India’s first solar observatory, Aditya-L1 began its 110-day journey to the Lagrange Point-1 of the Sun-Earth system, after the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully performed the trans-Lagrangean Point insertion–a key manoeuvre that pushed the craft out of the Earth’s orbit–in the early hours of Tuesday.
“Off to Sun-Earth L1 point! The Trans-Lagrangean Point 1 Insertion (TL1I) manoeuvre is performed successfully. The spacecraft is now on a trajectory that will take it to the Sun-Earth L1 point. It will be injected into an orbit around L1 through a manoeuvre after about 110 days,” ISRO said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The space agency also confirmed that this is the fifth consecutive time that ISRO has successfully transferred an object on a trajectory toward another celestial body or location in space.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Lagrange Points are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two-body system like the Sun and Earth produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.
“These can be used by spacecraft as ‘parking spots’ in space to remain in a fixed position with minimal fuel consumption,” a NASA document read.
On September 2, the Indian space agency launched the Aditya-L1 spacecraft—the country’s maiden mission to study the Sun—from the spaceport in Sriharikota.
After the launch, a series of Earth-bound manoeuvres were also performed to ensure that the craft gathers enough momentum to be launched into its 125-day journey.
The mission will allow India’s scientists to unlock new insights about the centre of our solar system, by ensuring uninterrupted observations of the Sun.
The spacecraft is meant to be placed in a halo orbit around L1 of the Sun-Earth system, which is about 1.5 million km from the Earth. To be sure, this point is only 1% of the Earth-Sun distance.
Tuesday’s manoeuvre finally released the spacecraft from the Earth’s orbit towards its destination.
Before being placed at L1, the space agency will conduct a final manoeuvre to bind the craft where it will spend at least the next five years studying various aspects of the Sun.