The resurrection of Russia’s space science program continued today with the launch of the Spectrum-R astrophysical observatory aboard a Zenit rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Roscosmos reports that the satellite separated from its Fregat-SB upper stage and is headed for its intended destination 340,000 kilometers from Earth.
Spectrum-R, developed under Radioastron project in the framework of Russian Federal Space Program, will conduct interferometer observations in conjunction with the global ground radio telescope network to obtain images, coordinates, motions and evolution of angular structures of different radio emitting objects in the Universe. Scientists will study pulsars and interstellar plasma, black holes and neutron stars in the Milky Way. The spacecraft’s operational lifetime will be no less than five years.
Spectrum-R was built by Roscosmos’ company Lavochkin R&D. Scientific payloads were developed by the Astro Space Center of Russian Academy of Sciences’ Lebedev Physical Institute, as well as by international partners.
Speaking to reporters at Baikonur on Saturday, Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin outlined his nation’s robotic space exploration plans, which include space science and planetary missions.
“The Spektr-RG X-ray telescope will be launched in 2013, the Spektr-UF ultraviolet observatory in 2015, and the Spektr-M telescope in 2017-2018,” he said.
The next big space science launch on Russia’s calendar is the November launch of the ambitious Phobos-Grunt mission, which will be the nation’s first attempt to explore the Red Planet since 1995. The mission aims to return soil samples from the martian moon and to release a Chinese sub-satellite into orbit.