Portugal is one of the ESA member states involved directly in the mission, with a number of Portuguese scientists, engineers, and companies contributing to this groundbreaking event.

Portugal leads key component of mission

Portugal is one of ESA Member States playing a crucial role in the mission. The Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (IA) leads one of the mission's key scientific components: the planning of the sky survey. Additionally, six Portuguese companies—FHP, Altran, GMV, Active Space, Deimos, and Edisoft—are involved in manufacturing various telescope components, including thermal protections and the in-orbit control test system.

Investigating universe expansion

The Euclid mission is seeking to be the first space mission designed to investigate the source behind the accelerating expansion of the Universe; according to cosmological theories, this expansion is due to dark energy, a hypothetical force that opposes gravitational attraction. Dark energy, together with dark matter (invisible matter that does not emit or absorb light), accounts for 95% of the Universe, which remains largely unexplored.

The Euclid telescope will observe billions of galaxies over a six-year period and capture images of an area that would have taken the Hubble Space Telescope 30 years to survey.

The mission's primary goal is to measure the geometry of the Universe and gain insights into its composition by studying the deviation in the path of light caused by dark matter in galaxies and galaxy clusters.

Observing the universe 10 billion years ago

It is hoped that by mapping the positions of galaxies in three-dimensional space and studying their aggregation patterns, the Euclid telescope will provide invaluable information on the properties of dark energy.

The Euclid telescope will essentially allows scientists to gaze back at the Universe ten billion years ago, due to the length of time it takes light from distant stars to reach Earth. The telescope will be stationed at a point 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth, and this strategic location ensures stability and avoids interference from Earth's light, as well as that of the Moon and the Sun. The telescope will reach its destination approximately one month after launch.

Launch set for 1st July

The Falcon 9 rocket, provided by SpaceX, will transport the Euclid telescope, with the launch scheduled for 16:12 (Lisbon time) from NASA's Cape Canaveral base in the United States. In the event of complications, there will be a second opportunity to launch on Sunday.

At the mission control centre in Germany, a Portuguese aerospace engineer with 19 years of experience at ESA, Tiago Loureiro, will co-direct flight operations.

First images set to released later this year

The release of the first images is anticipated in November, with the first scientific data expected in December 2024, as per the AI.

The ESA mission carries a price tag of approximately €1.4 billion and involves collaboration with NASA, which contributed to one of the instruments, the launch site, funding for scientific teams, and the establishment of a data processing centre in the United States.

According to PT Space, the Portuguese space agency, Portugal has secured over €4.5 million in contracts between companies and ESA.

Originally scheduled for 2020, the telescope's launch was postponed to 2022, planned from the ESA base in French Guiana, using a Russian Soyuz rocket. However, in 2022, the ESA severed its ties with Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine in February.