The aerospace company Thales Alenia Space (TAS) has been chosen as prime contractor for Europe’s Euclid satellite that will study dark energy and dark matter, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced on 27 June.
TAS’s contract, which will be signed in the coming weeks and it’s valued at €322.5 million, completes the sourcing of the two major elements that make up Euclid. The company will construct the structure for the space telescope as well as combine and configure the different devices that will go on-board.
A €72.5 million contract for the payload module of the 1.2m telescope has already been signed by Europe’s other big space company, Astrium. In addition, ESA will spend €40 million in the developing of special infra-red detectors.
Like in previous space missions, European member states will deliver different instruments. For instance, the UK will provide a visible-light camera and France a near-infrared camera/spectrometer. Moreover, US’ NASA will facilitate flight models of infrared detectors.
Euclid space telescope’s mission will be to look to the cosmos to study dark matter and energy. It’s expected to be launched in 2020 and it will be studying close to a third of the sky in order to find clues about the dark matter.
“Euclid will be so impressive; it will be a cosmologist’s dream, and we are making it happen step by step,” said ESA’s science director, Alvaro Gimenez.
Nearly 95% of the universe is composed by dark matter and dark energy, but they are very hard to spot and scientists admit that they know virtually nothing about them.
Euclid will try to study dark matter’s distribution by looking the way its mass distorts the light coming from distant galaxies, which are located 10 billion light years from Earth.
Regarding dark energy, the space telescope will study empty spaces between galaxies and will make three dimensional maps of them to see the expansion of the energy over time.
Euclid will be placed 1.5 million kilometres from Earth and ESA expects that the total cost of the project will be around €600 million.