Athena: Europe plans huge X-ray space telescope
Europe has initiated the process that should lead to the biggest X-ray space telescope ever built. Dubbed Athena, the satellite will be some 12m in length and weigh about five tonnes when launched in 2028. The European Space Agency's (Esa) Science Programme Committee selected the project at a meeting in Toulouse.
Design work now will confirm the technologies and industrial capability needed to construct the mission, which is costed at over one billion euros. "It's a tremendously exciting moment for the team; it's not every day you have a billion-euro decision go in your favour," said Prof Paul Nandra, the chairman of the Athena Coordination Group.
"We've just got to build it and get it up there, and as long as we do our job right, there's nothing that should stop that," he told BBC News. The SPC will meet again, probably in 2019, to give a full and final approval to the telescope project. This should be a rubber stamping exercise, provided costs can be contained and no technical showstoppers are identified.