Spektr-R (or RadioAstron) is an orbital radio telescope, and was the largest space telescope in orbit after its launch on 18 July 2011.
Spektr-R at the integration and test complex of Launch Pad No.31, the Baikonur Space Center in July 2011
The Spektr-R project is funded by the Astro Space Center of Russia, and was launched into Earth orbit on 18 July 2011, with a perigee of 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi) and an apogee of 390,000 kilometers (240,000 mi), about 700 times the orbital height of the Hubble Space Telescope. The main scientific goal of the mission is the study of astronomical objects with an angular resolution up to a few millionths of an arcsecond. This is accomplished by using the satellite in conjunction with ground-based observatories and interferometry techniques.
Spektr-R is one of the instruments in the RadioAstron program, an international network of observatories led by the Astro Space Center of the Lebedev Physical Institute.
The telescope is intended for radio-astrophysical observations of extragalactic objects with ultra-high resolution, as well as researching of characteristics of near-Earth and interplanetary plasma. The very high angular resolving power will be achieved when used in conjunction with a ground-based system of radio-telescopes and interferometrical methods, operating at wavelengths of 1.35–6.0, 18.0 and 92.0 cm. With its Earth-based companions, it will form a network able to provide detailed images of the universe at 1,000 times the resolution attainable using the Hubble Space Telescope. Once in space, the flower-like main dish was to open its 27 'petals' within 30 minutes.
At launch the mass of the spacecraft was about 5,000 kilograms (11,000 lb). It was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 18, 2011 at 6.31 a.m. MSK by a Zenit-3M launcher with Fregat-SB upper stage.
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