BENGALURU, Sept 2 (Portal) – Hot on the heels of the success of India’s moon landing, the country’s space agency launched a rocket on Saturday to study the sun in its first solar mission of its kind.
The rocket left a trail of smoke and fire as scientists clapped, a live broadcast on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) website showed.
The Indian space agency later announced on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the satellite was now in orbit.
The broadcast was watched by more than 860,000 viewers, while thousands gathered in a viewing gallery near the launch site to watch the launch of the probe, whose goal is to study solar winds that can cause disturbances on Earth, which are common can be observed as northern lights.
Named after the Hindi word for sun, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft launched barely a week after India defeated Russia to become the first country to land on the moon’s south pole. While Russia had a more powerful rocket, India’s Chandrayaan-3 outperformed the Luna-25 and performed a picture-perfect landing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing for India’s space missions to play a bigger role on a world stage dominated by the United States and China. Home Minister Amit Shah said on social media platform X that the launch was a “huge step” towards Modi’s vision.
The Aditya-L1 is expected to travel 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) over a period of four months, far below the Sun, which is 150 million kilometers from Earth. It is designed to stop its journey at a kind of parking lot in space, a so-called Lagrange point, where objects tend to stay in place due to the balancing of gravitational forces, reducing the spacecraft’s fuel consumption.
“We have ensured that we have a unique data set that is not currently available from any other mission,” said Sankar Subramanian, the mission’s lead scientist.
“This will allow us to understand the Sun, its dynamics, as well as the inner heliosphere, which is an important element for today’s technology, as well as aspects of space weather,” he added.
The mission also has the potential to trigger a “scientific big bang,” said Somak Raychaudhury, who helped develop some of the observatory’s components, adding that energy particles emitted by the sun could hit satellites that control communications on Earth .
“There have been episodes in which key communications links failed because a satellite was hit by a large corona emission. Satellites in low Earth orbit are the focus of global private players, making the Aditya-L1 mission a very important project,” he said.
Scientists hope to learn more about the effect of solar radiation on the thousands of satellites in orbit, whose numbers are growing with the success of ventures like Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink communications network.
“Low Earth orbit has been heavily polluted due to private involvement, so understanding how to protect satellites there will be particularly important in today’s space environment,” said Rama Rao Nidamanuri, head of the Earth and Space Sciences Department at the Indian Institute of Space Science and technology.
In the longer term, the mission’s data could help better understand the sun’s influence on Earth’s climate patterns and the origins of the solar wind, the stream of particles that flows from the sun through the solar system, ISRO scientists said.
At Modi’s urging, India has privatized space rockets and wants to open the sector to foreign investment as it aims to increase its share of the global rocket launch market fivefold within the next decade.
As space becomes a global business, the country is also banking on ISRO’s success to showcase its capabilities in this sector.
Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jayshree P Upadhyay; Edited by William Mallard and Miral Fahmy
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