India's maiden solar research mission, Aditya-L1, commenced its data collection by activating one of its seven onboard instruments a day prior to departing Earth's orbit, as reported by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The Supra Thermal and Energetic Particle Spectrometer (STEPS) subsystem, a vital component of ASPEX (Aditya Solar Wind Particle Experiment) payload aboard the spacecraft, is now actively measuring high-speed charged particles produced by solar processes, marking a significant milestone in its mission.
Aditya-L1 embarked on its journey on September 2 via a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C57) liftoff from Sriharikota, closely following the triumphant soft landing of Chandrayaan-3's Vikram Lander on the Moon's south polar region just days earlier. Presently, the spacecraft is orbiting Earth in a trajectory spanning 256 km at its closest point and 121,973 km at its farthest. In the early hours of Tuesday, it is set to depart Earth's orbit and commence its journey towards the L1 (Lagrange 1) point within the Earth-Sun system. This is the designated vantage point from which it will conduct its solar observations.
ISRO reported that the STEPS sensors were initiated on September 10, precisely when the spacecraft's orbit extended beyond 50,000 km from Earth. Following comprehensive instrument health assessments, ground stations have initiated the data collection process. This particular subsystem will continue gathering data throughout Aditya's voyage to the designated L1 point and will persist even beyond that stage.
“Data collected around L1 would provide insights into the origin, acceleration and anisotropy (direction-specific properties) of solar wind and space weather phenomena,” the ISRO said.