First Czech Space Telescope QUVIK Given Green Light

The scientific part of the project will be managed by astrophysicists from Masaryk University. Credit: MUNI.

Brno, Sep 28 (BD) – The first Czech space telescope, QUVIK (Quick Ultraviolet Kilonovae Surveyor), has been given the green light. Experts from the Czech Ministry of Transport and the European Space Agency (ESA) selected two of the seven Czech space projects, one of which is QUVIK, a space telescope optimised for the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, which will focus on the sources of gravitational waves that arise from the collisions of black holes and neutron stars. The project will be led by the Research and Testing Aviation Institute, while the scientific part will be managed by astrophysicists from Masaryk University.

The scientific coordinator of the mission, Norbert Werner from the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics at the Masaryk University Faculty of Science (MUNI SCI), who came to the target in 2021 with the original idea of launching a satellite with a UV telescope with the possibility of rapid rotation, is enthusiastic about the project’s success: “We are incredibly overjoyed. It also means a huge challenge for the whole team. We have a lot of work to do, but it will be a huge leap forward for us. What lies ahead will bring a great deal of experience and open up new possibilities.”

Professor Werner explained that the goal of the mission is to observe the sources of gravitational waves, which were discovered only seven years ago, earning a Nobel Prize for the researchers behind their discovery. Gravitational waves are produced by the collisions of black holes and neutron stars, which are among the most extreme events in the universe, and the observation of these events is among the top scientific priorities of this decade. “However, the telescope will serve the entire Czech and global astronomical community, and we can expect breakthrough discoveries from it that will make Czech science and the space industry visible,” emphasised Werner.

Astrophysicists from the MUNI SCI are responsible for the scientific part of the QUVIK project. Masaryk University will also operate the scientific operations centre of the satellite. The entire project is covered and led by the Aviation Research and Test Institute (VZLU). In addition, the TOPTEC research centre at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences and the company PEKASAT are cooperating on the project.

“We consider space research to be a promising area, and this project proves that we have something to offer here as a university. I am also pleased that the output of this project will not only be abstract statistical records in publication and citation databases, but that with the contribution of our scientists, a unique device will be created that will serve the international scientific community effectively,” said Radim Polčák, vice-rector of Masaryk University for Development, Legislation and information technology,.

“The success of the QUVIK project is a great recognition of the work of our astrophysicists and the entire faculty, which is systematically and long-term dedicated to space research. The support of the Ministry of Transport and the ESA will have a significant impact on the quality of scientific work and its output,” added Tomáš Kašparovský, the Dean of MUNI SCI.

The project is financed from Czech funds and is intended to support the involvement of Czech scientists and industry in space projects, but will also meet the high international standards of the ESA. The selection of the QUVIK and AMBIC projects, both led by VZLÚ, was decided by the committee at the Ministry of Transport, which manages the funding streams provided by the ESA for space activities in the Czech Republic. The selected missions are scheduled to launch into space in 2028, with a budget of around €30 million each.

In a press release from the Ministry of Transport, Ondřej Rohlík, manager of the ESA Framework Project, highlighted the preparedness, uniqueness and potential of the selected projects. 

“The European Space Agency positively evaluated the selected projects, especially the careful development of user, technical and scientific requirements, the initial mission proposal, risk management and treatment,” said Rohlík. “The committee also evaluated the compliance of the proposed projects with the goals of the National Space Plan, especially the impact on the development of the Czech space ecosystem and the visibility of the Czech Republic in the world.” He mentioned other valued aspects as the commercial applicability of the technologies needed for these missions, and the building of the ground infrastructure for further space missions.

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