India's Aditya L1 spacecraft is set to conduct a complex insertion into the halo orbit around Lagrange Point 1 (L1), a point of gravitational equilibrium between the Earth and the Sun.
The spacecraft is in the final leg of its journey which has stretched over 15 lakh kilometres in the cold vacuum of space. Isro launched the spacecraft on September 2, 2023, from Sriharikota
The journey is expected to culminate on January 6, 2024.
The insertion into L1 is a critical phase of the mission, requiring precise navigation and control. Aditya L1 underwent a series of four Earth-bound orbital maneuvers before being injected into a transfer orbit towards L1.
This meticulous process involves careful planning to ensure that the spacecraft maintains its trajectory and velocity to successfully enter the halo orbit.
The significance of L1 cannot be overstated. It offers an uninterrupted view of the Sun, allowing Aditya L1 to study the solar atmosphere, solar magnetic storms, and their impact on Earth's environment.
The spacecraft will measure various events such as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and the interplanetary magnetic fields, providing vital data not only for India but for the global scientific community.
To ensure a successful insertion, ISRO's team must take several precautions. The spacecraft's position and speed must be constantly monitored and adjusted using onboard thrusters to counteract any deviations from the planned path.
Additionally, the spacecraft's instruments, including the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) and the Solar Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (SUIT), must be protected from the intense radiation and particles emitted by the Sun.
The stability of L1, an unstable Lagrange point, also poses challenges. Stationkeeping maneuvers will be required to maintain Aditya L1's halo orbit, with adjustments of 0.2–4 m/s per year. These maneuvers are crucial to counteract the gravitational influences of other celestial bodies and the pressure exerted by solar radiation.
As Aditya L1 approaches its target, the mission team remains vigilant, ready to tackle the complexities of space travel.
The success of this insertion will not only be central to Isro's capabilities but will also pave the way for new insights into our Sun's mysteries and its influence on space weather.