Aditya L1 Mission – Objectives, Importance, Challenges

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Indian Space research organization continues to add feathers to its crown with its ambitious project reaching the Sun. After its first space-based launch AstroSat (2015), India is on course to launch Aditya L1, its first mission to the Sun in 2020. Aditya L1 will be India’s first dedicated scientific mission to study the sun.

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When it was conceived?

  • It was first called Aditya 1 was conceptualised by the Advisory Committee for Space Research in January 2008.
  • It was first planned as a 400kg satellite-carrying only one payload- the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) to be launched in 800km low earth orbit.
  • The only objective was to observe the corona (The outer layers of the Sun, extending to thousands of km above the disc (photosphere).

What is Aditya L1?

  • It was later decided to expand the scope of the mission. It was decided that satellite should be placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point L1 of the earth-sun orbit. Hence the name, Aditya L1.

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What is a Halo orbit?

Halo orbit is a periodic, 3-D orbit near the L1, L2 and L3 Lagrange point in a three-body system.

What is a Lagrangian Point?

Lagrange Point is the point at which the combined gravitational force of two large bodies is equal to the centrifugal force that is felt by a relatively smaller third body. There are about 5 such points(L1-5) in a two-body system.

A satellite at this point will need very little energy (Low fuel consumption) to maintain itself in an orbit. Also, it has an advantage of viewing the sun without any disturbance like eclipses and occultation.

  • Also, the payloads were increased to seven including the main payload, Visible Emission Line Coronagraph.

The payload wise objectives of the mission are-

  1. Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC)-

-To study the solar corona and Coronal Mass Ejections.

-Measurement of the magnetic field of the solar corona.

  1. Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT)-

-To image the Solar Photosphere and Chromosphere.

-Measure solar irradiance variations.

  1. Aditya Solar wind Particle Experiment (ASPEX)-

To study the variation of solar wind properties and their distribution.

  1. Plasma Analyser Package for Aditya (PAPA)-

To understand the composition of solar wind and its energy distribution.

  1. Solar Low Energy X-ray Spectrometer (SoLEXS)-

To monitor the X-ray flares in order to study the heating mechanism of the solar corona.

  1. High Energy L1 Orbiting X-ray Spectrometer (HEL1OS)-

-To observe the dynamic events in the solar corona.

-To provide an estimate of the energy used to accelerate the particles during the eruptive events.

  1. Magnetometer-

To measure the nature and magnitude of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field.

How it is different from the Parker Solar Probe by NASA?

While the Parker Solar Probe is entering right into the atmosphere of the sun, Aditya L1 will remain far away doing the remote observation of the sun.

When is it going to be launched?

The launch will take place most probably at the end of 2020 around the beginning of the solar cycle, an event in which sunspots form and grow on the solar surface to eventually diminish over a period of 11 years.

What is the Importance of the mission?

  • Study of the Sun-
  1. Sun being the parent star, its weather and happenings on the star affect our planet too. Hence the study is important.
  2. Aditya L1 will be the first satellite to study the magnetic field of the sun’s corona.
  3. It will probably study why the photosphere, a deeper layer of the Sun, is at a lower temperature than the outer corona.
  4. It will study the solar wind ions, the coronal mass ejections.
  • For ISRO-
  1. The ambitious mission will add to the capacities of the ISRO proving its mettle to conduct bigger missions.
  2. With the inclusion of multiple payloads spearheaded by various institutions, this project also provides an opportunity for solar scientists from multiple institutions within the country to participate in the project
  3. It will boost science and technology research and development.
  • Innovation Industry-

It will encourage entrepreneurial spirit in the Indian innovation industry leading to the formation of many start-ups in the space industry.

  • Economy
  1. IT will lead to newer private sectors forming ancillary industries leading to employment generation.
  2. ISRO’s scaling of new heights in research can be monetized.
  3. It will bring more foreign currency reserves.

What are the challenges associated with the mission?

  • The distance of Sun from Earth is 15 lakh km approximately. The distance covering would be the most important challenge.
  • The heavy payload is not going to be stationary. The risk of keeping them in an orbit and without collision will be the next challenge.
  • The sustenance of the project around extremely hot temperature and radiation in the solar backyard is also going to be tough.

Conclusion

The Aditya L1 mission will be keenly followed by the ISRO and Space programmes around the world. Especially after the Near success of Chandrayan 2, the Stakes will be a bit higher. It will open up a new dimension of distant Space exploration for India and would help both India and the world.  International cooperation and precise planning and implementation are key to the success of the mission.

Practice question for Mains

Why, for a country like ours with around 30% population below the poverty line people, is it important to march on the Sun? critically analyse the importance of ISRO in the nation-building process. (250 Words)

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