Following its triumph on the moon, India is now aiming for the sun. India launched its first-ever solar observatory, the Aditya-L1 probe, atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 2:20 a.m. EDT (0620 GMT; 11:50 a.m. local India time).
The PSLV successfully deployed Aditya-L1 into low Earth orbit (LEO) 63 minutes after liftoff, prompting cheering and high fives in mission control.
Aditya-L1 Successful Launch
“Congratulations, India, and congratulations, ISRO [the Indian Space Research Organisation],” Jitendra Singh, India’s Minister of State for Science and Technology, said shortly after deployment on ISRO’s launch webcast.
“While the whole world watched this with bated breath, it is indeed a sunshine moment for India,” Singh added.
The flawless launch came only days after India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission became the first to land softly near the moon’s south pole on Aug. 23.
Aditya-L1 Real Mission
The lander-rover combo of Chandrayaan-3 are likely to conk out in a week or so, when the harsh lunar night falls at their landing site. However, Aditya-L1’s long journey has only just begun.
Aditya-L1 will not remain in LEO indefinitely: Following a series of tests, it will utilize its onboard propulsion system to travel to Earth-sun Lagrange Point 1 (L1), a gravitationally stable location roughly 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from our planet in the direction of the sun.
The mission’s final location explains the mission’s name. And the first half is straightforward: “Aditya” means “sun” in Sanskrit.
If all goes as planned, the 3,260-pound (1,480-kilogram) observatory will arrive at L1 in roughly four months. According to the ISRO, the difficult trip would be worthwhile.
“A satellite placed in the halo orbit around the L1 point has the major advantage of continuously viewing the sun without any occultation/eclipses,” ISRO officials wrote in an Aditya-L1 mission description.
“This will provide a greater advantage of observing the solar activities and its effect on space weather in real time.”
Another sun-observing spacecraft, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), was launched in December 1995 by NASA and the European Space Agency.
(Several additional spacecraft, notably NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, are at Earth-sun Lagrange Point 2, which is a million miles away from Earth in the opposite direction.)
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