Apart from planning first manned space mission to be sent in 2022 and the relaunch of the Chandrayaan next year, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is also aiming to send the country’s first solar mission by early 2021. Named Aditya-L1, the 400-kg satellite launch will be one of the most ambitious space missions undertaken by the space agency so far. The mission will involve observing the sun from close quarters and obtaining information about its magnetic field and atmosphere, the Indian Express reported.
What makes solar missions tricky is the humongous distance between the Earth and the sun, which stands at 149 million kilometres. On the other hand, the distance between the Earth and the moon is only 3.84 lakh kilometre. Ultra-hot radiations and temperatures that increase exponentially as the satellite moves towards the sun, makes it impossible to be in the close vicinity of the sun.
The closest any space mission has been to the sun is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission which hovered at a distance of 18.6 million kilometres from the sun at a jaw-dropping speed of 3.93 lakh km per hour. On January 29 this year, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe recorded a temperature of 612 degree celsius on its shield which was facing the sun head-on. However, the state of the art technology used in the spacecraft retained an ordinary temperature of 30-degree celsius.
The second closest was a mission sent by erstwhile West Germany in collaboration with NASA at a distance of 43 million kilometres from the sun.
In Aditya-L1’s case, ultra-heat radiations and distance are not expected to cause much of a headache as the satellite will only explore the L1 region between the sun and the Earth which is only 1.5 million kilometres away from the earth. However, many instruments to be used in the mission are being manufactured indigenously which makes the task complicated. Some moving instruments are also being used on the mission. The mission will be launched using Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV in XL configuration. With seven payloads, the satellite will continuously face the sun and send round-the-clock imaging of the sun which will aid in study related to the solar emissions, winds and atmosphere. The findings of the mission will also be utilised in analysing the overall environment of the system including Earth’s. Storms directed at earth from the sun and their intensity might also be gauged with the help of the mission’s findings. The mission is being led by ISRO in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata.