India’s first solar mission, which was pushed from early 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is likely to be launched in the third quarter of 2022, when the country’s second space observatory Xposat, aimed at helping astronomers study cosmic sources such as pulsars and supernova, will also be launched, senior officials from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
Talking about the purely scientific missions at a conference this week, director of human spaceflight centre, Dr Unnikrishnan Nair, said, “The solar mission Aditya L1 will be launched in the third quarter of next year (2022) and will provide more insights into the origin of the universe and many other unknowns.”
The spacecraft in the Aditya L1 mission will be sent 1.5 million km away from the Earth to L1 Lagrangian, a point between the Earth and the Sun where the gravitational pull of both the bodies on the satellite is equal to the centripetal force needed to keep the satellite in orbit. It is like a parking area in space and is great for observing several phenomena without hindrances from eclipses.
Xposat will be the other purely scientific mission that the space agency will undertake next year. It will be launched aboard a small satellite launch vehicle, which is currently in the development phase. The new launch vehicle is likely to have its first development flight by December this year. ISRO qualifies a launch vehicle to be mission-ready after two successful development flights.
“Xposat will allow us to study the polarisation of celestial events. It will be launched by an SSLV which is under development. The first development flight will be by the end of this year. Academicians are looking forward to the data generated from this mission,” said Nair.
The SSLV, which is being developed for the commercial launch of small satellites, costs only ₹30 crore as compared to ₹120 crore for a polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV). The SSLV can be assembled by a team of six scientists within seven days in comparison to a team of 600 that takes a couple of months to assemble a PSLV.
The Covid-19 pandemic severely affected the number of launches ISRO could undertake in 2020 and 2021. There has been a total of just four launches in the two years, of which, one was a purely commercial launch with the main payload being an earth observation satellite from Brazil called Amazonia-1.
Before the pandemic, the space agency had planned for 20 launches in the financial year 2020-21, including the first unmanned flight under the Gaganyaan mission. The Gaganyaan mission is also likely to be undertaken by the end of 2022 or in early 2023.