20 Apr 2018 15:22

Launch of Spektr-RG observatory delayed until March 2019

MOSCOW. April 20 (Interfax-AVN) - The Spektr-RG international high-energy astrophysics observatory will be put into orbit in March 2019, the Russian Space Systems holding, which is a Roscosmos subsidiary, said in a statement.

"Russian Space Systems has built and delivered to the client a new high-performance radio system for the Spektr-RG international astrophysics observatory, which is due to be launched in March 2019," the holding said.

The unique devices built by Russian Space Systems will enable researchers to control the observatory and receive information from areas up to 1.8 million kilometers away from the Earth, it said.

"The radio system of the Spektr-RG observatory will receive commands from the Earth, play a role in trajectory measurements, and transmit telemetric and scientific information to ground control," the holding said.

"Russian Space Systems has integrated those functions into a single device by means of innovative design and engineering solutions. The mass of the spacecraft's service systems has been significantly reduced to accommodate a greater payload: the German X-ray telescope eROSITA and the Russian telescope ART-HS," the holding said.

The radio system will transmit data to ground control at up to 512kbps from between 200 kilometers and 1.8 million kilometers from the Earth. Ground stations will be able to determine the spacecraft's coordinates to within 10 meters, while its speed will be known to within 0.55 millimeters per second.

Russian Space Systems has ensured that contact with the radio system will not be lost, irrespective of Spektr-RG's orientation. The system will constantly be running tests on itself and sending reports to ground control if necessary. It will be possible to repair the radio system in orbit. If no commands are received from Earth for more than two days, the system will automatically launch problem-fixing algorithms, activating reserve systems one by one until the damaged unit is disconnected and contact is restored.

The purpose of the Spektr-RG is to study the universe in the gamma and hard X-ray bands. It will spend 7.5 years at Lagrange point L2 to draw a full map of the sky and particular galaxies in the X-ray band and acquire additional information about the nature of black holes, neutron stars, and galaxy cores.

"The Spektr-RG mission is expected to help discover over a million galaxies," the holding said.

Earlier, Interfax learned about the delay of the mission from a source at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.