The world awaits data from Aditya-L1

With the number of manned and unmanned space missions increasing, and more countries lifting off into space, Aditya-L1’s data would be keenly awaited—not just in India, but all over the world.
Aditya-L1
Aditya-L1

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s first Sun-observing mission, Aditya-L1, completed its first halo orbit around Lagrange Point-1 (L-1) on Tuesday, 178 days after being inserted into orbit. This is a significant indicator of the continued success of Aditya-L1’s intended five-year mission and more. The mission’s key objectives are to better understand coronal heating, coronal mass ejections, solar wind acceleration and distribution, solar flares and near-Earth space weather, dynamics of solar atmosphere, and temperature magnitude variations. All these are crucial as studies for the protection of near-Earth systems—like satellites and space stations—as well as terrestrial-based ones—like power grids—that can get adversely affected when massive solar flares hit Earth.

The completion of the first orbit is important. This orbital plane is perpendicular to the Sun-Earth axis. But the L1 point is known to be unstable due to various forces acting on it, including gravitational forces of Earth and the Sun. The same forces also cause satellite orbits around it to be unstable. The Aditya-L1 satellite’s orbital trajectory around L1 had to be controlled to enable it to maintain its halo orbit, needing three thruster firings—on February 22, June 7 and July 2—failing which it could have gone astray, prematurely compromising the mission.

The elliptical halo orbit ensures that the satellite remains around L1, which is a point in the direction of the Sun about 1.5 million kilometres from Earth—just a hundredth of the Earth-Sun distance—where the gravitational forces of the Sun and Earth balance out each other. This point is considered ideal for satellites to observe solar activities, and the halo orbit ensures its position at L1, offering unrestricted solar observations with minimal fuel consumption. This could also decide whether or not the Rs 460-crore mission will extend beyond its intended five years after 2029.

In the time to come, Indian space scientists are expecting crucial solar data from seven payloads aboard the Aditya-L1. They are aware about the importance of the data coming in. With the number of manned and unmanned space missions increasing, and more countries lifting off into space, Aditya-L1’s data would be keenly awaited—not just in India, but all over the world.

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The New Indian Express
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