Deciphering Aditya- L1 for India and the World
India is making waves in the arena of space research. Recently, India became the world’s first nation to successfully soft land rover- Chandrayan-3 on the southern lunar surface. And just when the moon lander Chandrayan-3 sleeps for a fortnight, the Indian space research organization shoots another spacecraft on a mission to explore the sun. In this article, we will look at the details of this mission to decipher its significance for India and the World.
Built on a budget of INR 400 Cr, Aditya-L1 was fired from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh, on 2nd September 2023. The same space station shot Chandrayan-3 on 14th July this year.
Aditya L1 aims to reach L-1 point in about four months, where it will operate for the next five years.
In the significance of Aditya L1, Aditya means the rising sun and L-1 (Lagrange point-1) is the point on halo orbit where the spacecraft is designed to stay put.
The Lagrange point is the equilibrium point between the two bodies with an enormous gravitational pull- the sun as Earth and the Sun. If any spacecraft is placed at Lagrange point, it is neither attracted nor opposed by the gravitational pull of any of the bodies. Hence, it stays put with minimum fuel consumption.
Five Lagrange points- L1, L2, L3, L4, and L5- are identified between the Sun and the Earth. (Refer Image)
For this Indian Sun rover, L-1 is chosen at the desired location because of its closeness to the Sun and Earth. Although Points L1 and L2 are almost equally close to the earth, as evident in the image, the view from L1 point is unhindered by solar eclipse- hence is the most suitable.
Interestingly, the L-1 point is around 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, nearly 1% of the distance between the sun and the Earth. This means the rover will neither land on the sun nor move farther than the L1 location. It will observe the sun from a safe distance of nearly 148.5 million kilometres.
‘The workhorse of ISRO’ launched Aditya L-1:
The sun rover is launched through PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) - notably called ‘The Workhorse of ISRO’ for its remarkable load-bearing capacity (1750 kg) and the high altitude soaring proficiency.
The PSLV launcher is a one-of-a-kind rocket launcher. It weighs 320 tons (the XL configuration) and is 44.5m tall, equivalent to a 5 storied building. PSLV launches the spacecraft in four phases, serving its unique purpose. Phase 1 provides the necessary acceleration for the spacecraft to escape the Earth's gravitational pull. Similarly, Phase 2, Phase 3, and Phase 4 are designed to navigate the rocket through the journey ahead.
The purpose of Aditya L-1:
The Sun is a mighty ball of fire, pulling the entire solar system through its strong gravitational force. This million-year-old star is made up of Hydrogen and helium. Its innermost layers can reach a temperature of a million degrees Celsius, but the sun becomes cooler and less dense as we approach the surface.
But as Earth is surrounded by the atmosphere, the sun also has a white-coloured layer of hydrogen and helium gas surrounding it. Interestingly, this layer is hotter than the sun's surface, making it a point of keen interest for scientists worldwide.
Also, this layer has massive temperature fluctuations, which cause solar storms and significant solar disturbances in the solar system.
Aditya L-1 is on a mission to explore this blanket of air to understand the Sun’s heterogeneous heating patterns, analyze its magnetic and electrostatic properties, decode space weather dynamics, and investigate Coronal Mass Injection, pre-flare and X-ray flare patterns.
In addition, the sun emits various radiations, most of which never reach Earth. But analysing these rays is essential because they teach us about the solar wind particle behaviour and the movement of these rays in the interplanetary system. Hence, Aditya L-1 is on a mission to study these behaviours outside the influence of Earth’s magnetic pull.
Decoding Aditya L-1 for India:
The launch of Aditya L1 was comparatively easier for ISRO, considering the massive success of the much more complicated Chandrayan-3 Mission. That being said, through the Aditya L1 space mission, India proved its prowess in space in two ways: successfully carrying out the sun mission in its first trial and aiming to study the solar system's biggest, mightiest, and hottest star.
Before India, only a few nations had been able to achieve success in sun-exploratory missions. USA, Germany and the European Space Agency are among the notable considerations, where America stands at the forefront- undertaking the maximum number of space missions (14 out of 40) so far. So, the mission puts India among the elite group of the sun-exploring nations.
In terms of closeness to the sun, Aditya L-1 has reached quite close (1.5 million kilometres) in comparison to the 2 million benchmark set by the Parker solar probe. NASA launched the Parker Solar probe in September 2018.
The sun mission will also put the analytical and technical capabilities of Indian scientists to the test since the study aims to bring forth undiscovered aspects of the sun and the Corona heating. Also, the data interpretation and calculations must be quick and precise to measure the rapidly changing temperatures of the sun.
In summation, the back-to-back successful missions of ISRO make India a significant player in the space domain. Also, it is worth noticing that the Indian space sector is growing at twice the global average, marking the significant growth of the Indian space sector.
The successful launch of Aditya L1 and Chandrayan-3 will also accelerate the growth of private companies in the space sector since ISRO has set a notable benchmark in innovation, cost-effectiveness, and risk-taking capacity in the domain.
Decoding Aditya L-1 for the world:
Today, the sun remains a largely unexplored star. Being at the centre of the solar system, the activities of other planets are deeply influenced by the Sun. But the skin-burning temperature of the sun makes it extremely difficult to introspect it.
At present, mankind has no confirmed evidence of the exact reason for the high heat of the corona in comparison to the Sun’s actual surface. The Scientific studies hovering around Aditya L-1 can give reasoning behind corona heating.
Secondly, Aditya L1 will watch the sun and study the weather patterns of the sun, which are of significant importance to mankind. Varying weather patterns generated by the sun cause interference in the entire solar system. Hence, beforehand intimation about any unlikely events, such as incoming space storms, will give us enough time to anticipate.
The concluding words:
In conclusion, Aditya-L1 puts India among the few nations exploring sun.
Although India has already proved its mettle in the space sector during the launch of Chandrayan-3, Aditya-L1 is the cherry on the top.
The remarkable space mission will challenge Indian scientists, accelerate the growth of the Indian space sector, and lay the foundation for private and public entity expansion in the space sector.
Globally, the mission will unravel some of the most interesting mysteries known to mankind, leading to better preparedness and early response to upcoming disasters.