QinetiQ has designed a critical component for the Euclid space telescope being developed by Airbus Defence and Space and due to be launched in 2020. QinetiQ will be supplying a baffle that will sit on top of the telescope and prevent stray light from entering into the optics, increasing the effectiveness of the telescope.
The Euclid mission is developed under the leadership of the European Space Agency (ESA) with Thales Alenia Space as Prime Contractor for the spacecraft. This program will investigate the dark energy that causes the accelerated expansion of the universe. It will also search for the invisible source matter that constitutes a quarter of the entire mass-energy of the universe that is referred to as dark matter by scientists.
The baffle is a black cylindrical structure at the front of the telescope that prevents stray light out of the instrument’s optics, making it possible to achieve the very stringent image quality requirements that will allow the investigation of the nature of dark energy and of the dark matter.
Engineers developed a unique aluminium round structure capable of resisting temperatures as low as -200˚C and weighing less than 60 kg. The combination of the volume, mass, and temperature in space while keeping the weight down required a specially adapted module that is 2.60 m long with a diameter of 1.80 m.
QinetiQ started building a prototype in May 2014 and is due to be completed by the end of 2016. The launch of the Euclid module is scheduled for 2020, and the module will remain in space for six years, sending 800 gigabytes of data back to Earth every day.
QinetiQ developed its first telescope baffle ten years ago and has become known for its unique, lightweight design. QinetiQ is also currently developing a telescope baffle for the Cheops satellite, which will detect and analyze planets in other solar systems in 2018.