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13 October 2023

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid space telescope launched recently from Cape Canaveral.

Euclid's launch represents a notable step forward in space exploration as it is now located at Lagrange point 2, in a unique orbit ‘behind’ Earth. This means it can keep the Sun, Earth and Moon behind the telescope whilst providing a clear view of deep space enabling humankind to explore the outer reaches of space further and deeper than ever before.

The mission's goal is to contribute to our understanding of the universe, with its primary objective being the exploration of the "Dark Universe" – a term that encompasses two elements that humankind still understands very little about, dark matter and dark energy.

Euclid aims to achieve this goal by performing the largest and most accurate 3D map of the universe to date, observing the shape, position, and distance of billions of galaxies beyond the Milky Way. This ambitious undertaking will help us to comprehend the nature of dark energy and dark matter, which may constitute up to 95% of the universe, and gain insights into how it has expanded and how its structure has evolved throughout cosmic history.

A noteworthy achievement has already been celebrated as the Euclid team recently completed a critical focusing procedure. The images obtained during this process have provided valuable insights into the beauty of the universe, generating heightened anticipation for the mission’s outcomes.

Euclid, a specialised space telescope designed exclusively for astronomical purposes, serves as a testament to human ingenuity and the pursuit of knowledge. Comprising two advanced instruments, the Visible instrument (VIS) and the Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer (NISP), this celestial observer is poised to significantly enhance our comprehension of the cosmos.

This progress owes much to the substantial contributions of OHB Italia – an Italian aerospace company and partner to Smiths – in crafting intricate electronic units for the telescope. The team at Smiths Interconnect also played a role in providing advanced connectivity solutions.

Smiths Interconnect has an 80-year legacy in the field of space exploration, characterised by a rich history of collaboration with space programme engineers to ensure the utmost reliability. Smiths Interconnect designs compact and dependable products suitable for a wide range of applications, including launchers, satellites, manned space flights, and ground systems support.

With Euclid's successful launch and promising initial operations, the stage is set for an era of unprecedented cosmic exploration. Euclid holds the promise of unveiling the universe's secrets, contributing to our understanding of dark energy, dark matter, and the cosmos itself.

This ambitious mission, supported by international collaboration, will undoubtedly leave a lasting impact on the field of space exploration. For now, we are all waiting in anticipation to hear more about its future success.

The technical spec

For OHB Italia, Smiths Interconnect provided crucial connectors for both VIS and NISP instruments. This included the rugged 2mm footprint cPCI backplane system and the high-density PCB signal CSD connector.

In the case of VIS, the Visual Imaging Channel, it features an impressive 40x40 cm sensor with a remarkable resolution of 600 Mpx. Smiths Interconnect played a pivotal role by supplying the cPCI connectors necessary for VIS, showcasing their expertise in this critical aspect of the mission. The cPCI connectors utilise the superior Hypertac hyperboloid contact technology, known for its resilience to shock and vibration fretting. Configured on a 2mm center-line with six rows, the 0.4 mm Hypertac contacts within the backplane provide a current rating of 1 A and support data rates up to 3.125 Gbps, all with a contact resistance of less than 8 mΩ.

In contrast, NISP, the Near Infrared Spectrometer and Photometer, specialises in exploring the near-infrared domain, unveiling new dimensions of celestial discovery. Smiths Interconnect's CSD connectors play a vital role in the analog components of NISP, ensuring the reliable transmission of data in this crucial segment of the mission. The CSD connectors represent the ESA qualified version of the CMD series, characterised by their lightweight design and immunity to shock and vibration, with no micro interruptions (tested at 2ns).

These units, VIS.CDPU and NISP.DPU-DCU, serve as the vital interfaces between Euclid's instruments and the cosmos they are poised to explore. Equipped with Smiths Interconnect's connectors, they play pivotal roles in establishing connections with their respective focal planes, where sensors capture the captivating aspects of the universe. These connectors and processors ensure the efficient transmission of valuable data collected by Euclid's instruments back to Earth for further analysis.

A notable aspect of Euclid's construction involves the use of custom-made backplanes, carefully designed to adhere to the cPCI standard pinout whenever possible. This underscores the commitment to creating a precise and capable instrument, setting the stage for groundbreaking discoveries.

Furthermore, the custom-designed containers housing Euclid's various components, including the critical connectors from Smiths Interconnect, underscore the attention to detail and innovation invested in this mission. These specially designed containers ensure the stability and security of onboard components, demonstrating a dedication to preserving the mission's integrity under the demanding conditions of space travel.

 

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