Fresh off the historic triumph of its Chandrayaan-3 lunar probe, India has launched a new mission into space. This time, the destination is our local star, the Sun.
On Saturday, September 2nd, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sent the Aditya-L1 spacecraft on a four-month journey to observe and analyze the Sun.
With this launch, India joins an elite group of countries that have sent solar missions into orbit, including the United States, Europe, Japan and China.
A First for Asia
If successful, Aditya-L1 will represent a significant achievement as the first Indian and Asian mission to study the Sun.
According to astrophysicist Somak Raychaudhury, the probe will enable new research into coronal mass ejections – periodic eruptions of plasma and magnetic energy from the Sun’s atmosphere. It will also examine solar dynamics through imaging and particle measurements in the upper layers.
The Journey Ahead
To reach its observational point, Aditya-L1 must travel 1.5 million kilometers towards the Sun. This represents just 1% of the total distance between Earth and the Sun. ISRO states that the craft will complete four orbital maneuvers around Earth before shifting to the transfer trajectory.
The expected timeline for achieving the intended orbit at the L1 Lagrange point is approximately 127 days.
Doing More with Less
India has managed to establish itself as a spacefaring nation despite limited financial resources. For example, the recent Chandrayaan-3 Moon mission cost just $70 million – economical by industry standards. The country benefits from its wealth of low-cost engineering talent and the ability to re-purpose existing space technology.
- Abundant pool of qualified engineers at affordable salary levels
- Leveraging and modifying proven technologies
- Keeping overhead costs low
This frugal approach has allowed ISRO to deliver outsized results on a budgetary shoestring. If Aditya-L1 succeeds, it will provide more concrete proof of India’s blossoming space capabilities.
The Bottom Line
India is determined to push forward with its space program and contribute to the global understanding of the cosmos. In the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “Our relentless scientific efforts will continue in order to develop better comprehension of the universe.” The Sun is the next target in these ongoing endeavors.