India is set to launch the Aditya L-1 mission, its inaugural space-based mission aimed at studying the Sun. Scheduled for liftoff from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on September 2 at 11:50 am, this mission comes hot on the heels of ISRO’s recent lunar landing achievement.
The Aditya L-1 probe will hitch a ride into space aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in ‘XL’ configuration, known for its reliability. PSLV has successfully launched missions like Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan in the past. With a capacity to carry payloads up to 1,750 kg to the sun-synchronous polar orbit, it’s well-suited for the Aditya L-1 mission.
Once in space, Aditya L-1 will initially occupy a lower Earth orbit before using onboard propulsion to increase its velocity and orbit. This will slingshot the spacecraft towards the Sun, where it will ultimately settle into a halo orbit around Lagrange point 1 (L1), situated approximately 1.5 million km from Earth.
The primary objective of the Aditya L-1 mission is to unravel the mysteries of the Sun, delving into how its radiation, heat, particles, and magnetic fields affect our planet. It will focus on studying the chromosphere and corona, exploring phenomena like coronal mass ejections (CMEs), and analyzing the Sun’s magnetic field and its role in space weather. This mission will provide valuable insights into the Sun’s behavior and its impact on our solar system.
As the Aditya L-1 mission embarks on its cosmic voyage, it’s worth noting the extraordinary journey it’s about to undertake. Riding atop the PSLV in its ‘XL’ configuration, Aditya L-1 joins the league of ISRO’s most trusted and powerful workhorse rockets. This rocket’s prowess has been showcased on earlier historic missions, including Chandrayaan-1 and Mangalyaan. With its extended strap-on boosters, the ‘XL’ configuration can handle hefty payloads, making it the ideal choice to carry the 1,472 kg Aditya L-1 into the cosmic expanse.
Once in space, Aditya L-1’s route is no ordinary trajectory. It begins in a lower Earth orbit, but this is just the first step. Through meticulous onboard propulsion, the spacecraft will steadily increase its velocity and orbit. This orchestrated dance with the cosmos will eventually propel it towards the Sun. The final destination? A specialized halo orbit around Lagrange point 1 (L1), nestled approximately 1.5 million km away from Earth. It’s in this position that Aditya L-1 will settle, offering an uninterrupted view of our solar powerhouse, the Sun.
Aditya L-1’s mission, however, extends far beyond the launch and placement in orbit. This intrepid explorer has a multifaceted agenda. Its primary objective is to decipher the enigmatic workings of our Sun. It aims to unravel the mysteries of the Sun’s upper atmospheric layers, specifically the chromosphere and corona. The former is positioned just below the sizzling corona, the outermost layer of the Sun. Additionally, Aditya L-1 seeks to investigate coronal mass ejections (CMEs), dramatic outbursts of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun’s corona.
One of the mission’s key goals is to scrutinize the Sun’s magnetic field and its role in shaping space weather. The Sun’s corona is a scorching million degrees Celsius, in stark contrast to the relatively cooler surface temperature of about 5,500 degrees Celsius. Understanding this temperature disparity is another puzzle Aditya L-1 aims to piece together.
Moreover, this cosmic journey will enable scientists to fathom the processes responsible for the acceleration of particles on the Sun, leading to the formation of solar winds. These solar winds are not merely celestial breezes; they have a profound impact on our solar system, influencing space weather and the conditions of our space environment.
With a payload that boasts seven distinct instruments, including the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VLEC), the Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT), and others, Aditya L-1 is armed to the teeth for its solar scrutiny. These instruments are tailor-made to capture and analyze various aspects of the Sun, from its corona to X-ray flares and solar wind particles.
In essence, the Aditya L-1 mission is poised to offer a front-row seat to the cosmic theater that is our Sun. It’s a quest to unlock the Sun’s secrets and better understand its influence on our world and the broader solar system. As it embarks on this monumental journey, Aditya L-1 stands as a testament to humanity’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge and exploration, seeking to illuminate the cosmic enigma that is our nearest star.