Russia has launched a space telescope that could significantly improve humanity's understanding of the universe. The country developed the X-ray telescope with the help of Germany.
Mission Launch Postponed Twice
The launch of the 2.7-tonne telescope was originally scheduled on June 21, but this was postponed twice due to a battery problem.
The Spektr-RG observatory finally launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:31 p.m. local time on Saturday, July 13 aboard a Proton-M rocket.
Decades-Old Russian Dream
The mission was first proposed more than 30 years ago as part of Soviet's ambitious plan to launch "great observatories," but it hit a snag due to budget cuts in the post-Soviet Russia era. The work revived in 2005 albeit the Spektr-RG was redesigned to be simpler, smaller, and cheaper.
The cost of the project is equivalent to a medium class European Space Agency science mission, which puts the telescope's cost at about $600 million.
A Collaboration Of Russian And German Scientists
Russian and German scientists worked together to develop the telescopes onboard the spacecraft. German scientists worked on the eROSITA X-ray telescope, and the Russian scientists built the ART-XC telescope.
"The spacecraft was created with the participation of Germany in the framework of the Federal Space Program of Russia by the order of the Russian Academy of Sciences," the Russian space agency Roscosmos
said in a statement
Objectives Of The SRG Mission
The Spektr-RG mission aims to map all of the estimated 100,000 visible galaxy clusters across the universe. These clusters, which have a mass equivalent to 1 million billion suns, are host to as many as 1,000 galaxies
The observatory's 6.5-year survey could lead to the discovery of hundreds of thousands of active stars and about 3 million supermassive black holes
By providing a more detailed map of the cosmos, the Spektr-RG could shed light on the evolution of the universe, the formation of black holes, and the nature of dark energy that accelerates the expansion of the cosmos.
"With eROSITA covering the whole sky, we can see enough of [the clusters of galaxies] to reconstruct their growth history extremely accurately. That in turn tells us something about the amount, and perhaps the nature of dark energy and dark matter," said
eROSITA Project Scientist Andrea Merloni.