US refuses to export carbon fiber for Russia to build radio telescope that can go beyond the moon’s orbit

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MOSCOW – A British company refused to export carbon fiber to Russia for use in building its only space radio telescope, the Spektr-M, after the company was bought by a US citizen.

Larisa Likhacheva, deputy director of the Institute of Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the launch of the telescope was planned for 2027, but the precise date depended on funding.

“We have worked with the British company since 2012 and it used to sell carbon fibers for panels on the Spektr-M observatory antenna. However, the company was bought by Americans who wrote us ‘heated’ letters last year,” Likhacheva said, suggesting that new US owners were not open to export their materials to Russia.

The deputy director added that a Japanese company, Sumitomo, has succeeded in replacing the British company in providing the essential material needed to build the telescope.

The Spektr-M telescope, which will operate in the millimeter infrared range, must replace and continue the work previously performed by the Spektr-R (RadioAstron) telescope.

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Russia is designing what will be the largest virtual radio telescope in history to place it in space beyond the moon’s orbit in the middle of the next decade.

Called Millimetron (or Spektr-M), he will be able to investigate the structure of galaxy nuclei, black holes and pulsars, study microwave background radiation, and look for the first traces of universe formation, white holes and wormholes.

The telescope will be placed in the so-called halo orbit, a complex three-dimensional orbit located beyond Earth’s natural satellite. Millimetron is expected to have significantly larger capacities than its predecessor, the RadioAstron telescope, launched into space in 2011 as part of cooperation between Russia and various space agencies from other nations.

RadioAstron, also known as Spektr-R, is one of the largest telescopes ever in space. Working together with ground installations around the world, it has the highest angular resolution of its kind and is capable of producing the most detailed images of the universe.

However, Millimetron will take pictures at four times the resolution of its “brother”, according to Vyacheslav Vdovin, a member of the Institute of Applied Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The new space observatory can operate autonomously or work in conjunction with terrestrial telescopes. Together they will form a virtual telescope that will be able to observe radio space sources with an unprecedented angular resolution for astronomy.

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