Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos, says the Spektr-R radio telescope will see to the edge of the universe in an attempt to find black holes, fast rotating stellar remnants known as pulsars, and mysterious quasar radio sources.
The instrument, dubbed the “Russian Hubble,” after the U.S. space telescope, is expected to give astronomers the ability to look billions of light years back in time in an effort to unlock the mystery of black holes, among other things.
Vladimir Bobyshkin is head of the project. He says that within a matter of months the traveling telescope will be far above the earth, gathering information that many people have wondered about for some time.
"Many people wonder, there is us, our planet, the sun, our galaxy - but we cannot be alone out there. The talk of parallel worlds and time travel may sound like science fiction, but they say we only know four percent about the world surrounding us, and we hope to be able to look beyond that," said Bobyshkin.
The project, also known as RadioAstron, is the biggest telescope launched into space. Russia says its 10-meter diameter antenna is able to produce images with a resolution 100,000 times that of the American Hubble Space Telescope.
As a result, Bobyshkin says scientists can learn enormous amounts of information from the project,
"RadioAstron will certainly expand the limits of human knowledge - we might be standing on the threshold of a revolution in astrophysics when things like dark matter and black holes start to become observable," Bobyshkin added.
Russian space officials say Spektr-R will work with ground-based telescopes acting as a virtual base to receive space data.
This is the first such project launched by Moscow in 25 years, as Russia tries to bolster its deep-space exploration plans. Scientists say that initially, the launch was planned for 1991, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the project was put on hold.
Speaking on state television, Anatoly Kovalenko says he dedicated much of his career to the project and is glad the telescope has finally launched.
"The emotions? Well, thank God we are back to quality space science and let us touch wood that it works out," said Kovalenko.
The first images from the telescope are expected to be released by the end of the year.