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Two modules of dark matter spacecraft Euclid are joined

Europe’s dark matter investigation spacecraft, Euclid, is getting ready for its launch next year. Now it has reached a milestone with the joining of two of its major components: The payload and service modules.

Euclid spacecraft grows as eyes meet brain

The payload module is the part of the spacecraft which holds the spacecraft’s instruments, including a reflecting telescope and two imaging instruments, the VISible imager (VIS) and the Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP). The service module contains the computers which control the instruments, as well as other spacecraft systems like navigation, power, and propulsion.

Tthe 800-kilogram Euclic payload module being lifted by a crane with workers gathered around.
On 24 March 2022, ESA came one step closer to unveiling the mysteries of the dark Universe, following the coming together of two key parts of the Euclid spacecraft – the instrument-carrying payload module and the supporting service module. This image shows the 800-kilogram payload module being lifted by a crane, just before it was lowered onto the service module. ESA - S. Corvaja

With the joining of these two parts, the spacecraft is beginning to come together. “It was really exciting to see the spacecraft coming together and get one step closer to seeing the mission become a reality. I almost feel like we have united two family members,” said Euclid Assembly, Integration and Testing engineer Hans Rozemeijer in a statement.

The joining process involved using a crane to gently lower the payload module, which weighs 800 kilograms, onto the service module. It was then attached at six points. Rozemeijer explained the next steps: “After the modules were joined mechanically, we added connector brackets and plugged in the electrical connectors. Then we checked that everything was working properly. Finally, we covered the connector brackets and any tiny remaining gaps between the two modules with thermal insulation to really seal up the spacecraft.”

The two parts had to be joined with extremely high accuracy, with a margin of error of less than the width of a human hair. The process seems to have gone smoothly though, as checking afterward revealed no problems. Now the engineers can move on to the next task, fitting the spacecraft’s sunshield and solar panels which is scheduled for later this month.

There had been concerns that the launch of Euclid would be affected by Russia suspending its launches from Europe’s spaceport, as the original plan was to launch Euclid using a Russian Soyuz rocket. However, now French launch provider Arianespace will launch the spacecraft using its Ariane 6 rocket, according to the French-language site Ciel & Espace. The launch is scheduled for next year.

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