Chinese space station project entered in new phase – please welcome the Tianhe-1 !

While debate on future of ISS is still ongoing, China is announcing their plan to set new space station capable for permanent habitation.

China is not wasting time for talking. After gossips in 2014 and 2015 about first core module of new space station planned to be launched not earlier then in 2020s, now it was announced that date is set for 2018. To fully understand Chinese plans it should be reminded how China started and developed their space station program.

First laboratory module with possibility of period habitation, called Tiangong-1 was launched on 29 September 2011 and placed on orbit of 363 km x 381 km. It was small laboratory station with weight at 8.5 t consisted of two modules: service (with solar arrays) and laboratory. With length of 10,5 m and diameter of 3,35 m (with 15 cubic meters of space), station was capable to provide enough space for 3 crew members. Life support system was able to serve in short missions (longest mission of Shenzhou-10 lasted 15 days). It was simple construction, with only one docking port; even to use cooking equipment or toilet, crew members were forced to use docked Shenzhou spacecraft. Tiangong-1 still remains on orbit but it is not used – it will be deorbited in 2016. Next station, Tiangong-2 is planned for 2016. It will be larger module with length of 14,4 m diameter of 4,42 m and mass at 13 t. Life support system will make possible missions lasting up to 20 days. It will be probably equipped with two docking ports for docking of resupply spacecraft – Tianzhou, to give opportunity of extended time missions.

On April 21, 2016, Chinese news agency Xinhua announced, that next phase of space station program is set for 2018. Due the fact, that Tiangong stations were not designed for permanent habitation and were more technology demonstrators than ultimate solution, China was still considering establishing first permanently habitable station as soon as possible. First possible date was 2020s, what was confirmed by Deputy Director of the PLA General Armaments Department Lt Gen. Zhang Yulin. He mentioned in interview for Xinhua that China is still developing multimodular space station (You can read more here). Now it seems that it will be much earlier than in 2020s – already in 2018. New core module is called Tianhe-1 and is developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. After launching core module, two additional laboratory modules will be docked to Tianhe-1 – whole station will became fully operational on 2022. Work on Tianhe-1 is progressing on multiple levels. “Xuntian” space telescope is under development and it will be send to orbit close to Tianhe-1 in 2022 to provide possibility easy service of telescope by crew members remaining on station. Chinese engineers are also developing rescue capsule for Tianhe-1 to provide constant possibility of abandoning station in case of any serious problems. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is also working on ten meter long robotic arm. It will be utilized for all necessary maintenance of the Tianhe along with supporting science experiments and extracting payload. Arm will be highly flexible mechanism with multiple joints providing covering with their range whole station. Impressive are two facts regarding robotic arm. First is that it will not have fixed ends-arm will be able to move around the station what will makes easier any kind of task, even performed on most farthest modules. Second innovative achievement will be fact, that arm will be highly autonomous; with number of sensors and cameras, robotic arm will be able to perform actions without engaging crew members or operators in mission center on Earth. Work is in progress, and according to Xinhua, engineers are developing two prototypes: one for core module and one for future experimental module. If both arms will be manufactured and installed on station they will be able to cooperate during different tasks.

It seems that China is doing their best to create real space station with ultimate goal to provide most modern scientific platform as possible. After decommissioning of ISS, Chinese station will become only space platform for scientific experiment and probably some modules will be offered for rent. Providing as many as possible modern solutions and research instruments will make Chinese station attractive solution for space agencies like ESA – with budget large enough to pay for rent modules on space station but too small to develop independently own space laboratory. Space station race started and China is its leader at the moment.

On picture above: International Space Station.

20 satellites deployed by ISRO during 36th flight of PSLV !

Today at 03:55 GMT PSLV-XL rocket deployed twenty satellites including spacecrafts created by USA, Germany, Indonesia and Canada. Main payload on atop rocket launched from Launch Pad 2 in Satish Dhawan Space Centre was three Indian satellites: Cartosat-2C-third military optical reconnaissance satellite, SathyabamaSat and Swayam satellites.

Objective of the mission planned for today was Circular Low Earth Orbit with altitude of 500 km and inclination of 97.5°. After deploying satellites it was planned that upper stage of the PSLV will perform second burn to test possibility of changing orbit and ability of upper stage for multiple engine starts. At T-5′ rocket was ready, launch director B. Jayakumar already set mission for “go”; weather was also favorable and it was more than possible, that launch would be performed according to plan.

Rocket performed liftoff at 03:55 GMT-six solid fueled boosters PSOM-XL and first stage with its solid fueled S136 engine begun to work providing 9600 kN. At T+1’10” strap on boosters separated and central core begun its independent flight. At T+1’48” first stage was cut off and separated from the second stage, which started its Vikas liquid fueled engine (N2O/UDMH) providing 799 kN of thrust just fraction of second later. At T+2’34” payload fairing was separated and after one minute at T+4′ 21″ second stage and third stage separated on altitude of 216 km. Third stage started its HPS3 solid fueled with HTPB engine, which begun to provide 240 kN of thrust. At T+6′ third stage was shut down; rocket started phase of ballistic flight until T+8’10” when third stage and fourth stage separated. Next fourth stage ignited its two L-2-5 engines (fueled with MMH/MON ad providing thrust at 15.2 kN). At T+16’27” fourth stage was cut off and rocket was ready for deploying satellites. Satellites were deployed in following ordnance:

  • Cartosat-2C-imaging military satellite designed by ISRO and equipped in panchromatic camera for scene-specific black and white pictures suitable for cartography. Deployed at T+17’12”.
  • Sathyabama-Indian satellite designed on Sathyabama University for measuring level of Greenhouse Gas with utilization of ARGUS 1000 IR Spectrometer, satellite weighs 1.5 kg. Deployed at T+17’42”.
  • Swayam-Indian 1U sized Cubesat satellite designed by students of the College of Engineering, Pune (COEP) for testing new technologies in communications on picosat platform- deployed at T+17’43”.
  • Lapan-A3-Indonesian Earth monitoring satellite utilizing multispectral camera along with Video camera. Equipped with star tracker and AIS and APRS to serve as support for global maritime and HAM community. Deployed at T+18’18”.
  • BIROS (Berlin InfraRed Optical System)-German fire detection satellite build by Kayser-Threde GmbH (prime contractor) and Astrofein (provider of TET-1 bus). Operated by DLR will utilize two cameras and two infrared imaging devices combined with OSIRIS (Optical Space Infrared Downlink System)-special laser data downlink system by DLR. Satellite weight is 130 kg and it will remain operational for at least 3 years. Deployed at T+18’20”.
  • M3MSat-Canadian research satellite designed by COM DEV International Ltd. under contract which was financed by Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Satellite with weight of 95 kg is based on Multi-Mission Micro-Satellite bus. It will test new communication system based on AIS (Automatic Identification System) technology-system which is using signals send by every ship or vessel for navigation and identification. With support of satellite, system will bring detailed and precision image of current state of global shipping traffic. Deployed at T+18’57”.
  • SkySat-C1 is weighing 120 kg Earth imaging satellite operated by Skybox Imaging. It will provide high resolution panchromatic and multispectral images of the Earth from polar orbit with altitude of 450 km. It is utilizing Ritchey-Chretien Cassegrain telescope (FL 3.6 m) combined with 3 CMOS sensors, each with size of 2560 × 2160 pixels. Satellite was designed by SSL and will remain on orbit for at least 5 years. Deployed at T+18’58”
  • GHGSat-D is satellite owned by Canadian company GHGSat Inc. Designed and built on University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) weighs 15 kg and is based on Nemo-V1 bus. It will be monitoring level of greenhouse gas. It is equipped with SWIR imaging spectrometer for detailed observation of large GHG emitters like water tanks, landfills or stacks. Satellite is powered by solar arrays providing 80 W of power. Deployed at T+19’50”
  • 12 Flock-2P satellites-these small satellites were designed and are operated by Planet Labs Company. They are imaging spacecrafts with weight at 5 kg and equipped with high resolution CCD camera with Bayer-mask filter installed and combined with telescope. CCD resolution is 11 MP or 29 MP in most recent version of Flock what gives imaging resolution from 3 m to 5 m. Operational life of satellite varies depending on designated orbit where satellites were deployed, but in general it is not exceeding 3 years.

PSLV-XL is extended version of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle which was developed by Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in the beginning of the nineties with maiden flight of on 20 September 1993. PSLV-XL was upgraded with larger (height is 13.5 m with diameter at 1 m) six strap-on boosters each able to store 30% more fuel (12200 kg) than regular boosters of PSLV. Rocket with length at 44 m weighs 320 t at start (comparing to 295 t of PSLV-G). Central core has four stages: first stage (with mass at 138200 kg, diameter at 2.8 m and length of 20 m) is powered by solid fueled (HTPB) S139 engine with 4800 kN of thrust. Second stage (weight at 24000 kg, diameter at 2.8 m and long for 12.8 m) is equipped with one Vikas engine liquid fueled with N2O4/UDMH and providing 799 kN of thrust. Third stage (mass at 7600 kg, diameter at 2 m and length of 3.6 m) is solid fueled with single HPS3 engine which generates 240 kN of thrust. Fourth stage is powered by two L-2-5 engines with thrust at 15.2 kN fueled with liquid MMH/MON propellant and weighs 2500 kg while its length is at 3 m and diameter at 1.3 m. PSLV XL is able to lift up to 1425 kg to GTO orbit.

Ariane 5 ECA delivered two communication satellites during VA231 mission

Arianespace conducted successfully another launch of their Ariane 5 ECA rocket. It delivered to GTO orbit two communication satellites with total weight of over 9500 kg (10663 kg including payload adapters) after 35 minutes of flight.

It was 8th mission by Arianespace and 5th launch of Ariane 5 in 2016. Originally launch was planned for October 5, but due the strong wind around launch tower, Arianespace decided to postpone launch for 24 hours. Finally weather was evaluated as favorable for launch and eight minutes before T=0 set for 20:30 GMT; rocket and the payload were ready to enter last phase of launch sequence. At T-7′ onboard computer of the Ariane 5 started countdown and five minutes later  fuel tanks reached flight pressure level. Last check of the Ariane 5 systems gave positive results and rocket was ready for its mission.

Punctually at 20:32 GMT rocket started to lift off over ELA-3 complex at Guiana Space Center. Ariane 5 ECA configuration assumes utilization of two solid rocket boosters (EAB); each one is long for 36 m with diameter at 3.05 m what makes them longer than first stage of the rocket, which is long for 30.5 m (with diameter at 5.4 m). During first phase of flight boosters along with first stage are generating over 7000 kN of thrust. Boosters were separated after one minute of flight at T+1′; at T+3’30 nose cone was jettisoned and both satellites installed on ACU payload adaptor were exposed. It is worth to remind, that satellites were installed one over another, with Sky Muster-2 (known also as NBN-Co-1B) over GSAT-18 using special structure called SYLDA-5. Next key point of flight was cutting off main Vulcain-2 engine at T+9’15”, which stopped providing 1390 kN of thrust. This allowed rocket to jettison first stage and start its HM7B upper stage engine fueled with liquid oxygen and hydrogen. Second stage weighing 4540 kg and long for 5.4 m with diameter at 4.7 m begun its autonomous flight. Two minutes later rocket was tracked for the first time by Natal tracking station in Brazil after leaving range of Galliot tracking station in French Guiana. Rocket reached at that point altitude of 150 km and speed of around 24000 km/h. At T+25’20” upper stage switched off its engine after reaching orbit of 250 km x 35786 km with inclination at 6°. Four minutes later Sky Muster-2 was deployed successfully and SYLDA-5 adapter was partially jettisoned at T+31′ to expose GSAT-18.  GSAT-18 was deployed at T+34′ at 21:03 GMT. VA231 was finished with success!

GSAT-18 and Sky Muster-2 are both communication satellites. GSAT-18 was designed and manufactured by ISRO (Indian space agency) for Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and VSAT services along with supporting satellite television and telecommunication over India. I-3K bus provides 6000 W of power for transponders operating on  C band (24), Upper C band (12), Ku band (12) and two transmitters working also on Ku band.  Weight of the satellite is 3404 kg with following dimensions: 3.1 m x 1.7 m x 2 m. It is powered with two deployable solar arrays and onboard batteries and it will remain on 74° E orbital slot for at least 12 years. Sky Muster-2 is based on SSL-1300 bus communication satellite and was made by SSL. It will be operated by NBN Co Limited and will provide broadband internet access over Australian Interior via 202 onboard Ka band transponders. Powered by two deployable solar arrays and onboard batteries (with output after 15 years at 16.4 kW), satellite weighs 6404 kg with following dimensions: 8.5 m x 3.5 m x 3 m.  Satellite will spent on orbit at least 15 years. It will use its twin ion thrusters and 3 axis attitude control system to change position from 135° E to 150° E.

CHINESE REUSABLE TECHNOLOGY – NEXT DIMENSION OF COMPETITION WITH USA

China seems to spot how important is adding reusable technology to launch vehicles and started to improve pace of development of own technology, which could help in reducing prices of delivering payload to orbit.

Once in 2016 Chinese news agency Xinhua informed about progress in development of reusable rockets program in China. News from April 2016 was unfortunately not detailed enough to evaluate how advanced is reusable rocket program. It was only described, that unspecified Long March rocket was used to conduct test of “parachute system” for recovering first stage of the rocket. This technology seemed little outdated – boosters used for Space Shuttle years ago were also falling on parachutes, but it was not possible to use them as fast and easy as first stage of SpaceX Falcon-9, not to mention about New Shepard designed by Blue Origin. Now we know, that China Association for Science and Technology and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology are in fact working on various systems of reusable technology simultaneously. More surprising is fact that both organizations are working on completely new rockets, not on technology which could be easily adapted to present launch vehicles.

These new launch vehicles are both designed to use reusable first stages. First rocket was designed as smaller, with special parachute system for recovering its first stage. Rocket will be long for 29 m with diameter of the first stage at 3.35 m and mass under 100 t. It will be able to lift up to 650 kg of payload to SSO orbit with altitude of 700 km. First stage will be powered by engines fueled with LOX and Methane, what will make rocket more environment friendly and also give result in lower launch price. Two engines of the first stage will provide at least 600 kN of thrust each at sea level, with second stage, with diameter at 3 m, will be equipped with engines fueled with LOX/methane providing thrust in vacuum at 80 kN. Payload fairing will be 3 m in diameter. Recovery system will be based on parachutes: two pilot for deploying two drag parachutes for reducing speed. Three main parachutes will serve for final speed reduction and soft landing. It was not unveiled where CNSA is planning to place landing zones – if first stage will land only using parachutes, without any retro thruster system, landing on present landing zones placed in Inner Mongolia will be hard without damaging booster. CAST and CALT are planning to use special system of airbags for shock protection, but considering dimensions of stage and speed of landing, airbag system could not be sufficient for safe landing.

Another project assumes using propulsion for landing instead system of parachutes. It is larger rocket with length of 37.5 m, weight of 184 t and payload capacity for LEO of 1500 kg and for SSO orbit – 800 kg. Again diameter of the first stage is 3.35 m and 3 m for second stage. Propulsion is based on LOX/Methane engines, but in this project first stage will be equipped in three engines with sum thrust of 1800 kN. Due the exact same thrust of engines which are planned to be used, we can assume that engines will be identical as engines used in the first project. Second stage will be also based on LOX/methane engines with thrust at 80 kN and it will be probably equipped with identical model of engines like in the first project. IN case of this rocket reusable technology is more advanced. First stage is designed to land using main propulsion and utilizing fuel from main tanks. It will perform descent on launch trajectory to reach launch pad and land using (probably) deployable fins. Unfortunately no details on steering system, attitude control system or avionics were unveiled. Since now CALT and CAST have finished only tests of parachute systems for first project, which seems easier; nothing is known on second project, which definitely will push Chinese space industry upwards in rank of most innovative space industries in the world.

China seems to have plans to create launch vehicle with comparable possibilities in reusable technology as Falcon-9 rocket by American SpaceX. Chinese project seems to be interesting especially in second version, but it is worth to remind that Falcon-9 is able to deliver to LEO 10 t of payload using conventional LOX/RP-1 propulsion. Chinese rockets are small launch vehicles and reusable technology will probably change price per kilogram of payload extensively and will help China to dominate market of small launch vehicles. If heavy rockets are concerned, China probably will still rely on conventional rockets, which still are less expensive for customers than comparable American launch vehicles.

BOEING CST-100 DELAYED FOR 6 MONTHS

Boeing announced that their CST-100 Starliner manned spacecraft will be launched for the first time with 6 months delay. News came in pair with show of new aerodynamic concept of Atlas V/CST-100 combo.

Boeing and United Launch Alliance have had problems with general aerodynamic conception of Atlas V/CST-100 Starliner combo from some time. Boeing announced on May, 2016, that their flagship space product, CST-100 Starliner (CST stands for Crew Space Transportation) manned spacecraft developed for NASA  Commercial Crew Development (CCDev), will be launched for the first test flight not in 2017, as it was previously scheduled, but in 2018. Boeing was assuring, that delay is result of less important problems; some sources claimed, that issues are connected with aero acoustic characteristic of CST-100, other claimed that problem lies in integration process of CST-100 and Atlas V rocket in 422 configuration or production problems. After announcement given by ULA, we can still assume where that problem lied. ULA claims, that issues with putting CST-100 into production have been overcome, but ULA presented yesterday new aerodynamic conception of Atlas V and CST-100, what rather shows, that project is still under development. Boeing also confirmed that first test flight slipped to the end of the first half of 2018, but still Company would like to conduct first operational flight according to schedule. What is happening with CST-100?

According to interview given to Aviation Week by John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for commercial programs in space exploration at Boeing, three main problems with CST-100 are: delays with supply chain, problems with production of lower dome of vehicle (which was scrapped after spotting problems after production) and issues during qualification process of minor components of the CST-100. All these problems caused 6 months delay, including 1 month margin, and pushed away in time first pad abort tests planned for October 2017. Problems also appeared with assembling with launch vehicle; as we know, CST-100 was designed to be launched on atop of Atlas V without payload fairing – whole pressure and force which appeared during flight will affect on capsule directly. Problems appeared during planning phase of transonic flight; ULA and Boeing (with help from group of NASA engineers) were forced to change aerodynamic concept of Service Module and bottom part of Starliner. New concept of CST-100 and Atlas V assumes implementing various changes in the aerodynamics of both vehicles comparing to present project. Most important is adding aeroskirt aft to CST-100 Service Module. Additional aeroskirt is designed to help in the moment of transonic flight adding necessary stabilization and pressure reducing. All these issues forced on Boeing revision of the schedule. Pad abort test is planned for January 2018; first unmanned test flight is now scheduled for June 2018 with manned test flight planned for August. First operational flight to International Space Station is planned for December 2018. Boeing still keeps strongly date of first operational flight – it was already postponed and probably NASA would not be happy with another delay. It is worth to remind, that Agency’s Office of Inspector General already created (and presented on September 1, 2016) report on progress in development of CST-100 and its competitor, manned version of Dragon spacecraft by SpaceX. It summed up progress with following words:

“The first certified flight carrying NASA astronauts to the ISS is unlikely to occur until late 2018 – more than 3 years after NASA’s original 2015 goal. While past funding shortfalls have contributed to the delay, technical challenges are now driving schedule slippages. Until at least one of the commercial contractors are certified, NASA will continue to pay Russia more than $80 million a seat to transport astronauts to the Station on Russian vehicles.”

Just like present correction of aerodynamic design of CST-100, some issues seemed to have origins in very early phase of design. Such problems may also appear in future for example after test flights. Report also mentions, that these problems were pointed already in ASAP report from 2015, when it was clearly stated that financial problems with program resulted in creating vehicles with design far from superiority:

“The [Program] was underfunded during the critical early years of development. Specifically, the Program received only 57 percent of the requested funding in fiscal year (FY) 2011 through FY 2013. This underfunding in the critical early system design years resulted in a design at Critical Design Review that was not as mature as it might have been.”

Present problems with CST-100 are rather caused by economic problems in past years. Now it could be hard to solve everything as easy as it could be done in the phase of design. CST-100 will probably start flights in 2018 or in 2019 if any other problems will appear, but question should be if it will be safe and reliable vehicle which will serve for years, or it will become some kind of transitional stage to more mature construction.

ANDROID IN SPACE – FIRST MISSION OF FEDERATION SPACECRAFT IN 2021

Roscosmos is planning to use their Federation spacecraft for unmanned mission in 2021. Spacecraft is still under development, just as second part of Vostochny Cosmodrome, where first mission of Federation will start.

Federation, along with Angara launch vehicle and Vostochny Cosmodrome are fundaments of Russian space program after transformation of Federal Space Agency Roscosmos on 28 December 28, 2015. Plans of lunar base or declaration of establishing new orbital space station after decommissioning International Space Station are clear statement that Russia have not resigned from space program and still has ambitions to compete with USA or China; but still they are not in the focal point of management of Roscosmos. Russian ISS modules could be easily detached from the rest of the station and serve for some time as orbital station for scientific purposes. Lunar base program was postponed and is rather considered as part of the two next decades. Reason is simple – plans regarding Moon exploration are in fact depending on creating new carrier rocket and new spacecraft able to reach Moon. Slow, but consequent modernization of fleet of launch vehicles and Soyuz spacecrafts is sign, that Roscosmos knows that and is rationally preparing solid basement for most ambitious goals. Such milestones like introducing new Angara rocket family or finishing first phase of Vostochny Cosmodrome are showing that progress is going in the good direction. Fact, that Russian cosmonauts are still using Soyuz spacecrafts with origins in sixties seems to be last barrier. Solution for this problem should be, developed by RKK Energia, Federation spacecraft. Designed in similar way as American Orion spacecraft started its existence as join project of ESA and Roscosmos. After 4 years of cooperation program of Russian-European manned spacecraft stopped due the lack of funds. Project finally became official program for development of new spacecraft for Roscosmos without any foreign partners. Work under Federation was developing during recent years in spite of financial problems in whole Russian economy and cuts in Roscosmos budget. On May 2016 Federation passed tests of man-machine interface and flight procedures along with their algorithms.

On October 24, 2016, Igor Komarov, chief of State Corporation Roscosmos, announced that first flight of Federation will be conducted in 2021 from Vostochny Cosmodrome. It is next, after statement about manned lunar mission scheduled for 2025 given in June 2016, important date in Federation program. Statement was given by Komarov during meeting devoted to Vostochny Cosmodrome, which still is finished only partially and remains one of the most important problems for Roscosmos. Second phase of construction is in fact crucial for Russian Lunar program; PU1 launch site (planned to be built in the second phase of Vostochny construction) will be suited for Angara rockets, while first (with maiden launch performed on April 28, 2016) is limited only to Soyuz rockets. It seems, that planned budget for PU1 with $3.8 billion should be enough to finish construction in 2021 and launch Federation on atop of Angara A5 rocket. First unmanned mission of Federation will be conducted with prototype control system based on Android operation system (provided by Google) as replacement for remaining under development main control systems.

“Federation” is next generation spacecraft designed and based on two modules: service module (with propulsion, main subsystems and solar arrays) and crew module. Crew segment will provide 33 cubic meters for 6 crew members and 500 kg of cargo. It is designed to perform 30 days autonomous mission and remain docked to space station for 200 days. In Lunar version number of crew members will be limited to four, but spacecraft will be able to perform lasting 14 days journey to the Moon orbit and back to Earth. It will be able to perform docking in manual or automatic mode (along with re-docking maneuver) and return to Earth with not less than 500 kg of payload. Spacecraft is planned as reusable for up to ten times.

TEENAGERS UNLIKELY TO RESPOND TO MOTHER’S REQUEST IF MADE IN CONTROLLING TONE

Love and closeness could possibly be one of the best ways to get teenagers to listen as a new study has found that mothers who use controlling tone of voice to request things aren’t going to be heard to.

Researchers have said that when a mother speaks to her son or daughter, teenagers are less likely to put an efforts into their mother’s requests. However, when the same request is made with love and closeness, such a request is heeded to by the same teenager. Speaking to a son or daughter in a pressurising tone is also accompanied by a range of negative emotions and less feelings of closeness, a new study has discovered.

For the study researchers examined as many as 1000 adolescents to understand how they respond to the tone of voice when receiving instructions from their mothers, even when the specific words that are used are exactly the same. The study showed that subjects were much more likely to engage with instructions that conveyed a sense of encouragement and support for self-expression and choice. The results, whilst of obvious interest to parents, could also be of relevance to schoolteachers whose use of more motivational language could impact the learning and well-being of students in their classrooms.

In the experiment each of the subjects was randomly assigned to groups that would hear identical messages delivered by mothers of adolescents in either a controlling, autonomy-supportive, or neutral tone of voice. Expressions of control impose pressure and attempt to coerce or push listeners to action. In contrast, those that express ‘autonomy support’ convey a sense of encouragement and support for listeners’ sense of choice and opportunity for self-expression.

Each of the mothers delivered 30 sentences that centred around school work, and included instructions such as: “It’s time now to go to school”, “you will read this book tonight”, and “you will do well on this assignment”.

After the delivery of the messages, each student undertook a survey and answered questions about how they would feel if their own mother had spoken to them in that particular way.

The findings showed that the tone of voice used by mothers can impact significantly on teenagers’ emotional, relational, and behavioural intention responses.

Control of blood pressure greatly reduces risk of cognitive impairment in older people

Scientists have suggested through a new study that it is possible to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment in older people if their blood pressure is controlled appropriately. Scientists say that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a precursor of early dementia and if great attention is given to controlling blood pressure in older people, there is a strong indication that risk of dementia can be reduced. The findings are the result of a clinical trial led by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health.

MCI is a condition in which there is decline in memory and thinking skills at levels that are higher than expected with normal aging and is a risk factor for dementia. Dementia is defined as a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

The clinical trial, which enrolled 9361 volunteers, was conducted at 102 sites in the United States and Puerto Rico among adults 50 and older with hypertension but without diabetes or history of stroke. The participating group was 35.6 percent female, 30 percent black and 10.5 percent Hispanic and thus representative of the broader U.S. population.

Participants were randomly assigned to a systolic blood pressure goal of either less than 120 mm HG (intensive treatment) or less than 140 mm HG (standard treatment). They were then classified after five years as having no cognitive impairment, MCI or probable dementia.

SPRINT was stopped early due to the success of the trial in reducing cardiovascular disease. As a result, participants were on intensive blood pressure lowering treatment for a shorter period than originally planned. The authors concluded that the shorter time may have made it difficult to accurately determine the role of intensive blood pressure control on dementia cases.

Jeff Williamson, M.D., professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine said some caution should be exercised in interpreting the study result both because MCI was not the primary cognitive focus of the trial and because it is not clear what intensive blood pressure control may mean for the longer-term incidence of dementia. Although MCI considerably increases the risk of dementia, this progression is not inevitable and reversion to normal cognition is possible, he said.