(BBC News) – Grandchildren win India royal Gayatri Devi’s riches


  • Maharani Gayatri Devi,Image copyrightAFP
Image captionGayatri Devi was one of the last queens of India

The grandchildren of one of the last queens of India have won a long legal battle to inherit her properties.

Gayatri Devi, once described as one of the most beautiful women in the world, died in July 2009 at the age of 90.

The fashion icon and former MP was the third wife of the maharajah of Jaipur, in northern India.

Her stepchildren had challenged her will in court, arguing that she had been “misguided” by her grandchildren in the later stages of her life.

Her death sparked a court battle over her fortune – including palaces that now operate as luxury hotels – which the local media estimated at between $200m (£130m) and $400m.

Gayatri Devi’s death triggered a showdown between her grandchildren, Devraj Singh and Lalitya Kumari, and other descendents of the former maharajah.

According to her will, her two grandchildren would be the sole inheritors of her properties.

But her step children argued that she made the will when she was elderly, frail and unable to talk properly, and that they should have a share of the estate.

In this picture taken 26 January 1961 Britain's Queen Elizabeth (C) and Prince Philip (L) pose with the Maharaja (4L) and Maharani (5R) of Jaipur after a tiger shoot in Jaipur. The grandchildren of one of India's most famous former royals -- once one of the world's most beautiful women -- have dragged her to court demanding a share of the family fortune, a report said 28 July 2006Image copyrightAFP
Image captionGayatri Dev (fifth from right) broke with tradition by becoming an MP. She is pictured here next to the Queen and Prince Philip (left) in 1961

On Wednesday the Supreme Court upheld an earlier judgement by the Delhi High Court in favour of the grandchildren, saying they had been deprived of their rightful share in the properties.

“All these years my sister and I have only been asking for our father’s shares in the family company and nothing beyond that,” AFP news agency quoted Devraj Singh as saying after the ruling.

“Finally, I am one step further to be able to do my various duties towards my ancestral land.”

Gayatri Devi supported education for women, and founded a prestigious school in Jaipur, which is now the capital of Rajasthan state.

She broke with tradition by winning election to parliament in 1962 and was re-elected twice.


(CNN) – Blast in explosives building in India kills dozens – 

People gather around the site of a deadly explosion in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on Saturday.

Story highlights

  • The building was part residential and part commercial
  • A tenant was keeping licensed explosives there
  • The exact cause of the blast is under investigation

New Delhi (CNN)At least 89 people were killed and scores injured when a building that housed mining explosives blew up in central India on Saturday, a state office reported.

Some of the injured are in critical condition, according to the chief minister’s office in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

The building in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district was part commercial and part residential, police superintendent G.G. Pandey said.

A tenant was storing licensed mining explosives, police said. A fire may have triggered the blast, but an inquiry has been ordered to determine the exact cause, Pandey said.

Some of the dead included customers at an adjacent restaurant. The impact of the blast was also felt across the road, where a few other houses also suffered damage, police said.

About 100 people were injured, said Arun Sharma, Jhabua’s chief medical officer.

Source: Blast in explosives building in India kills dozens – CNN.com

(spaceflightnow.com) – British satellites set to ride Indian rocket into space

The PSLV’s second stage is hoisted onto the rocket during stacking operations at the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast. Credit: ISRO

India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is set for liftoff Friday with five satellites built in Britain to look down on Earth and test a solar sail’s ability to clean up space junk.

The PSLV is counting down for launch at 1628 GMT (12:28 p.m. EDT) Friday from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India’s east coast, where liftoff is timed for 9:58 p.m. local time.

India’s workhorse launcher, first developed more than 20 years ago, will make its 30th flight Friday, aiming to delivery its five satellite payloads to an orbit 647 kilometers — 402 miles — above Earth.

Three Earth observing satellites made by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., or SSTL, are the main passengers on Friday’s launch. The spacecraft are the fruits of a 2011 deal inked between Chinese and UK companies worth approximately $170 million to provide high-resolution satellite imagery of China’s growing cities.

The trio of satellites are part of the so-called DMC3 constellation, and together the three platforms can image the same place on Earth daily, according to SSTL officials.

The DMC3 satellites were manufactured under contract to DMC International Imaging, or DMCii, a subsidiary of SSTL. DMCii coordinates a network of Earth observation satellites owned operators based in the UK, China, Spain and Nigeria for commercial imagery sales and humanitarian emergencies.

The acronym DMC stands for Disaster Monitoring Constellation, and DMCii is based in Guildford, near SSTL’s headquarters.

DMCii ordered the three new satellites after it struck a deal with Beijing-based 21AT, which sells imagery to the Chinese government to monitor urban growth, land and water resources, pollution and natural disasters. Under the terms of the agreement, 21AT is leasing 100 percent of the imaging capacity of the three DMC3 satellites over their seven-year design lifetimes, while DMCii will own and operate the spacecraft.

Officials said the structure of the deal gives 21AT access to high-resolution imagery without the complexity of flying its own satellites.

Each DMC3 spacecraft weighs 447 kilograms, or 985 pounds, at liftoff and uses an electric xenon-fueled propulsion system for attitude control and orbital maneuvers.

Once the satellites are in space, ground controllers will spread the spacecraft 120 degrees apart along a single orbital plane. Together, the satellites will observe up to a million square kilometers — nearly 400,000 square miles — per day by pointing up to 45 degrees off their ground tracks to image targets, SSTL officials said.

The satellites carry electro-optical cameras with one-meter (3.3-foot) resolution in black-and-white mode, the highest-resolution Earth observing spacecraft ever built by SSTL.

Another SSTL spacecraft, known only by the acronym CBNT-1, is also mounted aboard the PSLV rocket for Friday’s launch. According to a press kit released by the Indian Space Research Organization, CBNT-1 weighs 91 kilograms — 200 pounds — and will test Earth imaging technologies.

Photos posted on ISRO’s website show CBNT-1 as a cube-shaped spacecraft.

A small shoebox-sized CubeSat named DeorbitSail is the fifth UK-made spacecraft on Friday’s PSLV flight.

Funded through a grant by the European Commission, DeorbitSail is packed with four Kapton solar sail membranes that will deploy once the satellite is in orbit to cover an area of up to 16 square meters, or 172 square feet.

The DeorbitSail project is led by the Surrey Space Center at the University of Surrey, and its goal is to prove solar sails can hasten a satellite’s descent from orbit by creating drag from solar light pressure.

Proponents of solar sail technology often point to it as a way to explore the solar system by using solar photons, or light particles, to propel spacecraft to tremendous speeds. The same technique could pull old satellites from space back into the atmosphere, helping rid orbital pathways of space debris.

Officials expect it will take about six months for the CubeSat’s solar sail to bring DeorbitSail into the atmosphere for a destructive re-entry.

ISRO’s launch press kit says the five satellites weight 1,440 kilograms, or 3,174 pounds, making the payload the heaviest commercial package ever sent into orbit by PSLV. DMCii booked the PSLV launch with Antrix Corp., the government-owned commercial sales arm of ISRO.

Friday’s flight will be the ninth launch of a souped-up version of the PSLV with six enlarged strap-on solid rocket boosters. The 14-story rocket will blast off with a peak power of 2 million pounds of thrust and initially turn southeast, then veer south in a safety measure to keep from flying over Sri Lanka.

It will take about 19 minutes to release all five satellites into orbit. ISRO has published a timeline of the mission:

T+plus 0: The PSLV’s solid-fueled first stage ignites, followed less than one second later by ignition of four of the rocket’s six solid rocket boosters.
T+plus 25 seconds: The PSLV’s other two solid rocket boosters ignite at an altitude of 2,680 meters, or nearly 8,800 feet.
T+plus 1 minute, 10 seconds: The PSLV’s four ground-lit solid rocket boosters burn out and jettison in pairs.
T+plus 1 minute, 32 seconds: The PSLV’s two air-lit solid rocket boosters burn out and jettison at an altitude of 47 kilometers, or about 155,000 feet.
T+plus 1 minute, 50 seconds: The PSLV’s first stage burns out and jettisons, and the hydrazine-fueled Vikas second stage engine fires.
T+plus 1 minute, 55 seconds: The PSLV initiates closed loop guidance.
T+plus 2 minutes, 34 seconds: The 3.2-meter, or 10.5-foot, diameter aluminum payload fairing jettisons once the PSLV flys above the dense lower atmosphere.
T+plus 4 minutes, 22 seconds: The PSLV’s Vikas engine shuts down and the second stage separates at the conclusion of its burn at an altitude of 231 kilometers, or about 144 miles.
T+plus 4 minutes, 23 seconds: The PSLV’s third stage solid-fueled motor begins a 112-second burn.
T+plus 6 minutes, 15 seconds: The PSLV’s third stage motor burns out, and the rocket begins a coast phase.
T+plus 8 minutes, 37 seconds: The PSLV’s third stage separates from the fourth stage.
T+plus 8 minutes, 47 seconds: The PSLV’s fourth stage, powered by two hydrazine-fueled engines, ignites to propel the DMC3, CBNT-1 and DeorbitSail spacecraft into orbit.
T+plus 17 minutes, 19 seconds: The fourth stage shuts down after achieving a circular target orbit with an altitude of 647 kilometers, or 402 miles, and an inclination of 98.06 degrees.
T+plus 17 minutes, 57 seconds: The three 447-kilogram (985-pound) DMC3 satellites deploy from the PSLV’s multi-payload adapter.
T+plus 18 minutes, 36 seconds: The experimental DeorbitSail CubeSat is released from its canister atop the PSLV’s fourth stage.
T+plus 19 minutes, 16 seconds: The 91-kilogram (200-pound) CBNT-1 Earth observation technology demonstration satellite separates from the PSLV.

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