India’s first solar mission, Aditya-L1, achieved a major milestone on January 6th, 2024 when it was successfully inserted into a halo orbit around the Lagrange Point L1. This insertion burn marks the completion of Aditya-L1’s long journey to begin studying the Sun.
Aditya’s Journey to L1
Aditya-L1 was launched in April 2023 on a PSLV rocket from Sriharikota. Since then, it has slowly made its way towards L1, 1.5 million km from Earth, using multiple orbital raises from ISRO.
Over the past 9 months, Aditya-L1 has conducted several experiments on the journey over, including capturing incredible images of the Sun. It recently sent back the first images of the entire solar disc, offering a preview of the contributions to solar science it will make from L1.
Critical Insertion Burn Completed Successfully
The final critical maneuver to insert Aditya-L1 into orbit around L1 occurred on January 6th at around 4 pm IST. ISRO scientists completed a short firing of the spacecraft’s onboard motors to position it in a halo orbit that provides continuous solar observations without eclipses.
ISRO chairman Dr. S Somanath announced the success of the orbital injection soon after. All systems on Aditya-L1 are functioning normally as it settles into its new home where it will fulfill its mission lifetime of 5 years.
|3.0m x 1.5m x 1.5m
|Halo orbit around Sun-Earth L1 point
|400 N Liquid Apogee Motor + 8 22N Thrusters
The insertion means that Aditya-L1 joins NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) and NOAA’s DSCOVR satellites orbiting L1. Having company will allow the different spacecraft to cross-collaborate on solar observations and space weather predictions.
Revolutionary Solar Science Begins
Now that it is orbiting L1 outside the earth’s magnetic influence, Aditya-L1 can start its crucial job of examining the Sun with seven specialized payloads. The data it beams back in the coming years will dramatically expand our understanding of solar storms, flares, and other activity.
Some of Aditya’s science goals include:
- Studying Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) directed towards Earth
- Observing photosphere and chromosphere using Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC)
- Detecting low frequency waves in solar corona
- Measuring properties of Solar Energetic Particles
Notably, it will provide near real-time monitoring of events on the Sun and issue early warnings for potential threats to satellites and astronauts. Aditya is expected to exponentially improve space weather predictions in the years ahead.
The mission symbolizes India’s progress in space technology and scientific advancement. As Dr. Somanath said, Aditya-L1 will look at the Sun “forever” and unravel many mysteries about our star.
What’s Next for Aditya?
Now in the halo orbit around L1, the next steps involve spacecraft systems checks followed by activation and testing of the scientific payloads.
The operationalizing and calibration activities are estimated to take a few weeks before Aditya-L1 starts sending back its cutting-edge science data on the Sun.
Beyond constant solar studies for 5+ years, ISRO plans to use technologies from Aditya-L1 to develop its own solar spacecraft fleet. A potential Aditya-L2 and Aditya-L5 carrying advanced instruments are already under consideration to build an entire constellation studying the Sun.
Aditya-L1’s monumental orbit insertion brings India closer towards global leadership in space-based solar physics. As the first Indian spacecraft to ever study the Sun, it will massively boost our understanding of stars across the universe. With Aditya successfully in position, ISRO now sets its sights even higher to continue pushing the boundaries of science.
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