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Finnish Technology in Successful Space Telescope Launch

The launch of two space telescopes on an Ariane 5 rocket by the European Space Agency Thursday proved to be a historic moment for Finnish technology.

Satelliitit avaruuteen vievä Ariane V ESV -kantoraketti laukaistiin torstaina Kouroun avaruuskeskuksesta Ranskan Guyanasta. Image: Arianespace

Opteon Limited of Piikiö in Turku, Finland was responsible for the grinding and polishing work on the main mirror used in the Herschel telescope, while a consortium of technology engineers fine-tuned the hyper-advanced radio technology used in the Planck satellite.

Launched from the Kourous station in French Guiana, the lift-off was also keenly followed at the Tuorla Observatory in Kaarina, Turku. The launch took place at 4.15 pm Finnish time.

Probing the Origins of the Galaxy

The Planck and Herschel telescopes will try to probe the origins of the universe as well as its structure. The Planck satellite will investigate background radiation in the universe, providing scientists with a window into the birth of our solar system 14 billion years ago, and how the galaxy, stars and planets took shape. The Planck will also allow them to investigate other sources of radiation.

Herschel is essentially a long range infrared observatory, which will help researchers unravel cosmic puzzles, such as how stars are created.

The mirror used on the Herschel is the largest single mirror ever built for a space telescope. The 3.5 meter mirror will help the telescope gather information about the cosmos’ oldest and most distant objects. Engineers worked to keep the weight of the massive mirror down to just 350 kilograms by constructing it of super lightweight silicon carbide, a new ceramic material.

Some of the world’s most sensitive and highly-developed radio technology has been implemented in the monitoring equipment used in the Planck. The project was led by MilliLab, a joint laboratory directed by VTT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland and TKK, the Helsinki University of Technology, while DA Design was responsible for its construction.

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