As Chandrayaan-3’s rover Pragyan moves around the uncharted lunar south pole collecting data crucial for future manned missions, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is already planning another historic milestone in India’s space odyssey.
As early as September first week, the space agency may launch the Aditya-L1 — India’s first space observatory for solar research.
“We are planning to launch Aditya-L1 in the first week of September,” Isro chairman S. Somanath said, just a day after the agency put India in an elite club of nations with the successful conduct of its maiden lunar landing mission.
Hitching a ride on India’s heavy-duty launch vehicle, the PSLV, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft will travel 1.5 million km in about four months to study the Sun’s atmosphere.
Key scientific objectives are to study coronal heating, solar wind acceleration, coronal magnetometry, origin and monitoring of near-UV solar radiation and the continuous observation of photosphere, chromosphere and corona, solar energetic particles and magnetic field of the Sun.
Longer term, data from the mission could help better understand the Sun’s impact on Earth’s climate patterns.
Named after the Hindi word for the Sun, the spacecraft aims to study solar winds, which can cause disturbance on Earth and are commonly seen as “auroras”.
The mission will obtain near simultaneous images of the different layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, which reveal the ways in which the energy may be channeled and transferred from one layer to another. Thus the Aditya-L1 mission will enable a comprehensive understanding of the dynamical processes of the Sun and address some of the outstanding problems in solar physics and heliophysics.
In 2019, the government sanctioned about ₹378.53 crore, excluding launch costs, for the Aditya-L1 mission. Isro has not given an official update on costs.
Isro has earned a reputation for world-beating cost competitiveness in space engineering that executives and planners expect will boost its now-privatised space industry. The Chandrayaan-3 mission, which landed a spacecraft on the lunar south pole, had a budget of just about $75 million.
Other planned missions.