A Proton M launch vehicle with the Block DM-03 upper stage successfully launched the Spektr-RG astrophysical observatory from Site 81 of the Baikonur 13 Cosmodrome on July 13, 2019 at 3:30:57 p.m. Moscow time. The launch and flight were completed successfully.
At 5:30 p.m. Moscow time, the spacecraft was separated from the Block DM-03 upper stage and the orbital observatory started its 100-day flight towards the L2 librational point between the Earth and the Sun, where it will be exploring the Universe in the X-ray wavelength range of electromagnetic emissions.
It will be a long 100-day flight to the L2 Lagrange point for the Spektr-RG telescope. After reaching the destination, SC will once again ignite the thrusters and keep its position at the Lagrange point. Then the both telescopes protective caps will open and the strenuous work will start. SC will need high flow rate of propellant to keep the unstable equilibrium in L2 point. The TK500M and K50-10.1 thermal catalytic thrusters designed by EDB Fakel (a subsidiary of State Corporation ROSCOSMOS) used for a station keeping.
The mission involves six and a half years of observation, including 4 years of star scanning and 2.5 years of point observation of objects in the Universe.
The Spektr-RG is expected to detect 100,000 galaxy clusters in the observable part of the Universe, as well as approximately 3 million accretive supermassive black holes, hundreds of thousands of stars with active coronas and accreting white dwarf stars, tens of thousands of star-forming galaxies and many other objects, including objects of unknown nature. These data are extremely important for understanding how matter is distributed in the Universe, what role dark energy played in its development and how supermassive black holes appeared and grew.
The Spektr-RG spacecraft was developed in partnership with Germany as part of the Federal Space Program on request of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The observatory is equipped with two unique X‑ray mirror telescopes, the ART-XC (Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and eROSITA (MPE, Germany), which comprise an oblique incidence X-ray optical system. The telescopes are mounted onto a Navigator platform (NPO Lavochkin, Russia), that was adapted to the requirements of the program.
FSUE EDB Fakel (a subsidiary of State Corporation ROSCOSMOS) is one of the leading companies in development of electric propulsion systems and hydrazine thermal catalytic thrusters subsystems, having experience in industrial production and batch deliveries of thrusters for commercial and government market sectors. Fakel’s worldwide share in thrusters production for SC is about 10%. More than 70 Russian SCs (about 60% of satellite orbital group) and 30 foreign SCs are equipped with thrusters designed by EDB Fakel.
ROSCOSMOS is a State Corporation that was established in August 2015 to oversee and implement a comprehensive reform of the Russian space industry. ROSCOSMOS ensures the implementation of the Russian government’s space program and its legal regulation. ROSCOSMOS is also placing orders for the development, manufacture and supply of space equipment and space infrastructure objects. The state corporation is also responsible for international space cooperation and tasked with setting the stage for the future use of results of space activities in the social and economic development of Russia.