment on Right to Legitimate Protest
- Impacts Arbitrary Decision Making of Government – Government cannot arbitrarily categorise any organisation which are critical of its workings or schemes as organisation of political nature just to prevent their foreign funding under FCRA Rules. “Blanket Labelling” of dissent as anti-national or anti-democratic strikes at the “heart” of the country’s commitment to protect Constitutional values.
- Legitimate forms of dissent cannot be prevented by government - Supreme Court has ruled that right to peaceful protest is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.
A distinguishing feature of any democracy is the space offered for legitimate dissent which cannot be trampled by any executive action.
- Violation of Rule of Law - Not allowing right to protests by any government violates rule of law as it violates the idea of justice, fairness and inclusiveness for all by discriminating on specific grounds.
- Prevention of Legitimate Dissent weakens representative democracy - By enabling direct participation in public affairs where individuals and groups are able to express dissent and grievances, expose the flaws in governance and demand accountability from state authorities as well a powerful entities. Thus, prevention of legitimate dissent does not exposes flaws in policy making, schemes and deliverables by the government and this help the government in misleading its people by giving false information about progress in different sectors.
UPSC Current Affairs: Oxford vaccine trials to resume in U.K. + Why is Phase-3 of vaccine trial complicated? - FAQ – Page 01 + Page 12
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology
Sub Theme: Various Phases of Vaccine Trial |Halt in Clinical Trials by AstraZeneca |Phase 4 of Drug Trial | UPSC
- On Saturday, the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca said they were resuming clinical trials for a new coronavirus vaccine across all U.K. sites.
- 5 days ago, the U.K.-based biopharma company AstraZeneca had said it was suspending the Phase-3 global trial of AZD1222, the COVID-19 vaccine it has been developing with Oxford University researchers.
- The vaccine, by all accounts, was among the handful that had reached the final but most daunting stage of trials and is slated to be available commercially by mid-2021. The pause was announced after a volunteer in Britain fell ill. On September 12, Oxford University and AstraZeneca in separate releases said the independent review process had concluded and following a nod from the regulator, trials would resume in the U.K. There was no word in the releases about resumption of global trials or details of the volunteer’s illness.
- In this regard we will understand
- How are vaccine and drugs tested in trials?
- double-blinded and randomised
- Why were the trials stopped by AstraZeneca?
- So how come trials have resumed?
How are vaccine and drugs tested in trials?
- There are similarities and differences in the way new drugs and vaccines are tested. Broadly both follow a four-stage process when they are tested in people.
- Phase 1
- After a drug has proven itself safe in a variety of animals — usually mice, rabbits, hamsters and primates that mirror human physiology and the way it reacts to diseases — it enters Phase-1 studies.
- A small group of volunteers is given the drug in small doses and monitored to see if it is safe and whether it was well tolerated.
- This is also when any occurrences of side effects are closely monitored. On an average, 10-50 candidates are chosen.
- In the normal course, those undergoing the trial must report results to the drug regulator which gives the go-ahead for the next stage of trials.
- It is when a group of volunteers, usually in the hundreds, are selected.
- In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, this is the stage when it’s determined if the inoculation had triggered a desired level of antibodies and a sufficient cell response in terms of stimulating T-cells that are known to block and neutralise the virus particles respectively. Again, side effects and adverse reactions are monitored and reported.
Each of these stages can take several months and that includes the time taken to recruit patients as well as the time involved in observing the effects of drugs and vaccines at various intervals of time. Such data is again sent to regulators, who, if satisfied, given the green signal for Phase-3.
- Phase-3 part of the trial
- In this stage, the drug or vaccine is tested at multiple locations in thousands of volunteers or patients.
- In the case of a drug, this is the stage when a new drug is compared to the existing standard of care and when it must prove that it is either more efficacious, or is of similar potency but is safer, better tolerable or delivers any of the goods that the drug makers had claimed when making the drug.
In the case of a vaccine for a new disease, there is usually nothing to compare it to, so Phase-3 becomes a larger version of the Phase-2 trial. A Phase-3 trial is held at multiple locations to capture the demographic variability in the population.
It is also double-blinded and randomised and may have multiple treatment arms,
- Which means that some participants may get a placebo, some may get lower doses, some higher doses, and in an ideal trial, neither the doctor nor the recipient knows who is getting the drug and who the placebo.
- When the scale and scope of a trial increases and a diverse population group is exposed to a new vaccine, the odds of encountering adverse and the dreaded ‘severe adverse reaction’ are magnified.
When severe reactions are manifested, medical researchers have to determine if the reaction was due to the drug and if a pattern is apparent, a drug or vaccine can be pulled out. Because of the multiple locations and the number of patients that are required, this is also the most expensive stage of a trial. Sometimes, phases are combined, given the kind of drug or vaccine and the urgency of the situation. Several COVID-19 vaccines are being developed on accelerated time lines.
Why were the trials stopped by AstraZeneca?
- The trials began
- For the vaccine candidate, called AZD1222 for now, the company had begun recruiting 30,000 volunteers for Phase-3 trials in the United States.
- The Pune-based Serum Institute of India, which had been contracted to manufacture a hundred million doses for 92 countries including India, had also started to test the vaccine on a proposed group of 1,600 volunteers in India.
- A patient contracted a disease
- However, it emerged that a recipient of the vaccine in the United Kingdom contracted transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, and this led AstraZeneca to pause its trials.
- Trials topped in India due to DCGI
- Suspension of vaccine trials is not out of the ordinary but Serum Institute initially said it would not halt the India trial because no adverse reactions had been reported here.
- However, after a show-cause notice from the regulator, the Drugs Controller- General of India, the company said it would halt recruitment of volunteers until AstraZeneca finishes evaluation of the safety data.
So how come trials have resumed?
- That is because of Independent review.
- According to a release from Oxford University, the independent review process has concluded and following the recommendations of both the independent safety review committee and the U.K. regulator, the MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), trials will restart in the U.K. “We are committed to the safety of our participants and the highest standards of conduct in our studies and will continue to monitor safety closely,” the release said.
What happens in Phase-4?
- A drug or vaccine candidate that clears Phase-3 is usually approved and licensed and the entire infrastructure of the company is devoted to ramping up production and working out the logistics of storing the drug or vaccine safely without it degrading or losing potency. Once the product goes out into the field, there is post-marketing surveillance, or a Phase-4, where all instances of the product’s failure and adverse events are recorded. Companies are expected to furnish periodic data to the drug regulator.
UPSC Current Affairs: Has economic slowdown hit EPFO earnings?- FAQ - Page 12
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy
Sub theme: Impact of Economic slowdown on EPFO | Details about EPF |UPSC
- In March 2020, the Board of Trustees of Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) had fixed the interest rate on PF deposits for 2019-20 at 8.5%. The Provident Fund contributions collected by the EPFO is invested in equities and Debt and returns from such investments is used to pay interest to PF subscribers. Thus, the interest rate was fixed at the start of the financial year keeping in mind its returns.
- However, the economic slowdown caused due to COVID-19 has led to fall in the stock market. Hence, the EPFO may find it difficult to sell of its financial investments and earn adequate profits.
- Accordingly, EPFO has recommended splitting payment of the interest rate of 8.5% recommended for financial year 2019-20 into two parts. The EPFO will credit 8.15% to its over six crore subscribers for the year immediately and give the remaining 0.35%, before December 31, 2020.
Details about Employee Provident Fund (EPF)
What is it?: EPF is a social security scheme aimed at salaried individuals and is run by EPFO, which comes under the labour ministry.
Coverage: Organizations that employ 20 people or more need to offer EPF benefits to their employees.
Is it Compulsory?: The EPF is not compulsory for all employees. Only those who earn up to Rs 15,000 a month have to contribute 12% of their basic salary plus dearness allowance to EPF. The employer contributes an equal percentage (12%) to the corpus out of which 3.67% goes to the EPF and the rest 8.33% goes towards employees’ pension scheme (EPS).
For those who earn above the threshold of Rs 15,000, contribution to EPF is optional.
Taxation on EPF: The EPF falls under the exempt-exempt and exempt tax (EET) regime. This implies that the annual contribution made by the employee is tax deductible up to Rs 1.5 lakh under Section 80C. The interest earned on it is also exempt. Further, there is no tax on the accumulated amount when it is withdrawn.
Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY): Under this scheme, the Government is paying 12 per cent of employer contribution to EPFO in respect of the new employees drawing salary up to Rs 15,000 per month for the first three years of their employment. The scheme has ended on 31st March 2019.
Recent Changes in EPF under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Package: The rate of EPF contribution of both employer and employee has been reduced to 10 percent from existing rate of 12 percent. The cut in EPF contribution was temporary and was applicable for the months of May, June and July 2020.
UPSC Current Affairs: Are there re-infection fears around COVID-19? - FAQ - Pg 12
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology
Sub theme: Working of Immunity | Re-infection of COVID |T and B Cells |UPSC
While the fear of COVID-19 re-infection has dogged discussion on the novel coronavirus, it was in late August that the first ‘confirmed’ case of re-infection was officially recorded. A 33-year-old Chinese male from Hong Kong reportedly caught his second infection during a trip to Europe, four-and-a-half months after he first tested positive for COVID-19. Post-testing, genomic sequencing made it clear that the first and second infection involved variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This seemed to rule out viral shedding or continuing infection from the first time. Subsequently, a case of re-infection in Nevada, U.S., was also similarly revelatory, thanks to viral genome sequencing.
Are these isolated cases?
While there is no doubt this finding is significant, scientists are still debating whether this comprises an isolated few cases or portends a larger batch of infections as the world opens up and global travel begins again. Questions about waning immunity and the viability of a vaccine itself are still not settled either.
What is immunity and how does it work?
- The human body’s immunity acts in two forms – 1. As innate, jumping to the task of protection immediately, and 2. Adaptive, meaning immunity acquired by the body in the process of surviving infection by pathogens, essentially over a period of time.
- In a piece in The New York Times, Yale immunologists Akiko Iwasaki and Ruslan Medzhitov explain that the adaptive immune system consists of two types of white blood cells, called T Cells and B Cells, that detect molecular details specific to the virus and, based on that, mount a targeted response to it.
- T cells detect and kill those infected cells. B cells make antibodies, a kind of protein that binds to the viral particles and blocks them from entering our cells; this prevents the replication of the virus and stops the infection in its tracks.
- T and B cells retain this memory and help the body fight the infection later. “Yet it is also the case that with other viruses the amount of antibodies in the blood peaks during an infection and drops after the infection has cleared, often within a few months.
- Waning Antibody does not mean waning Immunity - It’s a normal step in the usual course of an immune response. Nor does a waning antibody count mean waning immunity. The memory B cells that first produced those antibodies are still around, and standing ready to churn out new batches of antibodies on demand.”
What does it mean for the future?
- Reacting to the Hong Kong case, Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO said at a briefing: “There’s been more than 24 million cases reported to date… we need to look at something like this at a population level.”
- Researchers who studied the Hong Kong case themselves said in a publication in Clinical Infectious Diseases: “Our results suggest SARS-CoV-2 may continue to circulate among the human populations despite herd immunity due to natural infection or vaccination.
- Further studies of patients with re-infection will shed light on protective correlates important for vaccine design.” On its website, the WHO says it will continue to review the evidence on antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2.
UPSC Current Affairs: Science behind air-breathing scramjet engine– Pg 11
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science & Technology
Sub theme: Need of Scramjet Engines| Understanding Ramjet and Scramjet Engine| UPSC
Recently the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) flew a cruise vehicle at a hypersonic speed of Mach six for 20 seconds. The DRDO called the cruise vehicle Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV). The centrepiece of the HSTDV was the indigenously developed air-breathing scramjet engine, which formed the HSTDV’s propulsion system.
The critical technologies developed for the HSTDV mission were the scramjet engine and its ignition, among others like sustaining the ignition, ethylene fuel, development of materials to take care of the high temperatures that occurred due to air friction on the leading edges of the cruiser’s wings, and controlling the HSTDV with minimum drag and maximum thrust.
Need of Scramjet Engines
Presently, satellites are launched into orbit by multi-staged satellite launch vehicles that can be used only once (expendable). These launch vehicles carry oxidiser along with the fuel for combustion to produce thrust. Nearly 70% of the propellant (fuel-oxidiser combination) carried by launch vehicles consists of oxidiser. Launch vehicles designed for one time use are expensive and their efficiency is low because they can carry only 2-4% of their lift-off mass to orbit. Thus, there is a worldwide effort to reduce the launch cost.
Hence the next generation launch vehicles must use a propulsion system which can utilise the atmospheric oxygen during their flight through the atmosphere which will considerably reduce the total propellant required to place a satellite in orbit.
Ramjet and Scramjet and are the concepts of air-breathing engines which are being developed by various space agencies.
Understanding Ramjet and Scramjet Engine
- A ramjet is a form of air-breathing jet engine that uses the vehicle’s forward motion to compress incoming air for combustion without a rotating compressor. Fuel is injected in the combustion chamber where it mixes with the hot compressed air and ignites.
- A ramjet-powered vehicle requires assisted take-off like a rocket assist to accelerate it to a speed where it begins to produce thrust.
- Ramjets work most efficiently at supersonic speeds around Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) and can operate up to speeds of Mach 6.
- However, the ramjet efficiency starts to drop when the vehicle reaches hypersonic speeds.
- A scramjet engine is an improvement over the ramjet engine. Uniqueness about the scramjet technology is that it draws oxygen from the air when the rocket travels through the atmosphere. Ordinary rockets do the same. They also draw the oxygen from air but they use compressor to draw in air, compress and ignite to burn the fuel. the scramjet’s heating and compression is done by movement of rocket itself as it is moving at supersonic speed.
- Thus it is known as Supersonic Combustion Ramjet, or Scramjet.