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Euclid’s navigation problems have been fixed with new software upload

The Euclid space telescope, recently launched by the European Space Agency (ESA), has been having some problems during its commissioning phase. Issues with its Fine Guidance Sensor were preventing the telescope from locking onto the stars it needs to use as guides to make sure it is pointed in the right direction, requiring engineers on the ground to come up with a new software version.

The new software has been uploaded to the telescope and the navigation system is now working as intended, according to ESA. After the new software was uploaded, the telescope was tested for 10 days, and was able to find its guide stars as hoped.

Artist's impression of the Euclid mission in space.
Artist’s impression of the Euclid telescope in space. ESA; Acknowledgement: Work performed by ATG under contract for ESA

The telescope is in orbit around the sun at Lagrange point L2, and is designed to study the dark universe — that is, dark matter and dark energy. To do that, it observes the entire night sky to measure the shapes of galaxies and to create a 3D map of dark matter across the universe. For this, it needs very high accuracy that requires high precision and stability, which is part of why the Fine Guidance Sensor is so important.

The image below shows the loops of star trails from when the Fine Guidance Sensor was not working correctly and Euclid was intermittently losing its lock on its guide stars:

Loopy star trails show the effect of Euclid's Fine Guidance Sensor intermittently losing its guide stars,
Looping star trails show the effect of Euclid’s Fine Guidance Sensor intermittently losing its guide stars. ESA / Euclid Consortium / TAS-I, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

With the new software patch in place, the starfield images collected now should be sharp and accurate.

“Our industrial partners – Thales Alenia Space and Leonardo – went back to the drawing board and revised the way the Fine Guidance Sensor identifies stars. After a major effort, and in record time, we were provided with new onboard software to be installed on the spacecraft,” said Micha Schmidt, Euclid spacecraft operations manager, in a statement. “We carefully tested the software update step by step under real flight conditions, with realistic input from the Science Operations Centre for observation targets, and finally the go-ahead was given to restart the performance verification phase.”

Now the spacecraft will move onto the final phase of commissioning before it can begin its science operations.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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