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India’s solar probe completes key final manoeuvre around Earth as it slingshots towards Sun

India’s solar probe completes key final manoeuvre around Earth as it slingshots towards Sun

The Indian space agency’s Aditya L1 spacecraft, the country’s first solar mission, has completed a key manoeuvre around the Earth and has been slingshot toward the Sun.

Aditya L1, aimed at studying solar winds, was launched from India’s main space centre Sriharikota on 2 September and has undergone four manoeuvres circling the Earth. It helped the spacecraft gain necessary velocity for its journey towards the Sun.

The spacecraft’s final destination is a location known as Lagrange Point L1 – located roughly 1.5 million km from earth – where it can maintain its position relative to the Sun and Earth, held in balance between the two celestial bodies’ gravitational fields. This position will offer the spacecraft an unobstructed view of the Sun while also reducing fuel consumption.

In an update on the spacecraft’s journey, the Indian space agency Isro noted on Tuesday that it is now “off to Sun-Earth L1 point.”

“The Trans-Lagrangean Point 1 Insertion (TL1I) maneuvre is performed successfully. The spacecraft is now on a trajectory that will take it to the Sun-Earth L1 point,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) noted in a post on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.

“It will be injected into an orbit around L1 through a maneuver after about 110 days,” Isro said.

The move also marks the fifth consecutive time the Indian space agency has successfully transferred an object on a trajectory toward another celestial body or location in space.

Earlier on Monday, Isro said the spacecraft commenced collecting scientific data with sensors in its special instruments beginning to measure ions and electrons at distances greater than 50,000km from the Earth, helping analyse the behaviour of particles surrounding the planet.

The spacecraft carries with it seven scientific payloads developed by Isro, as well as research institutes including Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), Bengaluru, and Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune.

The payloads would help study the Sun’s different layers including the photosphere, chromosphere, and the outermost layer – the corona.

From the mission, scientists hope to learn further about the effect of solar radiation on the thousands of satellites in orbit.

Studies have shown that energy particles emitted by the Sun in the form of solar storms can hit satellites that control communications on Earth.

“There have been episodes when major communications have gone down because a satellite has been hit by a big corona emission. Satellites in low earth orbit are the main focus of global private players, which makes the Aditya-L1 mission a very important project,” Somak Raychaudhury, who was involved in developing some components of the craft, said.