India launches Aditya-L1 sun space mission from Sriharikota


India launched its first space mission to study the sun on Saturday, nearly a week after becoming the first country to land an unmanned robotic spacecraft near the moon’s south pole.

The Aditya-L1 spacecraft, the latest mission in India’s ambitious space program, took off around noon local time from the launchpad at Sriharikota in southern India, embarking on a journey to observe the outer atmosphere of the sun.

The launch was successful, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said soon after.

“The vehicle has placed the satellite precisely into its intended orbit. India’s first solar observatory has begun its journey to the destination of Sun-Earth L1 point,” ISRO said Saturday.

The mission’s name is a Sanskrit word for sun. L1 stands for Lagrange point 1, referring to the location in space between the sun and Earth where the satellite is headed and where the gravitational forces of the two bodies are in equilibrium, according to ISRO.

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“This allows an object placed there to remain relatively stable with respect to both celestial bodies,” it said.

The Aditya-L1 spacecraft will orbit the Earth several times before traveling to its destination. It will take nearly four months for the satellite to reach that point, some 1.5 million km (932,000 miles) from the Earth.

The satellite will spend its entire mission life orbiting that location, where it will have an uninterrupted view of the sun, the space agency said.

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It is carrying seven payloads to study the sun’s corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere, as well as the photosphere — the sun’s surface or what we see from Earth — and the chromosphere, a thin layer of plasma between the photosphere and the corona.

The launch follows the August touchdown of the Chandrayaan-3 mission to the moon, which marked a success for India’s growing aspirations in space and was cheered around the country of more than 1 billion people.

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The lunar mission made India the fourth nation to touch down on the moon — after the United States, the Soviet Union and China — and the first to land near the south pole, a coveted area thought to hold water in the form of ice.

Jitendra Singh, India’s minister of state for science and technology, praised the space agency for Saturday’s mission to the sun, calling it “a sunshine moment for India.”

Christian Davenport contributed to this report.


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