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India's maiden Sun mission gets a boost

Srinivas Laxman, Indian Space Correspondent
Mar 4, 2015, 3:19 UTC

Sen—India’s first mission to study the Sun designated as 'Aditya-1' received a major boost in the national budget for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) presented on Feb. 28, 2015.

Budget papers show that the allocation for the solar project has gone up from a mere U.S. $1.1 million to U.S. $3.2 million. The total cost of the project is about U.S. $16.2 million.

ISRO officials who spoke to Sen said that the hike only showed that India had accorded high priority to this project, and if it is successful then India will join the elite club of space-faring nations like the U.S., Japan and members of the European Space Agency which have launched missions to the Sun.

Slated for launch in 2018 with the highly-proven four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), the mission will study the highly dynamic nature of the solar corona including the small scale coronal loops and large coronal mass ejections. Officials explained that these studies will enhance knowledge of the solar corona which in turn will help in providing data relating to space weather.

With a launch mass of 400 kg, the spacecraft will be placed in earth orbit at an altitude of nearly 800 kms positioned at Lagrangian point L1 which will be 1.5 million kms away from the earth. The advantage of locating it at this point is that it will allow the spacecraft to observe the Sun continuously and relay data.

The main payload will be the advanced solar coronagraph. The others are: Ultraviolet imager telescope, a high energy x-ray spectrometer, a wind particle detector, a soft ray spectrometer and a variable emission coronagraph.

The earlier plan envisaged it being launched in 2015-2016. But it got rescheduled to 2018 when it was decided to put additional payloads and place the satellite at the Lagrangian point L1. 

According to Isro officials, it is is an extremely challenging mission because the spacecraft will be positioned at a point where the gravity of the Sun and that of the earth will play a role to keep the satellite in its place.

The project was conceptualised in January 2008 and was announced on Nov. 10, 2008—just four days before India landed on the moon on Nov.14, 2008.

The other important feature of the budget is that for the first time it has allotted a sum of Rs two crores for a Saarc satellite which was mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addressed the space scientists at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Jun. 30, 2014, after the successful launch of the PSLV-C23 mission.

The satellite will be designed and developed by ISRO and will cater to the needs of the seven-member Saarc countries.

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Illustration of Aditya-1. Image credit: ISRO