After the Moon, India launches a rocket to study the Sun

BENGALURU (Reuters) – In the wake of India’s successful moon landing, India’s space agency launched a rocket on Saturday to study the sun in its first solar-powered mission.

A live broadcast on the Indian Space Research Organization’s website showed the rocket leaving behind a trail of smoke and fire as scientists applauded.

The Indian space agency said on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that the satellite is now in orbit.

The broadcast was watched by more than 860,000 viewers, while thousands gathered in a gallery near the launch site to watch the launch of the probe, which aims to study the solar winds, which can cause disturbances on Earth and are usually seen as auroras.

Named after the Hindi word for sun, the Aditya-L1 spacecraft launched nearly 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 missile, India’s Chandrayaan 3 outperformed the Luna 25 to perform a record landing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is urging that Indian space missions play a bigger role on a global stage dominated by the US and China. Speaking on social media platform X, Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah said the launch was a “giant step” towards Modi’s vision.

Aditya-L1 is designed to travel 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) over a four-month period, much less than the Sun, which is 150 million kilometers from Earth. Its journey is supposed to stop at what looks like a parking lot in space, called a Lagrange point, where objects tend to stay in place due to balancing gravitational forces, which reduces the spacecraft’s fuel consumption.

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“We have ensured that we will have a unique data set that is not currently available from any other mission,” said Sankar Subramanian, the mission’s principal scientist.

“This will allow us to understand the Sun and its dynamics as well as the inner heliosphere, an important component of current day technology, as well as aspects of space weather,” he added.

The mission also has the potential to cause a “big bang in scientific terms,” ​​said Somak Raychoudhury, who was involved in developing some of the observatory’s components, adding that energy particles from the sun could strike satellites that control communications on Earth.

“There have been periods when major communications were lost due to a satellite being hit by a large coronae emission. Satellites in low Earth orbit are the main 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, a number that is growing with the success of projects such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink communications network.

“Low Earth orbit has been heavily polluted due to the involvement of the private sector, so understanding how to protect satellites there will be of particular importance in today’s space environment,” said Rama Rao Nidamanuri, Head of the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science. Space science and technology.

In the long term, ISRO scientists said, data from the mission could help better understand the sun’s influence on Earth’s climate patterns and the origins of the solar wind, a stream of particles that flows from the sun through the solar system.

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With Modi’s backing, India has privatized space launches and is looking to open the sector to foreign investment, aiming to increase its share of the global launch market fivefold over the next decade.

With space becoming a global business, the country is also counting on the success of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to showcase its prowess in the sector.

(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Bengaluru; Prepared by Mohamed for The Arabic Bulletin) Additional reporting by Jayshri P Upadhyay; Editing by William Mallard and Miral Fahmy

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Nivedita writes about space businesses, startups, and other developing technologies that have the potential to impact the human journey. Previously, she covered the US apparel industry, the tech startup boom in India, and other market and industry-defining stories during her 14 years with Reuters. When she’s not pursuing her own stories, she’s a desk editor. Contact: +9920455129

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