India launched the satellite with the solar observation probe. The launch, broadcast live, took place from the island of Sriharikota and is the result of activities conducted by Isro, the Indian space agency.
The Indian space agency aims to increasingly establish itself as a space power: today, in fact, a week after its successful uncrewed landing on the Moonthe launch of the probe to study the Sun. Aditya-L1 will carry scientific instruments to observe the outer layers of the Sun and will leave at 11:50 (6:20 Italian) for a four-month journey.
The United States and the European Space Agency (ESA) have sent numerous probes to the center of the solar system, starting with NASA’s Pioneer program in the 1960s. But if successful, the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) latest mission will be the first by an Asian nation to be placed into solar orbit.
“It’s a challenging mission for India,” astrophysicist Somak Raychaudhury told broadcaster NDTV. The scientist then explained that the mission’s probe will study coronal mass ejections, a periodic phenomenon that sees huge discharges of plasma and magnetic energy from the Sun’s atmosphere. These explosions are so powerful that they can reach Earth and potentially disrupt operations of satellites.
Aditya will help predict the phenomenon “and alert everyone so that the satellites can cut off their power,” he said. “It will also help us understand how these things happen and, in the future, we may not need an alert system.” Aditya – the name of the Hindu deity of the Sun – will travel 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) to reach his destination.
It will ride on the ISRO-designed, 320-ton PSLV XL rocket that has been a mainstay of India’s space program and powered previous launches to the Moon and Mars. The mission also aims to shed light on the dynamics of several other solar phenomena by imaging and measuring particles in the Sun’s upper atmosphere.
India has consistently matched the achievements of established space powers at a fraction of their costs. The South Asian nation, in fact, has a space program with a relatively low budget, but which has grown significantly in size and momentum since it first sent a probe into orbit around the Moon in 2008. According to experts, India can keep costs low by copying and adapting existing technology and thanks to the abundance of highly skilled engineers who earn a fraction of the salaries of their foreign counterparts. Last month’s successful landing on the lunar surface – a feat previously achieved only by Russia, the United States and China – cost less than $75 million.
The touchdown was widely celebrated by the public, with prayer rituals to wish the success of the mission and school groups who followed the final descent from live broadcasts in the classrooms. India was the first Asian nation to put a satellite into orbit around Mars in 2014 and is expected to launch a three-day crewed mission into Earth orbit by next year. It also plans a joint mission with Japan to send another probe to the Moon by 2025 and an orbital mission to Venus within the next two years.