The Spektr-RG X-ray observatory, the largest joint venture between Germany and Russia in the field of astrophysics, could be launched in June this year, according to Russian news agency Tass.
The observatory was originally scheduled to be launched in 2017, but the mission was delayed after being plagued by technical setbacks.
The Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (Spektr-RG) observatory is designed for X-ray astronomy. It comprises multiple instruments that make it capable of viewing the Universe in the medium- and high-energy X-ray bands.
Spektr RG has two telescopes: ART-XC and eROSITA built by Russian and German scientists, respectively.
The eROSITA telescope consists of seven Wolter-1 mirror modules, with each module containing 54 nested mirror shells to meet the required sensitivity.
ART-XC is an X-ray grazing incidence mirror telescopes array developed by the Space Research Institute and the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Experimental Physics in Russia.
The flight X-ray mirror modules of ART-XC have been developed and fabricated by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Centre.
After its launch, the Spektr-RG observatory will be placed at the L2 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. The Lagrange point is an orbital location where gravitational forces of the Earth and the Moon balance out the centrifugal force of a smaller spacecraft, thereby helping it stabilise in space.
L2 Lagrange point lies beyond the Moon and is considered as an ideal location for detailed observations of the entire sky. At this point, the Earth, the Moon and the Sun will always remain on one side from the Spektr-RG observatory. The L2 point is located about 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth.
Spektr-RG is expected to stay at the L2 point for about seven years. For the first four years of its launch, the observatory will draw eight maps of the sky in X-ray, which will finally be integrated to create a single map of the visible Universe.
In the final three years of its mission, Spektr-RG will probe a number of targets across the Universe deemed "interesting" by the teams behind the project.
Scientists also plan to use the observatory to investigate the properties of dark energy and to detect about 100,000 galaxy clusters. They also expect to view the flares of 700,000 stars (in the Milky Way galaxy) and about three million black holes in the universe using Spektr-RG.
All the data gathered by the observatory will also be made available to astronomers around the world.
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