Falcon 9 lifting off with Euclid. Credits: SpaceX

Falcon 9 Launches Euclid Telescope: Probing Dark Energy Mysteries

Euclid has taken flight on board a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. The European telescope will observe billions of galaxies to study the Dark Universe

Good journey Euclid! The European telescope finally lifted off on July 1st, at 15:12 UTC on board a SpaceX Falcon 9. The rocket took off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

2:45 minutes after liftoff the second stage separated from the booster that landed about 8 minutes later on the A Shortfall of Gravitas drone ship. At T+ 41:00 The Euclid telescope was deployed and a few minutes later the ESA’s New Norcia ground station in Australia confirmed the Acquisition Of Signal from the spacecraft. 

The B1080 first stage used for this mission previously launched the Axiom Mission 2 (Ax-2) to the ISS on May 21. This was the 45th launch for SpaceX in 2023 and the 130th consecutive booster landing, the Falcon 9 heritage continues.

Euclid is a space telescope developed by ESA, with contributions from NASA and built by an industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space. The spacecraft was originally planned to be launched on a Soyuz rocket, but in October 2022 the European Space Agency (ESA) decided to move the mission to Falcon 9. 


Scientific objectives

What are the fundamental physical laws of the Universe? How did the Universe originate and what is it made of? Euclid will try to contribute to these two themes of the ESA’s Cosmic Vision space exploration program.

Dark energy and dark matter make up the majority of the known matter, but we don’t know enough about them and their role in the expansion of the Universe. Euclid will study the mysteries of the Dark Universe, to do so it will make a 3D map of the cosmos measuring the shape and redshift of billions of galaxies up to 10 billion light years. The telescope will orbit the second Lagrange point (L2), 1.5 million km from Earth where the sunshield will protect the instruments from the light of the Sun, Earth and Moon.

Euclid right before being encapsulated by a SpaceX Falcon 9 fairing. Credits: SpaceX
Euclid right before being encapsulated inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 fairing. Credits: SpaceX

The spacecraft is 4.7 meters tall and has a diameter of 3.7 m, it consists of two main components. The service module hosts all the subsystems needed to operate the telescope, including communications, power, telemetry, thermal and orbit control. The payload module comprises the 1.2 m diameter telescope and the main two scientific instruments:

  • The Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP) will detect galaxies’ redshift by determining how much light they emit with spectroscopic measurements. This will help to estimate with greater certainty the distances of galaxies and their distribution over the Universe.
  • The VISible instrument (VIS) is a visible wavelength camera that will be used to observe the shapes of billions of galaxies. Gravity, affecting the trajectory of light, also alters the shape of these objects. Scientists will combine this information with the estimated distances of the galaxies to map the distribution of matter in the Universe and its evolution.


What’s next

Euclid will now travel toward the L2 point where it will arrive in 4 weeks, then all the instruments will be turned on. For the next 3 months, the mission controllers will conduct various tests to verify the correct functioning of all systems and scientific instruments. The telescope will then survey one third of the sky for six years, as it has never been done.

Artist impression of Euclid leaving Earth. Credits: ESA
Artist impression of Euclid leaving Earth. Credits: ESA

“Euclid has been made possible by ESA’s leadership, the effort and expertise of hundreds of European industrial and scientific institutions, and through collaboration with international partners. The quest to answer fundamental questions about our cosmos is what makes us human.”

Josef Aschbacher, ESA Director General


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Francesco Sebastiano Moro

Francesco Sebastiano Moro

Aerospace engineering student at University of Padua, passionate of space and aerospace sector.

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