ESA's Euclid dark matter mission moves one step closer to planned 2020 launch
The European Space Agency's (ESA)planned Euclid mission, which aims to study dark matter and darkenergy, has reached a key pre-flight milestone. The endeavour has nowpassed its preliminary design review, allowing the team to actuallystart building the spacecraft.
The Euclid mission was first proposedback in 2007, and more recently (in 2011) was selected as one of two medium class mission in the ESA's Cosmic Vision program. It'sdesigned to provide insights that will help scientists evaluatecurrent models for the formation and evolution of the Universe,looking specifically at dark matter and dark energy.
The spacecraftwill work to map the shapes, positions and movements of some twobillion galaxies spanning more than one third of the night sky,providing astronomers with a huge amount of data.
Since its selection in 2011, themission has been carefully studied and refined, with the teamevaluating key technical designs, as well as building a testingparticular components. The very concept of the mission was also putunder scrutiny, with careful assessment of whether the six-year mission will provide the desired level of results. The reviewhad a positive outcome, allowing the operation to start taking stepstowards launch.
Having passed the preliminary designreview landmark, the hardware of the spacecraft can now begin taking shape. The construction phase is now full-speed ahead, with Airbus Defense &Space working on the payload module, which will include a 1.2-m (3.9-ft) telescope, while the Euclid Consortium will build two scienceinstruments for the mission.
Looking down the line, the Euclidmission will face another evaluation in two years time, known as thecritical design review. By that stage, the major hardware componentswill have been finished and tested, and construction of the fullinstrument will begin.
Assuming everything goes to plan, themission will be ready for launch in December 2020, launchingfrom Kourou, French Guiana, atop a Soyuz rocket.