After the triumphant soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the Moon’s southern pole, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) prepared for another ambitious project – its inaugural solar mission named ‘Aditya-L1′, which launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on September 2. The mission utilized the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket to propel the spacecraft.
The sun mission’s objective is to station the spacecraft in a halo orbit around the Lagrange point 1 (L1), a unique position located approximately 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. From this vantage point, the spacecraft aims to continuously monitor solar activities and assess their impact on space weather conditions.
A ISRO Shoots for the sun roundtable discussion on the Khul Ke app, a widely used social networking platform, offered a deep dive into the subject matter. Here are the highlights of what was covered during this enlightening conversation.
Importance of Aditya-L1
Aditya is synonymous with the Sun, and the ‘L1’ in Aditya-L1 represents the specific orbital point where the spacecraft will be stationed. The Lagrange point L1 is one among five such gravitational equilibrium points in the Earth-Sun system. Being positioned at L1 provides the spacecraft with an uninterrupted vantage point for observing the Sun, free from any instances of eclipses or occultations. The Earth-Sun system also includes four other Lagrange points: L2, L3, L4, and L5.
Solar activities like solar flares, Coronal Mass Ejections, and solar winds directed towards Earth can have significant effects on space weather, making it crucial to study the Sun. The Aditya-L1 mission, with its 1,475 kg spacecraft, is equipped with seven specialized instruments; four will focus directly on solar observations, while the remaining three will examine particles and magnetic fields near the Lagrange point 1 (L1).
This endeavour aims to provide actionable insights that could protect various satellite-reliant systems such as telecommunication networks, mobile internet services, navigational aids, and power infrastructure. Upon successful analysis, customized data from the mission could be employed to issue space weather warnings.
Additionally, this solar exploration mission offers the opportunity to better understand the environmental conditions surrounding the L1 point, a critical factor for comprehending space weather.
Impact of This Project on Earth and Decision-Making
A collective national project, Aditya-L1 is designed to scrutinize various aspects of solar phenomena, including the often-dangerous Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). Besides, it will also observe the environment in the vicinity of Earth and help fine-tune models for forecasting space weather.
Though the Sun’s surface temperature stands at approximately 5,600 degrees Celsius, its outer layer, the corona, astonishingly heats up to about 2 million degrees Celsius. Data gathered by the Aditya-L1 mission will shed light on the Sun’s complex dynamics and explore how changes in solar activity influence Earth’s climate and space weather conditions.
According to experts, any alterations in space weather induced by solar activity become apparent at the Lagrange point L1 before affecting Earth. This offers a valuable time frame for early warnings and predictions.
The repercussions of intense space weather events extend beyond scientific curiosity. They can disrupt telecommunications, impede navigational systems, affect high-frequency radio communications, and even compromise the stability of power grids and oil pipelines, particularly in Earth’s high-latitude regions. While Aditya-L1 is fundamentally science-oriented, its findings have significant implications for several sectors, both industrial and societal. The mission aspires to decode the enigma of the Sun’s extraordinarily hot corona, which contrasts starkly with its much cooler surface.
This research will not only broaden our understanding of solar phenomena but also equip us with the tools to anticipate space weather events, which pose risks to our satellite-dependent communication and navigation systems.
Upcoming ISRO Projects
After Chandrayaan-3 and Aditya-L1, here are some more projects of ISRO:
Set to launch in January 2024, the NISAR mission is a joint venture between ISRO and NASA. Operating from a low-Earth orbit, NISAR will generate comprehensive Earth maps at 12-day intervals.
The objective of the mission is to gather crucial data that will help us grasp transformations in various Earth systems. This includes shifts in ecosystems, fluctuations in ice mass, changes in vegetation density, variations in sea levels, and alterations in groundwater levels. Additionally, the mission aims to monitor and better understand natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, and landslides.
Slated for launch in the third quarter of 2024, SPADEX stands for Space Docking Experiment. The initiative involves a dual-spacecraft system designed to advance technologies in key areas. These include orbital meetups, spacecraft docking, and formation flights. The mission holds potential for multiple applications, including human space missions, in-orbit satellite maintenance, and various other operations requiring proximity between objects in space.
Set to take off in 2024, Mangalyaan-2 is ISRO’s upcoming interplanetary venture, also known as Mars Orbiter Mission 2.
According to ISRO’s official resources, the mission is slated to be equipped with a variety of advanced instruments. These include a hyperspectral camera, an elevated-resolution panchromatic camera, and a radar system. The goal is to delve into the characteristics of Mars’ early crust, study recent basalt formations, and investigate rockfalls on the Martian surface.