Early Data Transmission from Aditya L1 Mission
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has initiated the collection and transmission of scientific data from its Aditya L1 mission. Remarkably, this data is being sent back to Earth even before the spacecraft reaches its intended destination – a halo orbit around the first Lagrange point in the Sun-Earth system. These initial findings are offering valuable insights into the environment surrounding Earth.
Aditya L1’s Instruments at Work
Aditya L1, India’s inaugural dedicated heliophysics observatory, houses instruments that have begun relaying data gathered during the Earthbound phase of the mission. The first batch of data received originates from the Supra Thermal and Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS) instrument, a component of the Aditya Solar Wind Particle EXperiment (ASPEX) payload. STEPS is specifically designed for studying high-energy particles emitted by the Sun.
Enhancing Understanding of Space Environment
Such observations are instrumental in enhancing our comprehension of the space environment near our planet. The STEPS instrument comprises six sensors, all of which are operating as expected. The data obtained aids in mapping variations in the energetic particle environment within Earth’s magnetosphere.
Milestones Along the Way
On September 10, 2023, the STEPS instrument was activated when Aditya L1 was approximately 50,000 kilometers away from Earth, beyond the Earth’s radiation belt. On the same day, the spacecraft executed the third of four Earthbound maneuvers designed to extend its orbit and increase its altitude. These maneuvers are conducted via powered flybys, which are fuel-efficient. Following health checks, the instrument continued to gather data as the spacecraft distanced itself from Earth.
Future Endeavors of Aditya L1
ISRO has disclosed that the STEPS instrument will continue to accumulate data during the cruise phase of the mission as it progresses toward its intended orbit around the first Lagrange point (L1). This region represents a gravitational equilibrium where the influences of Earth and the Sun are balanced, enabling a spacecraft to maintain its position with minimal fuel consumption. From this advantageous vantage point, Aditya L1 will enjoy an uninterrupted view of the Sun, free from the interruptions caused by occultations or eclipses.
Final Leg of the Journey
As Aditya L1 completes its final orbit around Earth, it will depart the planet’s vicinity permanently. This momentous step is scheduled to occur with a burn in the early hours of September 19, 2023.
The Aditya L1 mission’s early data transmission marks a significant milestone in our quest to better understand the Sun-Earth system, and it paves the way for exciting discoveries in heliophysics.