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Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

[oped of the day] One Step Forward, two steps back for telecom sectorop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Telecom sector - policy issues


Context

Policy uncertainty is not good for investment. Despite that caution, the Indian telecom sector has been the beneficiary of vast amounts of investments from both domestic and foreign sources. 

Telecom sector

    • Investment – The magnitude of foreign investment in the telecom sector since the 1995 liberalization stands at $40 billion.
    • Policy – The National Telecom Policy (NTP) of 1994 acknowledged for the first time the need to create a world-class telecommunications infrastructure, and the centrality of private investment to achieve. 

Regulator

    • Inviting private investment without an independent regulator was flawed thinking. 
    • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had also devised a regime that was skewed in its favour and was essentially anti-private sector. 
    • Litigation became the norm. Eventually, the Supreme Court pronounced that private investments cannot happen without a regulator. 
    • Excessive and severe discord between DoT and TRAI  led to litigation, which in turn prompted the government to dissolve TRAI and its adjudicatory powers were given to a special tribunal for telecom, TDSAT, which came into being in 2000.

Spectrum

    • Spectrum assignment has been another instance of policy uncertainty. Until 2001, the spectrum was assigned through auctions via a contrived administrative procedure linked to subscribers. 
    • This created perverse incentives to game the system during 2003-08. 
    • The more subscribers you could show on your network, the more spectrum you were awarded. 
    • Certain operators inflated subscribers to gain spectrum. Others lobbied to jump the queue when the first-come, first-served criterion was selected as the assignment method. 
    • The Supreme Court came down on the impropriety in assigning spectrum and cancelled 122 telecom licences in 2012. 
    • It justified its judicial overreach in the larger public interest and pronounced that assigning spectrum to be done through an auction. 
    • Auctions continue to be the norm today and have become a millstone around the sectors neck.

Licence fees

    • The definition of sector revenue is linked to licence fees. 
    • Because telecom operators have to pay a percentage of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to the government as licence fee, its accurate calculation is of vital importance. 
    • Its genesis dates back to 1999 when the market contributed to the exaggerated bids by new entrants.
    • Unable to honour their bids, operators were granted a migration package in which licence fee became a percentage of revenue. 
    • The deal has now become a bone of contention between DoT and operators. 
    • The department contends that for AGR calculations all revenues earned by operators must be included. Operators reason that AGR should only include revenue from telecom services. 
    • The Supreme court had sided with DoT creating a $19 billion burden on the sector. 

Way ahead

    • The endless litigation reflects an institutional malaise and deep trust deficit between the private and public sectors.
    • Unless we resolve this, telecom will not live up to its promise and will impair our digital future.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD, etc

[op-ed snap] A deeper darkop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Moody's downgrade


Context

Data from the National Statistics Office showed that industrial production contracted by 4.3% in September — the lowest in the current series.

IIP movement

    • Over the course of the entire second quarter, the IIP has contracted by 0.4% after growing by 3% in the previous quarter. 
    • Of the 23 sub-sectors within manufacturing, 17 contracted in September.
    • This suggests that the contraction is deeper and more widespread. 
    • The worsening performance of the consumer durables, as well as the non-durables segment, is indicative of subdued household demand.
    • The capital goods segment contracted by 16.8% in the second quarter, indicating that investment activity continues to be depressed.

What it signifies

    • Data from the Controller General of Accounts shows that government spending picked up pace significantly after the Union budget was presented.
    • This wouldn’t have been enough to offset the subdued performance of other sectors. 
    • Various high-frequency indicators suggested that economic activity has slowed down considerably over the past few months. Growth may come in the 5% mark in the quarter. 
    • Even the government spending will not be available due to pressure on its own finances.
    • Transfers from the RBI can only partially offset the shortfall in both direct and indirect tax collections.
    • Even the disinvestment receipts remain well below the budgeted target.
    • Cuts in government spending are likely going forward, thus further accentuating the slowdown. 

Moody’s

    • Reflecting this deteriorating economic situation, Moody’s changed its outlook on India’s rating from stable to negative.
    • They cited increased risks that the country’s economic growth will remain “materially lower than in the past.”

Way ahead

    • Towards the end of this year, the headline growth numbers may pick up once the base effect kicks in. 
    • It would be a mistake to construe this as a sign of a recovery. 
    • The government needs to address multiple issues plaguing the economy. Along with measures to boost long-term potential growth, comprehensive measures are needed to address the stress in specific sectors such as telecom, real estate, and the financial system.
Swachh Bharat Mission

[op-ed snap] Swachh Bharat: Urban areas require a different approach to end open defecationop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Swachh Bharat

Mains level : Analysis of Swachh Bharat Urban in the background of Rural


Context

The Swachh Bharat Mission is being executed by two different ministries — the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation for rural areas and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs for urban areas.

Swachh Bharat – challenges

    • In rural areas, the major challenge was to change the mindset of the populace.
    • As the majority of the households did not have toilets in their homes, the main component of Swachh Bharat Mission was to construct household latrines and focus on IEC activities.
    • The need for a dedicated sewerage network is less in rural areas as the toilets are connected with in-house soak pits.
    • Domestic waste in rural areas is also managed in a much better manner as it is segregated at the household level and a majority of it is used in the fields.
    • Improving the cleanliness level in a rural area is much less complex than in an urban setup.

Swachh Bharat – Urban

    • An urban area faces two major challenges — disposal of solid waste and sewage/liquid waste.
    • Disposal of solid waste has three key components: Waste collection, transfer of the waste, and proper disposal at the landfill site.
    • The task of waste collection and its transfer to the landfill site requires both manpower as well as an efficient transportation system. 
    • The segregation of waste can either be at the source or at the landfill. Segregation at source is more economical.
    • At the landfill, it is done by either using high-end segregation plants or manual conveyors.

Challenges of SB(U): Disposal

    • Disposal of solid waste is primarily the responsibility of municipalities.
    • These municipalities are not equipped with the manpower, financial resources, and technology for the task. 
    • Most of them are dependent upon the state governments for resources. 
    • These municipalities do not have sufficient human resources in terms of engineers or sanitation staff to manage the waste. 
    • Landfill site management is very poor due to a lack of technical know-how.

Managing sewage

    • Merely constructing toilets cannot solve the problem as these areas require proper sewerage network. 
    • The soak pit system that works in rural areas cannot work in urban areas due to a space crunch and increasing population density. 
    • The job of laying the sewerage network is again distributed between the state’s public health engineering department and the municipalities.

Limitations of SB(U)

    • Its main focus is on the construction of individual household toilets, community toilets, public urinals and IEC activities. 
    • The funds earmarked for solid waste management are minimal. 
    • There is a limited provision of funds for laying the sewerage networks. 
    • The strategy used for Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) will not yield results in the urban mission.

Way ahead

    • There is a need for revamping the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) wherein the focus is on solid waste and sewer management. 
    • Recurring funds must be provided for the collection of waste and its disposal. 
    • A window may be given to municipalities for upgrading their capabilities to augment their revenue collection. 
    • Separate funds must be given for the development of landfill sites.
    • Best possible practices for waste collection across key cities must be studied and emulated.

Conclusion

    • Adopting a piecemeal approach for constructing toilets and litter bins will not solve the systemic issue of waste disposal in cities.
    • Unless we are able to lift the waste from the streets systematically, cleanliness will not have any meaning.
    • The success of the Swachh Bharat Mission depends also on changing the way waste is disposed of by the municipalities and the state governments.
Judicial Reforms

CJI’s office comes under ambit of RTI Act, SC saysSC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Public Office, RTI Act

Mains level : Read the attached story


The office of the Chief Justice of India is a public authority and falls under the ambit of Right to Information Act, the Supreme Court ruled today.

What’s the issue?

  • The five-judge bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justices N V Ramana, D Y Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna passed the judgment on an appeal filed by the Supreme Court administration.
  • The appeal challenged the 2010 order of the Delhi high court which held that the CJI’s office comes under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
  • Oppositions to the plea had contended that courts had time and again given a slew of directions to infuse transparency in the functioning of various institutions.
  • The bench had agreed that there should be transparency, but added there was a need to do balancing.

Who is a “Public Authority”?

In 2011, the Punjab-Haryana High Court while deciding on 24 civil writ petitions against the Central/State Information Commissioners had held that if any person, or body, satisfies the following conditions then it would “squarely fall within the ambit and scope of definition of ‘public authorities'” and would be “legally required to impart the indicated information as envisaged under the RTI Act” –

  • the institution cannot come into existence and function unless registered and regulated by the provisions of a legislation; or
  • the State Government has some degree of control over it through the medium of Acts/Rules; or
  • it is substantially financed by means of funds provided directly, or indirectly, by the appropriate Government; or
  • the mandate and command of the provisions of the RTI Act along with its Preamble, aims, objects and regime extends to their public dealing; or
  • the larger public interest and totality of the other facts and circumstances emanating from the records suggest that such information may be disclosed.

The Delhi High Court order

  • In a landmark verdict on January 10, 2010, the Delhi High Court had held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes within the ambit of the RTI law.
  • It said that the judicial independence was not a judge’s privilege, but a responsibility cast upon him.
  • The 88-page judgment was then seen as a personal setback to the then CJI, KG Balakrishnan, who has been opposed to disclosure of information relating to judges under the RTI Act.

RTI < < Judiciary

  • The apex court said that the right to privacy and confidentiality is an important aspect and has to be balanced while taking a decision on giving out information from the CJI’s office.
  • The CJI-led bench added that transparency cannot be allowed to run counter to right to privacy.
  • The bench said that the information commissioner must apply test of proportionality while entertaining applications seeking information from the CJI’s office.
  • However it must keep in mind right to privacy and independence of judiciary.
President’s Rule

Explained: President’s Rule in MaharashtraPriority 1SC Judgements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : President's Rule

Mains level : SR Bommai Judgment


While recommending President’s Rule in Maharashtra, Governor noted that a situation has arisen when the formation of a stable government is not possible even 15 days after the election results had been declared.

What’s the issue?

  • It has been argued that governor’s decision is based on “objective material” and not on a political whim or fancy, if one goes by the Supreme Court verdict in the 1994 S.R. Bommai case.

President’s Rule

  • President’s rule is the suspension of state government and imposition of direct central government rule in a state.

How it is imposed?

  • President’s Rule implies the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre.
  • This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers.
  • Under Article 356, this move can be taken “(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution…”

How long President’s Rule can last

  • A proclamation of President’s Rule can be revoked through a subsequent proclamation in case the leader of a party produces letters of support from a majority of members of the Assembly, and stakes his claim to form a government.
  • The revocation does not need the approval of Parliament.
  • Any proclamation under Article 356 —which stands for six months — has to be approved by both Houses in the Parliament session following it.
  • This six-month time-frame can be extended in phases, up to three years.

The S.R. Bommai Case

  • R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) was a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, where the Court discussed at length provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues.
  • The judgement attempted to curb blatant misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution of India, which allowed President’s rule to be imposed over state governments.
  • Article 356 (1) has been deliberately drafted in a narrow language by the Founding Fathers so that political parties in the Centre does not misuse it to subvert federalism, it had noted.
  • The expression used in the Article is ‘if the President is satisfied”, the court had observed.
  • In other words, the President has to be convinced of or should have sufficient proof of information with regard to or has to be free from doubt or uncertainty about the state of things indicating that the situation in question has arisen.
  • The court had stated that although the sufficiency or otherwise of the material cannot be questioned, the legitimacy of inference drawn from such material is “certainly open to judicial review”.

What it directed?

  • The judgment had explained that in a multi-party political system, chances are high that the political parties in the Centre and the State concerned may not be the same.
  • Article 356 cannot be used for the purpose of political one-upmanship by the Centre.
  • Hence there is a need to confine the exercise of power under Article 356[1] strictly to the situation mentioned therein which is a condition precedent to the said exercise,” the court had said.

Conditions for Prez Rule

  • Where after general elections to the assembly, no party secures a majority, that is, Hung Assembly.
  • Where the party having a majority in the assembly declines to form a ministry and the governor cannot find a coalition ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a ministry resigns after its defeat in the assembly and no other party is willing or able to form a ministry commanding a majority in the assembly.
  • Where a constitutional direction of the Central government is disregarded by the state government.
  • Internal subversion where, for example, a government is deliberately acting against the Constitution and the law or is fomenting a violent revolt.
  • Physical breakdown where the government willfully refuses to discharge its constitutional obligations endangering the security of the state.

Fouling factors

The imposition of President’s Rule in a state would be improper under the following situations:

  • Where a ministry resigns or is dismissed on losing majority support in the assembly and the governor recommends imposition of President’s Rule without probing the possibility of forming an alternative ministry.
  • Where the governor makes his own assessment of the support of a ministry in the assembly and recommends imposition of President’s Rule without allowing the ministry to prove its majority on the floor of the Assembly.
  • Where the ruling party enjoying majority support in the assembly has suffered a massive defeat in the general elections to the Lok Sabha such as in 1977 and 1980.
  • Internal disturbances not amounting to internal subversion or physical breakdown.
  • Maladministration in the state or allegations of corruption against the ministry or stringent financial exigencies of the state.
  • Where the state government is not given prior warning to rectify itself except in case of extreme urgency leading to disastrous consequences.
  • Where the power is used to sort out intra-party problems of the ruling party, or for a purpose extraneous or irrelevant to the one for which it has been conferred by the Constitution.

Similar precedents

  • This is not the first time President’s Rule has been imposed following an election that did not lead to government formation.
  • For instance, no party could mobilise a majority in the Bihar Assembly following elections in February 2005.
  • President’s Rule, which was imposed on March 7, 2005, lasted 262 days until November 24 . It was lifted after fresh elections in October-November.
  • A hung verdict in the J&K elections of 2002 led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 15 days, from October 18 to November 2 that year.
  • In the UP Assembly elections of 2002, no party could secure a majority. This led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 56 days, from March 3 to to May 2, 2002.
Economic Indicators-GDP, FD, etc

Base Year in GDP CalculationsPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Base Year

Mains level : National income accounting


At a time when India is facing an economic slowdown in GDP growth the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation announced that the new base year for the GDP series will be decided in a few months.

What is Base Year?

  • The base year of the national accounts is chosen to enable inter-year comparisons.
  • It gives an idea about changes in purchasing power and allows calculation of inflation-adjusted growth estimates.
  • The last series has changed the base to 2011-12 from 2004-05.
  • The base year is a benchmark with reference to which the national account figures such as gross domestic product (GDP), gross domestic saving, gross capital formation are calculated.

How is a base year calculated?

  • In India, the first estimates of national income were published by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) in 1956 taking 1948-49 as the base year.
  • With the gradual improvement in availability of data, the methodology was revised.
  • Earlier, CSO depended on the population figures in the National Census to estimate the workforce in the economy.
  • Therefore, the base year always coincided with the census figures like 1970-71, 1980-81 etc.
  • Subsequently, CSO decided that the National Sample Survey (NSS) figures on the workforce size were more accurate and hence, the base year would change every five years when the NSS conducted such survey.
  • This system was started from 1999 when the base year was revised from 1980-81 to 1993-94.

Why need it?

  • The base year prices are termed as at constant prices. This reduces all the data to a comparable benchmark, base year price.
  • The base year is a representative year which must not experience any abnormal incidents such as droughts, floods, earthquakes etc.
  • It is a which is reasonably proximate to the year for which the national accounts statistics are being calculated.

Why is the base year changed every few years?

  • The base year has to be revised periodically in order to reflect the structural changes taking place within an economy, such as increasing share of services in GDP.
  • The more frequently the base year can be updated, the more accurate the statistics will be.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Lancet report on premature deaths in IndiaDOMR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DALY,

Mains level : Major causes of deaths in India



An analysis published in The Lancet Global Health, which looked at about 9.7 million deaths in India in 2017, found that every condition that was common in one part of India was uncommon elsewhere.

About the study

  • The study is funded by the Ministry of Heath and Family Welfare.
  • It included authors from the Indian Council of Medical Research, and from the global health research wings of the University of Toronto and University of California, San Francisco.

Highlights

YLLs (years of life lost)

  • By the WHO definition, YLLs, or years of life lost, are calculated from the number of deaths multiplied by a standard life expectancy at the age of death.
  • Premature deaths due to various causes expressed as YLLs, too were unevenly distributed in terms of the burden on the states.
  • For example, liver and alcohol-related YLL rates were high in the northeastern states, Bihar, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, accounting for 18% of national YLLs.

DALYs (disability-adjusted life years)

  • In 2017, India had 486 million DALYs (disability-adjusted life years, a measure of the number of years lost due to ill health or disability).
  • The ratio of DALYs to the 9.7 million deaths was about 50 to 1.
  • More than three quarters of deaths and DALYs occurred in rural areas, and males accounted for 54·3% of all DALYs.
  • At all ages, the DALY rate per 100 000 population was 36,300, but rates were higher among rural residents and among males.
  • DALY rates in rural areas were at least twice those of urban areas for certain conditions.

Deaths due to various reasons

  • The Northeastern states, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh account for 44% of India’s cancer burden.
  • Suicide YLL rates were highest in the southern states, accounting for 15% of national totals.
  • Road traffic injuries were high in the northern states of UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, accounting for 33% of national totals.
  • Drowning YLL rates, meanwhile, were highest in the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and in Assam in the Northeast, accounting for 11% of national totals.
BRICS Summits

BRICS Summit in BrazilIOCR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BRICS

Mains level : Significance of BRICS for India



PM has left for Brazil to attend the 11th BRICS Summit.

What is BRICS?

  • BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is convened annually. It does not exist in form of organization, but it is an annual summit between the supreme leaders of five nations.

Its inception

  • On November 30, 2001, Jim O’Neill, a British economist who was then chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, coined the term ‘BRIC’ to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
  • He made a case for BRIC on the basis of econometric analyses projecting that the four economies would individually and collectively occupy far greater economic space and become among the world’s largest economies in the next 50 years or so.

Formation

  • The grouping was formalized during the first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers on the margins of the UNGA in New York in September 2006.
  • The first BRIC Summit took place in 2009 in the Russian Federation and focused on issues such as reform of the global financial architecture.

Members

  • South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS. South Africa subsequently attended the Third BRICS Summit in Sanya, China, in March 2011.
  • The Chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S.
  • BRICS now brings together five economies accounting for 42% of the world’s population, 23% of the global GDP and an around 17% share of world trade.
  • The five BRICS countries are also members of G-20

Where does India stand amongst BRICS?

  • Eighteen years later, India finds itself as one of the emerging economies in the grouping and beyond, especially
  • As PM Modi attends the 11th BRICS Summit in Brasilia, his sixth since he assumed office in 2014, it will be the beginning of what New Delhi sees as the “second cycle” of BRICS.
  • From the Indian perspective, BRICS has emerged the voice of developing countries, or the global south.
  • As these countries face an aggressive club of developed countries, raising challenges on issues from WTO to climate change, India believes BRICS has to protect the rights of the developing countries.
  • Also, India has to maintain the balancing act between Russia-China on the one side and the US on the other.

India’s successes

  • The fact that BRICS has put counter-terrorism on top of the agenda has been a success for India.
  • That was evident in the BRICS Summit in Xiamen in September 2017, with China as the chair.
  • The fact that it was achieved, despite the strained ties due to the standoff in Doklam, was a testimony to the value Beijing and New Delhi attach to the outcomes of the grouping.
  • On the question of multilateralism, India has articulated a vision for strengthening and reforming the multilateral system itself.
  • When India calls for multilateralism, it is not a call to reinforce the status quo of multilateralism but to reform it since this is what BRICS had originally set out to do.

Conclusion

  • The Summit will be an opportunity for India to lay the groundwork for hosting the 2021 Summit scheduled in India.
  • The last Summit took place in Goa in 2016.
  • India will also be mindful of the fact that the G20 Summit to be hosted in India will take place in 2022, and this will be an opportunity to synergise the two agendas from New Delhi’s lens as well.
  • South Block views this summit as a potential for cooperation, as the leaders have more in common than their predecessors.
Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[pib] International Seed TreatyPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Seed Treaty

Mains level : Intellectual property rights of farmers



A session of the Governing Body of International Treaty of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) better known as Seed Treaty is recently held.

About the Seed Treaty

  • ITPGRFA also known as Seed Treaty is a comprehensive international agreement for ensuring food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world’s plant genetic resources.
  • It aims for food and agriculture (PGRFA), as well as the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from its use.
  • The governing body meets biennially and India is a signatory to the treaty.

Objectives

  • Farmers’ Contribution: To recognize the contribution of farmers to the diversity of crops,
  • Access and Benefit Sharing: Establish a global system to provide farmers, plant breeders and scientists with access to plant genetic materials,
  • Sustainability: To conserve and sustainably use plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Back2Basics

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act

  • The PPV&FR Act, 2001 was enacted to grant intellectual property rights to plant breeders, researchers and farmers who have developed any new or extant plant varieties.
  • The rights granted under this Act are exclusive right to produce, sell, market, distribute, import and export the variety.
  • According to the act, a farmer is entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 except the brand name.
  • The Act is compliant to Article-9 of the Seed Treaty.
  • A few months back in April 2019, PepsiCo sued Gujarati farmers by invoking the provisions of the act.
  • The PPV&FR Authority has registered about 3631 plant varieties out of which 1597 (44%) belong to the farmers.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

X-57 Maxwell: NASA’s first electric planePrelims Only

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : X-57 Maxwell

Mains level : Significance of the aircraft for the space missions



  • NASA unveiled its first all-electric experimental aircraft X-57 Maxwell which was being developed since 2015.

Maxwell

  • The Maxwell is the latest in a line of experimental aircraft the NASA.
  • It has been developed over many decades for many purposes, including the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 that first broke the sound barrier and the X-15 rocket plane flown by Neil Armstrong before he joined the Apollo moon team.
  • The two largest of 14 electric motors that will ultimately propel the plane are powered by specially designed lithium ion batteries.
  • The Maxwell will be the agency’s first crewed X-plane to be developed in two decades.
  • The lift propellers will be activated for take-off and landings, but retract during the flight’s cruise phase.

What makes it significant?

  • Electric motor systems are more compact with fewer moving parts than internal-combustion engines, they are simpler to maintain and weigh much less, requiring less energy to fly.
  • They also are quieter that conventional engines.