HAMNET Report 8th August 2021

The drama for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in refugee camps in Bangladesh continues as heavy monsoon rains battered Cox’s Bazar, in the Chittagong Division of south-eastern Bangladesh, over the last 10 days.

At least 21 people have died and over 21,000 refugees have been displaced. There has been extensive damage to refugee shelters, roads, primary health clinics, distribution points and latrines. International agencies and DG ECHO’s humanitarian partners are supporting the affected population, but damaged roads, flooding, and risks of landslides are hindering response efforts. There are concerns surrounding the risk of water-borne diseases and of course COVID-19.

Moderate rainfall with strong winds was forecast over Cox’s Bazar district again for Thursday and Friday.

Andy Tomaswick, writing in Universetoday.com last week, notes that the robotic arms of the ISS are some of its most useful tools.  The arms, designed by Canadian and Japanese space agencies, have been instrumental in ferrying around astronauts and shepherding modules to one side of the ISS.  However, the Russian segment lacked its own robotic arm – until a new one designed by ESA was launched last week.

The European Robotic Arm (ERA) arrived at the ISS on July 29th along with Nauka, the Laboratory Module to which it is attached.  With the help of 5 expected space walks, the arm will soon be commissioned and will start on its first tasks – getting Nauka’s airlock up and running so it can become a permanent part of the station, and installing a large radiator to help handle the increased cooling load of the station.

As part of those projects, ERA will get to show off its skills.  Those include acting like an inchworm, moving hand over hand around the Nauka module.  In addition, it is the first arm to be controllable from either inside or outside the station, and that control will allow astronauts and cosmonauts to move up to 8000 kg to within 5mm of a desired location.

In fact, that level of accuracy doesn’t even need to be manually controlled – the ERA is autonomous and can run strictly off written step-by-step commands.  Its seven degrees of freedom and 9.7 metre reach allow it to access even outside its home module.  Made of carbon fibre and aluminium, it is also strong enough to handle the wear and tear of space, and hopefully the impacts of debris that have affected other arms.

Such impressive specifications took a lot of effort – 14 years of development from 22 companies spread over seven European countries.  But it is part of a larger push to translate the ISS into a more commercially friendly space, with additional research bays, upgraded data links, and external research platforms.

ESA’s plan is to make the ISS relevant at its “mid-life” with the Columbus 2023 programme to perform novel experiments and tests on the station that would be impossible Earth-side.  The ERA is certainly a step in that direction, and the upgrades it will enable should make the ISS an increasingly important place to do research.

Now, a nice story from North Yorkshire, where a lifelong dream came true for a 98-year-old World War veteran when he took to the skies above North Yorkshire in a hot air balloon.

Ron Shelley, who is a resident at a Care Home in York, confided to staff that he would dearly love to take to the skies to mark his 99th birthday next month, so they set about making it happen.

Ron, who supported the D-Day landings 77-years-ago, was delighted when staff revealed the surprise.

On Monday he flew over the glorious North Yorkshire countryside with his son, Peter, after launching from York Racecourse.

He said: “I thought it would be a thrilling one-off experience, a once in a life-time trip, so I’m seizing the chance while I still can.”

During the Second World War, Ron was a wireless operator. He was sent to France six days after D-Day in 1944, aged just 22 and was involved in sending out false missives to “confound and confuse” the enemy.

Ron explains: “It worked.

“My dummy messages, which I sent from a radio truck, led the enemy to believe that there was a whole division of 3,000 men, too many to take on, so they didn’t attack.”

He was also involved with the famous Battle of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Ron, who also spent time at Catterick Garrison, left the Army as a Sergeant, receiving a number of medals in recognition of his immense bravery.

He has enjoyed a life full of travel and adventure with army postings all over the world and continued his passion for radio as an amateur radio enthusiast.

During a posting to Hong Kong, he was in contact with the famed HMS Amethyst, which was caught up in the Chinese Civil War, the story behind the film The Yangtze Incident.

Thanks to Alexa Fox writing in the Northern Echo for these excerpts from her report.

Good news for DX’ers is that the Bouvet Island DXpedition may almost be on again, with DXpedition co-leader Paul Ewing, N6PSE, noting this week that a new charter vessel contract is in the offing. Braveheart captain Nigel Jolly, K6NRJ, had told the DXpedition in June that the Braveheart was being put up for sale, and he was cancelling its contract for the 3Y0J voyage.

Ewing said this week that the team has found a suitable and affordable vessel whose skipper is willing to take a group of a dozen DXers to Bouvet, and they are negotiating the terms of that charter contract at present.

“We have submitted a new application to the Norwegian Polar Institute,” Ewing said. The team leadership has been revised. David Jorgensen, WD5COV, will be a co-leader, responsible for operations and antennas, while Kevin Rowett, K6TD, will be a co-leader, responsible for systems/networks, procurement, and logistics, and Ewing as a third co-leader, will oversee planning, public relations, tents, and logistics.

A dependency of Norway, Bouvet is a sub-Antarctic volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean and number two on the DX most wanted list, after North Korea.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.