MOSCOW – A Russian rocket Proton-M successfully delivered a state-of-the-art space telescope in orbit on Saturday after days of delays in launch, the Russian space agency said.
Roscosmos said the telescope, called Spektr-RG, was sent to a parking orbit before a final burn on Saturday that took the spacecraft out of Earth's orbit and carried it to its final destination: Lagrange's L2 point. .
Lagrange points are unique positions in the solar system where objects can maintain their position relative to the sun and the planets that orbit it. Located at 0.93 million miles from Earth, L2 is particularly ideal for telescopes such as Spektr-RG.
If all goes well, the telescope will reach its designated position in three months, becoming the first Russian spacecraft to operate beyond the orbit of the Earth since the Soviet era. The telescope aims to conduct a complete X-ray study of the sky by 2025, the first space telescope to do so.
The Russian achievement occurs when the US space agency. US, NASA, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.
Russian space science missions have suffered greatly since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Budget cuts have forced the Russian space program to shift towards commercial efforts.
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A Russian Mars probe, called Mars 96, could not leave Earth's orbit in 1996. A subsequent attempt to send a probe to Mars, called Phobos-Grunt, suffered a similar fate in 2011.
Work on the Spektr-RG telescope began in the 1980s, but was scrapped in the 1990s. Spektr-RG was revived in 2005 and redesigned to be smaller, simpler and cheaper.
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In its modern form, the project is a close collaboration between Russian and German scientists, who installed telescope equipment aboard the Russian ship.