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Russian Proton-M launches Spektr-RG observatory

The Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma, also known as the Spektr-RG mission is a joint project between Roscosmos and the DLR.


Credits: ILS/Twitter

A Russian and European all-sky-survey satellite has safely reached space following a successful launch on a Proton rocket on Saturday, July 13.

The Spektrum-Röntgen-Gamma mission, also known as Spektr-RG, is a joint project between the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, and the German space agency, DLR.

Spektr-RG launched to space from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8:31 a.m. EDT (1231 GMT, or 5:31 p.m. local time).

Saturday’s launch followed weeks of delays.

An attempt to launch the Spektr-RG mission on June 21 was delayed by a battery drain on the Proton rocket’s Block DM upper stage, according to Spaceflight Now. Roscosmos then postponed a second launch attempt Friday (July 12) due to a potential issue with the booster.

Spektr-RG will next navigate to a stable orbit in space called a Lagrange point (specifically, L2), where the gravitational forces of two large objects — in this case, the sun and the Earth — balance each other out.

This location will allow Spektr-RG to perform its observations while using a minimal amount of fuel.

According to Roscosmos, the spacecraft is expected to detect 100,000 galaxy clusters, 3m supermassive black holes, tens of thousands of star-forming galaxies, the presence of plasma (superheated gas) and many more types of objects.

The observatory includes two X-ray mirror telescopes, called ART-XC and eROSITA.

ART-XC (a Russian payload) will examine the higher energies of X-rays, up to 30 keV, while eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array) is optimised for an energy range of 0.5 to 10 keV.

KeV is a measure referring to electrical potential difference. A single electron volt (eV) is a unit of energy equal to the amount of energy an electron (negatively charged particle) gains when it is accelerated from rest through a potential difference of 1 volt. A kiloelectron volt (keV) is equal to 1,000 electron volts.

ART-XC will have a narrower field of view and is designed to look at objects with a lower range of energies than eROSITA, according to Russian Space Web’s Anatoly Zak.

“The overlap in the sensitivity of eROSITA and ART-XC was reported to be useful for the calibration of the two instruments and increasing the reliability of their scientific results,” he said.
Spektr-RG is expected to be calibrated in about three months; it will then perform its survey.