Euclid is designed to explore the evolution of the dark Universe. It will make a 3D-map of the Universe (with time as the third dimension) by observing billions of galaxies out to 10 billion light-years, across more than a third of the sky.
While dark energy accelerates the expansion of the Universe and dark matter governs the growth of cosmic structures, scientists remain unsure about what dark energy and dark matter actually are. By observing the Universe evolving over the past 10 billion years, Euclid will reveal how it has expanded and how structure has formed over cosmic history – and from this, astronomers can infer the properties of dark energy, dark matter and gravity, to reveal more about their precise nature.
The Euclid spacecraft is approximately 4.7 m (15.4 ft) tall and 3.7 m (12 ft) in diameter. It consists of two major components: the service module and the payload module.
The payload module comprises a 1.2-m-diameter telescope and two scientific instruments: a visible-wavelength camera (the VISible instrument, VIS) and a near-infrared camera/spectrometer (the Near-Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer, NISP). The service module contains the satellite systems: electric power generation and distribution, attitude control, data processing electronics, propulsion, telecommand and telemetry, and thermal control.
Euclid will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. Its operational orbit will be halo around a point known as the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2 (L2), at an average distance of 1.5 million km beyond Earth’s orbit. This special location keeps pace with Earth as we orbit the Sun (and also hosts ESA’s Gaia and Webb space telescopes).
Nominal mission lifetime is six years, with the possibility of extension (limited by the amount of cold gas used for propulsion).
Euclid is a fully European mission, built and operated by ESA, with contributions from NASA. The Euclid Consortium – consisting of more than 2000 scientists from 300 institutes in 13 European countries, the US, Canada and Japan – provided the scientific instruments and scientific data analysis. ESA selected Thales Alenia Space as prime contractor for the construction of the satellite and its Service Module, with Airbus Defence and Space chosen to develop the Payload Module, including the telescope. NASA provided the near-infrared detectors of the NISP instrument.
Euclid will take images in optical and near-infrared light; these images will eventually cover more than one-third of the extragalactic sky outside the Milky Way, and depict billions of cosmic targets out to a distance where light has taken up to 10 billion years to reach us.
Euclid’s image quality will be at least four times sharper than that achieved by ground-based sky surveys.
In addition, Euclid will perform near-infrared spectroscopy of hundreds of millions of galaxies and stars over the same sky. This will allow scientists to investigate the chemical and kinematical properties of many targets in detail.
Euclid will build up a large archive of unique data, unprecedented by volume for a space-based mission, enabling research over all disciplines in astronomy.
Euclid’s mass in orbit will be 2 tonnes (including 800 kg of payload module, an 850 kg service module, 40 kg of balancing mass and 210 kg of propellant).
Caption courtesy of ESA
Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond.
Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket.
Total launches: 258
Total landings: 216
Total reflights: 191
The Falcon 9 has launched 42 humans into orbit since May 2020
Height: 70 m / 229.6 ft
Diameter: 3.7 m / 12 ft
Mass: 549,054 kg / 1,207,920 lb
Payload to LEO: 22,800 kg / 50,265 lb
Payload to GTO: 8,300 kg / 18,300 lb
Payload to Mars: 4,020 kg / 8,860 lb
On January 24, 2021, Falcon 9 launched the first ride-share mission to Sun Synchronous Orbit. It was delivering a record-setting 143 satellites to space. And while this was an important mission for SpaceX in itself, it was also the moment Falcon 9 overtook United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V for the total number of consecutive successful launches.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 had become America’s workhorse rocket, launching 31 times in 2021. It has already beaten that record this year, launching almost an average of once a week. While most of the launches deliver Starlink satellites to orbit, the company is still launching the most commercial payloads to orbit, too.
Falcon 9 is a medium-lift launch vehicle, with the capability to launch over 22.8 metric tonnes to low earth orbit. Unlike any other rocket, its first stage lands back on Earth after separating from its second stage. In part, this allows SpaceX to offer the cheapest option for most customers with payloads that need to reach orbit.
Under its ride-share program, a kilogram can be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit for a mere 1.1 million dollars, far cheaper than all other currently operating small satellite launch vehicles.
The reusability and fast booster turnaround times have made Falcon 9 the preferred choice for private companies and government agencies. This has allowed SpaceX to capture a huge portion of the launch market.
Image: Erik Kuna for Supercluster
This pad is one of two Florida launch sites leased by SpaceX to prepare and launch its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
Built in the early 1960s, SLC-40 was used to launch 55 Titan III and Titan IV rockets, including the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, between June 18th, 1965 and April 30th, 2005.
In 2007, SpaceX leased the pad and converted it to launch the original version of Falcon 9. It was upgraded again in 2013 to accommodate the larger, reusable Falcon 9 rocket
An accident on September 1st, 2016 destroyed the pad when a Falcon 9 blew up during a fueling and engine test.
The pad was completely rebuilt in just 10 months from mid-February to late-November 2017 and re-entered service with the December 15th, 2017 launch of a cargo Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
Under SpaceX, the pad has seen many significant payloads launched from its grounds, including:
SLC-40 is located on Cape Canaveral, the primary launch center for the United States.
The Cape has four currently-active launch pads for the Atlas V, Delta IV Heavy, Falcon 9, and Minotaur rockets.
Located on Florida’s east coast, Cape Canaveral provides a wide range of access to space for missions to the Space Station, Geostationary Earth Orbit, the Moon, inter-planetary targets, polar trajectories, and more.
The Cape is ideally suited for reaching all locations in space the U.S. needs access to while launching exclusively out over the open Atlantic Ocean so as not to endanger anyone on the ground.
NASA's Kennedy Space Center, which occupies neighboring Merritt Island, and Cape Canaveral are often confused with each other or referred to as a single place. They are in fact separate government installations and launch sites.
Cape Canaveral has hosted numerous history-making rocket launches:
Image: John Kraus for Supercluster
A Shortfall of Gravitas (ASOG) is a SpaceX autonomous spaceport droneship (ASDS), operating out of Port Canaveral, Florida. The droneship had been teased by Elon Musk frequently since it was first announced in 2018 and made its debut mission during CRS-23.
Image Credit: Jenny Hautmann for Supercluster
SLC-40 was built in the early 1960s and hosted its first launch on June 18, 1965. Since then, it has launched nearly 100 missions on the Titan III, Titan IV, and Falcon 9 rockets.
During the Titan rocket era, SLC-40 was used to launch two interplanetary missions: Mars Observer to Mars and Cassini-Huygens to Saturn.
With the Falcon 9, the pad became the first Cape Canaveral site to host a launch to the International Space Station.
The pad is located on historic Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL - the primary launch center for the United States.
The Florida launch site handles the vast majority of U.S. launches every year and has been the starting point of numerous history-making missions for the United States, including: