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Space: The new travel destination?

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Astronauts who return home from space often comment on the spectacular view of Earth from space. With the advent of space tourism, you can now take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel beyond Earth, expanding your freedom to discover the unknown. Space tourism has allowed us to challenge the widely held belief that space is nothing but a vast expanse of emptiness that never ends. Continue reading to learn more about space tourism and its prospects.

What is space tourism?

Space tourism is another niche segment of the aviation industry that seeks to give tourists the ability to become astronauts and experience space travel for recreational, leisure, or business purposes. Space tourism is expected to solve the single most challenging problem holding up space settlement: safe and inexpensive transportation from Earth’s surface to Low Earth Orbit. 

How much does it cost to go to space?

Commercial space travel remains the realm of the mega-rich. The only market for humans-in-space capable of sustaining thousands of flights per year is tourism if the cost is in the $100,000 range or less. If the price is below $10,000, millions of flights can be supported. Seven tourists have travelled to the International Space Station (ISS) till now. The publicized price was in the range of US$20–25 million per trip.

Who will take you to space?

There are several options and aerospace companies out there available for space tourists like SpaceX and Axiom, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, NASA, Boeing Starline, Space Adventures, and Orion Span.

What does the future of space tourism look like?

In the coming decades, space tourism may result in a high number of people travelling to space. For the foreseeable future, space travel is likely to remain prohibitively expensive. It’s also physically gruelling. Therefore, it’ll only be open to those who pass fitness exams and go through training programmes in advance of their flight. 

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Starlink Broadband could soon go live in India

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Starlink Broadband, the satellite-internet company committed to providing high-speed internet connectivity to areas that aren’t connected to wired or wireless internet, could soon go live in 10 rural areas of India. 

While posting on LinkedIn, Starlink Country Director India, Sanjay Bhargava, said that they have more than 5000 pre-orders from India, with a “stretch target of 2,00,000 terminals active in India in December 2022”, subject to government approval.

While expanding on the subject in a release note, the company said, “​​The government approval process is complex. So far there is no application pending with the government, so the ball is in our court to apply for consideration which we are working on. Our approach will be to get pilot approval quickly if pan India approval will take long. We are optimistic that we will get approval for a pilot program or pan India approval in the next few months”.

Starlink’s plans take flight

Elon Musk also said the company was in talks with airlines about deploying Starlink on board, with users promised low latency half gigabit internet if the plans go through. It was unclear which airlines were contacted or when the installation would take place.  

These aren’t the first rumblings about this plan, with SpaceX Vice President Jonathan Hofeller signing from the same hymn sheet back in June. Hofeller remarked that SpaceX has already done some demonstrations of the technology, and it is looking to finalize the product in the near future, saying that, “Starlink provides a global mesh (so that) airlines flying underneath that global mesh have connectivity anywhere they go. Passengers and customers want a great experience that (geosynchronous satellite internet) systems simply cannot provide”. 

So far, SpaceX has launched 1,740 Starlink satellites, and the program currently has about 100,000 users in 14 countries, with plans to launch 12,000 satellites. 

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EVs: The Future of Human Mobility

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As Electric Vehicles (EV) are becoming increasingly popular every day, its market share is also expected to rise greatly. And the economic arguments for this are too strong to ignore; with India heavily dependent on oil imports, transitioning to EVs could help save $60 billion on oil imports by 2030. And the average consumer will be happy to migrate to EVs as well, with fuel prices crossing a century in most parts of the country. Widespread adoption could help consumers save an average of Rs. 20,000 for every 5,000 kilometres traversed, assuming electricity costs will hover around Rs. 1.1 per kilometer. 

Tata Motors is one of the foremost movers in the space, with an early mover advantage. The future looks promising for the leading automaker as the private equity group TPG along with ADQ of Abu Dhabi has agreed to invest in the EV division Rs 7500 crore ($1 billion), valuing the business at $9.1 billion. This most certainly helps the automobile arm of Tata to boost their EV footprint and market share.  

The new investors will be given Compulsorily Convertible Preference Shares (CCPS), which will give them an 11-15 percent ownership in the EV unit after 18 months of conversion, with Tata Motors owning the rest. The conversion will also be tied to certain revenue criteria that have been agreed upon. The first round of 50 percent capital infusion is planned to be finished by March 22, with the remaining funds infused by the end of 2022.  

Tata Motors has already announced plans to roll out 10 new battery electric vehicles in its domestic product portfolio by 2025. The company is also evaluating the creation of automotive software and  an engineering vertical within the Tata group that will help it lead in the sphere of connected and autonomous vehicles. 

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The rise of Electric Vehicles in India

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After the boom of Electric Vehicles (EVs) across the world, Indian businesses now seek Government support in order to meet their needs by 2030 i.e., 65% of vehicles in India to be electric. 

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) said that more than 25 companies, including automakers Mahindra & Mahindra and Volvo, oil giant Shell, and clean mobility startups, want India to set firm targets and frame policies to support the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). 

This is India’s first coordinated effort to transition to sustainable transportation, and it comes only weeks before the United Nations’ climate change summit, which is considered as critical to eliciting additional commitments from states to combat global warming. 

In recent months, India has approved plans to encourage companies to manufacture electric vehicles and batteries in the country, boosting supply and complementing a bevy of federal and state incentives for EV purchasers. 

According to the WBCSD, by 2030, companies want 30% of new automobiles, 70% of new motorcycles and scooters, and 35% of new buses to be electric. They want the government to legalize e-bike taxi services, issue fleet permits for electric three-wheelers, make financing and leasing alternatives for electric cars more accessible, and expedite the construction of public chargers in order to achieve this. 

JBM Group of India, Hero Electric Motorcycles, Switch Mobility, Fortum Energy, IKEA, and LeasePlan are among the companies supporting the project. 

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