BENGALURU (Reuters) – Following India’s successful moon landing, the Indian space agency launched a rocket on Saturday to study the sun in its first solar-powered mission.
A live broadcast on the Indian Space Research Organization’s website showed the rocket leaving behind a trail of smoke and fire as scientists applauded.
The Indian space agency said on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the satellite is now in orbit.
More than 860,000 viewers watched the broadcast, while thousands gathered in a gallery near the launch site to watch the launch of the probe, which aims to study the solar wind that can cause disturbances on Earth and is usually seen as an aurora.
Named after the Hindi word for sun, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft launched nearly a week after India beat Russia to become the first country to land on the moon’s south pole. While Russia had a more powerful missile, India’s Chandrayaan 3 outperformed Luna 25 to perform a record landing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is urging that Indian space missions play a greater role on the global stage dominated by the United States and China. Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah, on social media platform X, said the launch was a “giant step” towards Modi’s vision.
Aditya-L1 is designed to travel 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) over four months, much less than the Sun, which is 150 million kilometers from Earth. Its journey is supposed to stop in what looks like a parking lot in space, called the Lagrange point, where objects tend to stay in place due to balancing gravitational forces, which reduces the fuel consumption of the spacecraft.
“We have ensured that we will have a unique data set that is not currently available from any other mission,” said Sankar Subramanian, the mission’s principal scientist.
“This will allow us to understand the Sun and its dynamics as well as the inner heliosphere, an important component of current day technology, as well as aspects of space weather,” he added.
The mission also has the potential to cause a “big bang scientifically,” said Somak Raychoudhury, who was involved in developing some components of the observatory, adding that energy particles emanating from the sun could hit satellites that control communications on Earth.
“There have been periods when key communications were interrupted due to a satellite being hit by a large corona emission. Satellites in low Earth orbit are the main focus of global private players, making the Aditya-L1 mission a very important project.” He said.
Scientists hope to learn more about the effect of solar radiation on the thousands of satellites in orbit, a number that is increasing with the success of projects such as the Starlink communications network of Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“Low-Earth orbit has been heavily polluted due to private sector involvement, so understanding how to protect satellites there will be especially important in today’s space environment,” said Rama Rao Nidhamanuri, head of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science. Space science and technology.
In the long term, data from the mission could help better understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s climate patterns and the origins of the solar wind, a stream of particles that stream from the Sun through the solar system, ISRO scientists said.
With Modi’s support, India has privatized space launches and is looking to open up the sector to foreign investment, as it aims to increase its share of the global launch market five-fold over the next decade.
With space becoming a global business, the country is also banking on the success of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to showcase its prowess in the sector.
(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru – Preparing by Mohammed for the Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Jayshree B. Upadhyay; Edited by William Mallard and Miral Fahmy
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