Euclid is a project of the European Space Agency (ESA), in cooperation, for the scientific part, with a consortium of laboratories in 14 European countries, including France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland, with contributions from NASA and some U.S. institutes.
With Euclid, Europe consolidates its role as key player on a global scale in observational cosmology by satellite. Indeed, participation in this mission is based on the legacy left in 2009 by the Herschel and Planck missions for the study of the Universe. The mission that aims at studying the origin of the Universe’s expansion, will provide high precision mapping of the sky in the visible and the infrared band.
The satellite, which will be launched in 2022 , will be equipped with a telescope featuring a 1.2 metre diameter and will send the radiation acquired to two instruments. The data gathered will be used to measure the structure of the Universe on a large scale.
Dark energy and dark matter, essential but unknown ingredients of today’s “Standard Model” of physical cosmology, will be studied. In this model, only 4% of the mass-energy of the Universe is made of ordinary matter (protons and neutrons). The rest is invisible (dark matter) and the Universe itself is expanding at an accelerated pace under the action of a so far unknown energy source (dark energy).
Leonardo participates in the programme through its joint venture Thales Alenia Space and through its Electronics Division.
Thales Alenia Space
Thales Alenia Space is prime contractor of the satellite for ESA and leads a consortium for its realisation. , The basic requirements of Thales Alenia Space’s design proposal are the following: quality and stability of the optical system’s shape, speed and completeness of acquisition, accurate and stable pointing, and reliability of the data transmission system.
The company, with the experience gained with the Herschel /Planck platform, which demonstrated excellent performance in orbit, will also integrate an innovative, agile and precise pointing system and new generation telecommunications.
The Electronics Division takes part in the Euclid mission, providing the sophisticated Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS), necessary to measure in a very accurate manner the line of sight of the satellite’s telescope. Specifically developed for EUCLID mission, the Fine Guidance Sensor is a very high accuracy star sensor, to be mounted directly in the telescope’s focus, aimed to ensure absolute alignment between the axis of the telescope itself and the reference stars.
Thanks to the cold-gas thruster system realized by Leonardo, ESA will be able to control the spacecraft’s orientation in space by means of clusters of micro-thrusters able to make infinitesimal corrections to the direction of observation.
In addition to the above equipment, Leonardo will also provide the photovoltaic panel, which will supply power to all spacecraft systems.