Russia launches space telescope

A Proton-M rocket carrying the Spektr-RG space observatory taking off from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.
A Proton-M rocket carrying the Spektr-RG space observatory taking off from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. PHOTO: RUSSIANSPACEWEB

MOSCOW • Russia has launched a space telescope from the cosmodrome in Baikonur, a joint project with Germany intended to replace one Russia lost in January.

Video posted yesterday on the website of the Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, showed a Proton-M rocket carrying the Spektr-RG taking off from the launch pad at Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Agence France-Presse reported.

The launch was originally scheduled for June 21 but was postponed twice because of a battery problem.

The Spektr-RG, developed with Germany, is a space observatory intended to replace the Spektr-R, known as the "Russian Hubble", which Roscosmos said it lost control of in January.

Spektr-R was launched in 2011 to observe black holes, neutron stars and magnetic fields. Its successor will take up similar duties but will also work on completing the map of the world, said Roscosmos.

Researchers say the Spektr-RG will map X-rays across the entire sky in unprecedented detail and this information will help them trace the large-scale structure of the universe, the BBC reported.

Russia's space programme, long a source of great pride to the nation, has suffered a series of humiliating setbacks in recent years, although the country remains committed to ambitious projects.

Since 2011, Russia has been the only country capable of sending teams to the International Space Station (ISS).

But a series of recent setbacks together with corruption scandals within Roscosmos and the competition from tech entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX have threatened its monopoly.

The next launch to the ISS is scheduled for Saturday and will carry two astronauts - an Italian and an American - together with a Russian cosmonaut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 14, 2019, with the headline 'Russia launches space telescope'. Print Edition | Subscribe