India’s Aditya-L1 solar telescope initiates some science observations

According to India’s space agency ISRO, its Aditya-L1 solar telescope has begun science observations with one instrument, even as it continues its journey to its final position at L1, one million miles from the Earth.

The activation of STEPS occurred on September 10, 2023, at a distance exceeding 50,000 km from Earth. This distance equates to more than eight times the Earth’s radius, placing it significantly beyond the Earth’s radiation belt region. Following the successful completion of essential health checks for the instrument, the data collection process continued until the spacecraft had travelled beyond the 50,000 km mark from Earth.

All units of STEPS are currently operating within normal parameters. A graphical representation illustrates the measurements, showcasing fluctuations in the energetic particle environment within Earth’s magnetosphere, which were collected by one of the instrument’s units.

It is expected Aditya-L1 will reach L1 in January, where it will begin round-the-clock observations of the Sun, in parallel with NASA’s Soho telescope, which has been at L1 since the 1990s.

India successfully launches its first solar observation satellite

India’s space agency ISRO tonight (September 2, 2023 in India) successfully used its PSLV rocket with six strap-on boosters to place in orbit its first solar observation satellite, Aditya-L1, lifting off from its coastal Sriharikota spaceport.

The spacecraft will eventually maneuver itself to the L1 point about one million miles closer to the Sun, where it will make continuous observations of the star’s visible hemisphere, using seven different instruments. Its observations will supplement those of the SOHO solar observatory (also located at the L1 point), which was launched in 1995 and is long overdue for replacement, or at least some redundancy.

For India, this was the seventh launch in 2023, which ties its previous annual launch high achieved in both 2016 and 2018. The country however has three more launches tentatively scheduled for this year, though none has as yet a specific launch date.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

60 SpaceX
38 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

In the national rankings, American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 69 to 38. It also leads the entire world combined, 69 to 62, while SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 60 to 62. SpaceX however has launches scheduled for September 2nd and 3rd, so these numbers are likely to change.