A round-up of this month's engineering news from around the world with a regional focus on Scandinavia.
Russia announced it was close to sealing a deal to sell natural gas to China that would also involve construction of a pipeline to carry 38 billion cubic metres of gas a year. The agreement is expected to be signed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during an upcoming visit to China in May.
Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered plane designed to make the first flight around the world without any fuel, was unveiled in Switzerland. The single-seater solar aircraft’s wings are 72m wide - roughly the width of a Boeing 747 - and coated in solar panels that power the aircraft and charge an array of on-board batteries that allow it to fly through the night.
Israel has launched a new military Earth-observation satellite to monitor Iran’s nuclear progress. The Ofek 10 satellite, the latest in the line developed and manufactured by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, is a light-weight spacecraft that encircles the Earth every 90 minutes. The satellite has already begun transmitting data and visual material and is expected to be fully operational within months.
Egypt announced it will ban the production and import of air-conditioning units that enable setting the temperature to less than 20°C in an attempt to decrease the country’s energy consumption. The regulation, approved last year, is expected to come into force in mid-July, at the beginning of the hottest period, which is expected to put extra strain on the already challenged Egyptian energy infrastructure.
Space exploration firm SpaceX signed a contract with Nasa to rent the historic launch pad used for the first lunar landing lift-off. Launch Complex 39A, located at Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, has served throughout the Apollo and space shuttle era and was abandoned after the flight of the Discovery in 2011, the final shuttle mission.
Children at a school in Morocco struggling with a lack of fresh water are now drinking recycled urine and waste water installing a technology similar to that used by astronauts in the International Space Station. Developed by the European Space Agency, the system uses a set of organic and ceramic membranes to filter out unwanted compounds from the water and is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine.
Germany’s cabinet approved a reform of Germany’s renewable energy law to slow the growth of green energy, which accounts for 25 per cent of Germany’s electricity, and force new investors in green power to take some risk in response to ballooning subsidies.
About 40,000 indigenous mothers and their children in the north-western Rio Negro region of the Amazon rainforest will benefit from new telemedicine satellite communication terminals designed to tackle high infant and maternal mortality rates. Midwives and healthcare professionals in four remote health centres have been trained to use the satellite service to consult specialists at a central clinic.
North Korea conducted an engine test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and is believed to be planning a test flight of the whole system, according to a US think tank. The KN-08 missile, which is believed to have a range of more than 10,000km, was tested throughout March and April, the think tank 38 North revealed in a report.
The Channel Tunnel, connecting Britain with France through a 50km underwater passageway, celebrated its 20th anniversary. Running from the French port town of Calais to Folkestone in Kent, UK, the Channel Tunnel saw its first passengers - the Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and former French President François Mitterrand - make the crossing on 6 May 1994.