ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom ISO 9001 & UKAS Registered, Electron Beam Services in the United Kingdom

2020 has seen major upheavals in the healthcare sector, as routine treatments have been side-lined to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to a backlog of cases in cancer care in particular. The BMA has reported worrying statistics in patient referral for treatment, which are at half the 2019 value for the same time last year.

The bottleneck in the system means that future cancer patients will have to wait longer for treatment. However, there is some good news for clinicians and patients, with Health Tech Digital reporting a recent breakthrough in cancer care technology.

Scientists have learned from the rapid production of the COVID vaccines, which saw development timeframes reduced dramatically from a typical 10 years to just under 12 months. One response has been to speed up cancer radiation delivery by employing hypofractionation.

This is a technique where patients are given fewer radiation sessions at a higher dosage rate. Hospital visits are therefore reduced, and the treatment timeframe is shorter. The more powerful radiation doses require a higher degree of accuracy, and the NHS is employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to enable this.

AI Autocontouring technology is playing an important role in speeding up and improving the crucial task of outlining a patient’s organs that would be vulnerable to radiation treatment.

Angela Rubio, former Chief Medical Dosimetrist at the University of New Mexico Cancer Centre comments: “Prior to using AI, contouring for a head and neck cancer patient would take about two hours to complete. With autocontouring it takes about 30 minutes. That is a 75 per cent time-saving for each head and neck patient.”

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed his support for AI technologies, and the NHS has announced an £140m investment programme. While this is positive news for the overstretched healthcare system, experts acknowledge that implementing the new technologies will take time and training.

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The UK’s Sustainable Aviation coalition has written to the government calling on politicians to provide support to developments within the sector to help deliver net-zero flights.

In a letter to the prime minister, leading figures in the sector stated that three areas in particular need support if the country is to realise its ambition of providing flights with no emissions.

These three areas are the development of sustainable aviation fuels, completing airspace modernisation and investing in ground-breaking electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

The letter describes this as a “once in a generation chance for the UK to seize the opportunity to lead the world, both in delivering net-zero flight and to enable UK aviation to support our economic recovery through the high-skilled jobs, supply chain and export benefits that investment in new green aviation technology will bring”.

Among the measures the coalition is urging the government to take are to provide capital grants and targeted loan guarantees to businesses working in one of these three areas of the aerospace sector.

This targeted financial support will be particularly crucial for the country’s emerging sustainable aviation fuels industry, the coalition added.

Earlier this month, Production Engineering Solutions shared the findings of research conducted by PwC, which found that the UK’s aerospace sector remains the most attractive for investment in Europe, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

In global rankings, the UK comes seventh, with the US at the top of the list, followed by Singapore, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

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The UK has built a reputation for itself for having a thriving private space industry, and it’s one that the government is lending support to as well.

An article for The Boar recently pointed out that the UK’s aerospace sector is the second largest in the world, with the space sector in particular performing especially well in recent years. Due to its strong growth, UK Space has created the Space Growth Partnership, which is targeting significant growth for the country’s private space sector.

The aim set out under the Space Growth Partnership is for the UK’s private space companies to have a ten per cent share of the global space market by 2030, up from the six per cent it currently holds.

There are several projects and areas of focus under this partnership. A key focus is developing low-cost access to space, which will involve developing spaceports around the country to enable businesses to launch their own satellites and rockets.

One such spaceport is expected to begin development in the coming months, with Space Hub Sutherland in Scotland awaiting the go-ahead from the Scottish government.

There are also discussions to create a spaceport complex at Newquay Airport in Cornwall, which would allow for the horizontal launches of Virgin Group spacecraft.

Ambitions to grow the UK’s space sector were given a boost earlier this month with the government’s announcement of a significant increase to defence spending.

UK Space pointed out that defence secretary Ben Wallace recently said that the government now recognises space as “an operational domain”, which means further funding will be channelled into this area.

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A new era in space exploration is set to begin on Sunday 15 November, with the first NASA crewed launch using Elon Musk’s SpaceX to travel to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch has been billed as a ‘taxi service’, although Uber probably doesn’t have to worry about any competition.

According to the Guardian, three US astronauts and a Japanese colleague from JAXA are scheduled to lift off from Florida at 7.49 pm on Saturday 14 November (12.49 am on Sunday UK time) using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket, after the vehicle had been approved for use by NASA.

The launch was originally scheduled for 31 October but was rescheduled due to an ‘unexpected’ error. This will be SpaceX's second crewed flight for NASA, following the successful Demo-2 flight that launched in May, making history as the first private company to send humans into orbit.

NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, joined by Japan's Soichi Noguchi, will make the journey to the space station for a six-month stay, conducting scientific experiments and performing various other tasks.

The rocket will separate into a first stage and a second stage soon after lift-off. The first stage will go back to a SpaceX landing ship off Florida, while the second part will continue the journey with the capsule. Once in orbit, the capsule will separate from the second stage and head to the ISS, docking with the space station at 4.20 am on Sunday (9.20 am GMT).

Using SpaceX will save NASA a significant amount of money, costing around $55m (£40m) per astronaut, rather than the $90m (£67m) charged by Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency.

The astronauts will join NASA's Kate Rubins and Russia's Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov - to become part of the Expedition 64 crew.

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Vacuum heat treatment is an important part of strong health & safety food production. But there is increasing demand for food to be free of all treatment and packaging once it’s hit the supermarket shelves.

It’s why one UK supermarket has unveiled a strategy to help cut down on single-use plastics, pledging that “greener” products will not cost lots more, as it starts its first ‘sustainability trial’ in store.

Asda is launching ‘Greener at Asda Price’, a promise that all loose and unwrapped fruit and vegetables won’t cost more than wrapped and packaged equivalents.

Its new-style shop will launch in Middleton in Leeds, and aims to help shopper “reduce, reuse and recycle with ease” through a range of initiatives, including refill stations and flowers being unwrapped with optional paper wrapping.

Asda has already estimated that these changes could save one million pieces of plastic every year.

“This marks an important milestone in our journey as we tackle plastic pollution and help our customers to reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Roger Burnley, Asda’s Chief Executive.

“We have always known that we couldn’t go on this journey alone,” he said, “so it is fantastic to work in tandem with more than 20 of our partners and suppliers who have answered the call to test innovative sustainable solutions with us.”

The store will have 15 large refill stations where shoppers can buy the amount of products they need, and as well as loose items including fruit and vegetables, they will include some big UK names, including Kellogg’s cereals, PG Tips teabags, Quaker Oats, and Lavazza and Taylors of Harrogate coffee beans.

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On 20 October, a Nasa spacecraft called Osiris-Rex will make its first attempt to collect a sample from the Bennu asteroid, a mission that will take between five to 10 seconds.

Sky News reports that it is hoped the spacecraft will be able to collect 60g worth of dirt and gravel from the surface of the boulder-strewn asteroid.

The Bennu asteroid is thought to have been formed over 4,5 billion years ago, which means it may comprise of minerals that contain molecules that were present at the time life was formed on Earth.

Van-sized Osiris-Rex has been circling the asteroid for almost two years, and once it receives the instructions from controllers back on Earth - who are separated from the craft by an 18-minute communication lag - it will begin a four-hour detour from its orbit above the asteroid’s surface.

The craft will deploy an 11ft long arm, which will reach out to touch the surface in the hope it can grab a sample. Scientists are hoping that the sample will contain information about how life is formed.

Should the first attempt fail, Osiris-Rex can try again, but it will be 2023 until the samples arrive back on Earth, once the craft completes a four-year journey home.

NASA's deputy project manager Mike Moreau spoke about how complex the Bennu mission is: "For some perspective, the next time you park your car in front of your house or in front of a coffee shop and walk inside, think about the challenge of navigating Osiris-Rex into one of these spots from 200 million miles away.”

It will be a historic mission for Nasa as it will be their first sample collection from an asteroid's surface. Japan is the only country in the world to have completed such a mission.

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Vertical Aerospace, a UK aviation start-up, has unveiled the designs for the VA-1X, the world’s first certified electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, which is scheduled to take flight in 2024.

According to Globetrender, the emission-free aircraft, with room for four passengers, luggage, and a pilot, can reach cruising speeds of 150 mph, and a flying range of up to 100 miles, meaning it can serve London to Brighton in 30 minutes.

The company aims to create an affordable and environmentally friendly alternative to helicopters, particularly for airport transfers, potentially causing a revolution within the luxury travel and transportation sector.

Vertical Aerospace says that the entry-level price point for commercial flights is “expected to be between a helicopter flight and a private car and will decrease as adoption grows.”

As well as being cost-effective and sustainable, the flying taxis will be certified to meet commercial airline standards, and be 30-times quieter than a helicopter, due to the electric propulsion system and the large open rotors.

The 15-metre wingspan means the VA-X1 can take off and land from existing helipads, allowing for a smooth transition between the two means of transportation.

Bristol-based Vertical Aerospace is the first company to implement Formula One technology into the eVTOL aircraft, helping reduce the weight of the aircraft and weave in tech-inspired by racing cars’ electric motors. The firm is one of only a small handful of companies that have experience flying multiple eVTOL prototypes.

Manufacturing of the VA-X1 will take place in the UK with prototype production and flight trails to start in 2021 and commercial production starting in 2023/2024 for certification in 2024 and service starting shortly thereafter.

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Hydrogen propulsion systems are often used in space exploration rather than road vehicles, but one firm has now developed a hydrogen-electric supercar that is capable of doing zero to 60 miles per hour in just 2.2 seconds.

The Sportsman shared the design of the Hyperion XP-1 hydrogen-electric supercar, which utilises the same technology used by NASA for space propulsion to create an environmentally friendly car.

The stats for the Hyperion XP-1 are impressive. It’s estimated to have a top speed of 221 mph, and a range of up to 1,000 miles, far outstripping many other electric cars already on the roads. What’s more, it produces zero emissions.

There are also “air blades” that wrap around the sides of the car to provide an aerodynamic structure that improves its handling. These air blades also include solar panels that are able to change their position to track the course of the sun.

Hyperion CEO Angelo Kafantaris commented: “This is only the beginning of what can be achieved with hydrogen as an energy storage medium. The potential of this fuel is limitless and will revolutionise the energy sector.”

As CleanTechnica recently reported, sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK climbed significantly during the lockdown. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed that EVs accounted for 32 per cent of new vehicle registrations in the UK in April this year.

Sales of EVs have continued to be strong in May, June and July this year too, indicating that consumers are increasingly happy to choose a vehicle that isn’t diesel or petrol powered.

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On Thursday 30 July, NASA’s latest mission to Mars successfully launched, propelling its Perseverance rover to continue the exploration of the Red Planet that has fascinated astronomers, and science fiction writers who wondered if there was life on Mars since Galileo first observed it in 1610.

Following in the tyre tracks of its predecessors, Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers, Perseverance, a one-tonne, six-wheeled robot, is equipped with the very latest technology to complete its mission - to discover if life ever existed on Mars, reports the BBC.

Soon after the spacecraft separated from the Atlas rocket booster that took it into orbit, it began its cruise phase on its 300 million miles, seven-month journey, travelling at a speed of around 24,600 mph. NASA engineers will be keeping an eye on its journey, making adjustments to its flight path along the way, to reach its destination of the Jezero Crater on the Red Planet.

NASA’s team, based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, have confirmed that the spacecraft is healthy, and on its way to Mars.

Perseverance is set to land in a river delta within Jezero Crater, looking to repeat the same exciting entry, descent and landing that NASA’s Curiosity rover had in 2012, which still continues to roam the Martian surface today, sending back incredible photos and data.

Perseverance will use seven scientific instruments to explore the geology and climate of Mars and also look for signs of ancient microbial life.

It will also be tasing the atmosphere of Mars to see if the planet’s carbon dioxide atmosphere can be converted into oxygen, which would be essential for future manned missions.

The rover will also collect rock samples with a drilling arm, keeping them safe so that the samples can be one day returned to Earth for much more in-depth testing and investigation.

As for the moment, Mars is still the only known planet to be entirely populated by robots, and we all look forward to seeing Perseverance join its brothers and sisters.

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