CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX rocket launched a new space telescope into orbit Saturday (July 1) on a mission to map the “dark universe” like never before. The European Space Agency observatory, called Euclid, soared to space today aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 here at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Spectators here at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex cheered and applauded as the Falcon 9 booster carried Euclid aloft, with the first stage handily touching down just eight minutes later on a drone ship stationed nearby in the Atlantic Ocean. “We have a mission,” ESA Director-General Josef Aschbacher said during a live webcast just after liftoff. “I’m so excited for this mission now, knowing its on its way to Lagrange point 2 … amazing, I’m very happy and very thrilled.”
“I’m totally addicted, a launch junkie,” joked Nicola Fox, NASA’s associate administrator for science, at a press conference here after the launch Saturday (July 1). “It’s just the most exciting day where you realize all the work, all the teams, all the thousands of people that put their life into this mission and for them to see that take flight today.”
The Euclid space observatory, which is designed to seek out invisible dark matter and dark energy, separated from its rocket about 41 minutes after liftoff and is now making the journey to the sun-Earth Lagrange point 2, which is roughly 1 million miles (1.5 million km) away from our planet on the opposite side of the sun. Lagrange points are relatively stable orbits where satellites use a minimum of fuel, and Euclid’s destination is a popular location: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope also orbits at L2, for example.
Comment: I didn’t see the launch and booster recovery. These things are getting almost routine now although they’re still pretty amazing. I remember when the Apollo Moon landings became so routine people stopped paying attention.
So the ESA’s Euclid space telescope will be joining the Webb out at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2. There’s also the ESA Gaia probe and the Russian-German Spektr-RG out there. With all the additional planned probes, that Lagrange point is going to get crowded.
Another place getting crowded with telescopes is the Atacama Desert in Chile. Some of the telescopes being built there are to have capabilities surpassing the Webb Space Telescope. More on those at a later day.