BENGALURU, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Following India’s successful moon landing, the country’s space agency on Saturday launched a rocket to explore the Sun.
The rocket left a trail of smoke and fire as scientists applauded, a live broadcast on the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) website showed.
India’s space agency on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, later said the satellite is now in orbit.
More than 860,000 viewers watched the broadcast, while thousands gathered in an audience gallery near the launch pad to watch the lift-off of the probe, which aims to study the disturbing solar wind on Earth, commonly seen as auroras.
The Aditya-L1 spacecraft, named after the Hindi word for sun, flew 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 rocket, India’s Chandrayaan-3 carried the Luna-25 to enable a textbook landing.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi insists that India’s space missions should play a major role in a global arena dominated by the US and China. Home Minister Amit Shah said on social media platform X that the launch was a “giant step” towards Modi’s vision.
Aditya-L1 is designed to travel 1.5 million km (930,000 miles) in four months, far from the Sun at 150 million km from Earth. Stopping its journey at a sort of parking lot in space called a Lagrange point balances the gravitational forces, reducing fuel consumption for the spacecraft so that the objects stay put.
“We have confirmed that we have a unique data set not available from any other mission at the moment,” said Shankar Subramanian, the mission’s principal scientist.
“This will allow us to understand the Sun, its dynamics and the inner heliosphere, which is an important component of current technology and space-weather aspects,” he added.
Somak Roychowdhury, who is involved in building some of the lab’s components, said it also has the potential to create a “big bang in terms of science”, saying that energetic particles emitted by the Sun could hit satellites that control communications on Earth.
“There have been instances of major communications outages as satellites have been hit by a large corona discharge. Low-Earth orbit satellites are a major 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, growing with the success of efforts like Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink communications network.
“Low-Earth orbit is heavily polluted by private participation, so how to protect satellites is of particular importance in today’s space environment,” said Rama Rao Nidamanuri, head of the Indian Institute of Earth and Space Sciences. Space Science and Technology.
In the long run, data from the mission will help better understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s climate and the origin of the solar wind, the flow of particles from the Sun through the Solar System, ISRO scientists said.
Pushed by Modi, India has privatized space missiles and wants to open up the sector to foreign investment, aiming to quintuple its share of the global launch market within the next decade.
As space is becoming a global business, ISRO’s success has been banked on to showcase its prowess in this field.
Statement by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bangalore; Additional reporting by Jayashree P Upadhyay; Editing by William Mallard and Miral Fahmy
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