Aditya-L1: Countdown for India’s first mission to Sun begins

1 September, 2023 | Anupam Shrivastava

Aditya -L1 National

Aditya-L1 will be positioned Lagrangian Point 1, 1.5 million km from Earth, in the sun's direction, enabling continuous sun observation, free from eclipses or occultation interruptions.

Turning its attention to the next cosmic endeavor following its triumphant lunar lander mission on the uncharted South Pole of the moon, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is poised for a historic milestone with the country’s inaugural solar mission, Aditya-L1.

The launch of this solar mission is slated for Saturday at 1150 IST from the Sriharikota launch pad, following the successful completion of launch rehearsals and internal vehicle checks.

Aditya-L1 stands as India’s pioneering solar space observatory, and it is set to take flight aboard the PSLV-C57 rocket. It will carry seven distinct payloads, four dedicated to scrutinizing sunlight and three designed to measure in-situ parameters of plasma and magnetic fields.

Among the payloads, the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) on Aditya-L1 represents the largest and most technically demanding component. VELC underwent integration, testing, and calibration at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics’ CREST (Centre for Research and Education in Science Technology) campus in Hosakote, in collaboration with ISRO.

Aditya-L1 will be positioned in a halo orbit around Lagrangian Point 1 (L1), residing 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth in the direction of the sun. This strategic vantage point allows Aditya-L1 to continually observe the sun, free from the interruptions of eclipses or occultation, thereby empowering scientists to monitor solar activities and their influence on space weather in real-time. The spacecraft’s data will also aid in uncovering the processes leading to solar eruptive events, enhancing our comprehension of space weather drivers.

India’s solar mission boasts several key objectives, including an exploration of the physics governing solar corona and its heating mechanisms, the acceleration of the solar wind, dynamics of the solar atmosphere, distribution and temperature anisotropy of the solar wind, and the origins of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) and solar flares, all of which have implications for near-earth space weather.

The sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, becomes visible during a total solar eclipse. A coronagraph such as VELC serves as an instrument to block out the sun’s disk, enabling the observation of the fainter corona at all times, as elucidated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics based in Bengaluru.

Notably, on August 23, India marked a significant milestone with the successful lunar landing of the Chandrayaan-3 lander module on the moon’s South Pole. This achievement established India as the fourth country, following the United States, China, and Russia, to successfully land on the moon’s surface.

Subsequently, the Vikram lander and the Pragyan rover conducted various tasks on the lunar surface, including detecting the presence of sulfur and recording temperature differentials. Operating for one lunar day, equivalent to 14 Earth days, the Chandrayaan-3 mission aimed to achieve a safe and gentle lunar landing, rover mobility on the moon’s surface, and in-situ scientific experiments.

Chandrayaan-3 represents ISRO’s follow-up initiative after the Chandrayaan-2 mission faced challenges during its soft lunar landing in 2019 and was ultimately deemed to have fallen short of its primary mission objectives.

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