MOSCOW – Russia and Spain are making progress in the design and construction of an ultraviolet telescope that will be launched into space in 2025 to replace the United States’ Hubble telescope after 30 years in service.
“It’ll be the only ultraviolet telescope after the Hubble. It will allow us to explore exoplanets (planets beyond the solar system), study the atmosphere of the stars and intergalactic winds, as well as investigate precursor molecules of life in interstellar space,” Ana Ines Gomez de Castra, the project’s main researcher, told Efe.
Several entities are involved in the work on the World Space Observatory-Ultraviolet (WSO—UV), including Russia’s Space Science Institute and the Complutense University of Madrid.
A Spanish delegation traveled to Moscow to check notes against their Russian colleagues and visited facilities on the outskirts of the capital to evaluate the state of the project, a milestone in the scientific cooperation between Russia and Spain.
Gomez de Castro and the team of specialists from Spain were left with a positive impression with regards to the progress made and the commitment shown by a space power such as Russia, even more so when the economic circumstances of both countries slowed down the project.
The director of the Institute of Astronomy, Mikhail Sachkov, said 70 percent of the work was complete and the team was now entering the final phase.
“Spain’s a good partner. Its participation will give us access to European technology,” chief constructor Alexandr Moisheev, told Efe. “In addition, it will also help us in ground control.”
The Russian scientist said the telescope would be more efficient than the Soviet Aston, which he designed and which was retired in 1989, and the Hubble.
“We’ll receive much more precise information from the ultraviolet zone. We will be able to look at the ultraviolet sky,” he said.
Spain’s contribution, a project in which over 30 people are involved, entails the optical design of filers and prisms of the far UV channel, as well as designing and building a radiation detector for the channel which will capture unique images of the universe.
The director of projects of the Remote Ultraviolet Detector of SENER, Laura Diez, said that in a year the company has made progress in structural design, mechanical design and the thermal analysis of the apparatus, in addition to completing the first experimental tests.
“It’s a big challenge, our far ultraviolet detector will be one of the few instruments that will provide data on exoplanets in a range of waves where there is very little information,” he said.
To this end, the Complutense University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have created a research center on the campus of the Complutense in Madrid, which will be responsible for organizing the observations that will make up the program of the Spanish-Russian telescope.
Sachkov told Efe the telescope will last 10 years (2025-35), but it has not been decided yet from where it will launch between Baikonur and Vostochni, as it will depend on the results of testing with the Angara carrier rocket.
Mexico and Japan have shown interest in joining the project, estimated to be worth some 300 million euros, but have not yet committed economically.
“The Spanish contribution represents ten percent of the total, we have a luxury team, if other countries come, we will be welcome, but if not, then we will continue Russia and Spain,” says Gomez Castro.