Soyuz MS-01
Russia's Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft blasts off to the ISS from the launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome Vasily Maximov/ AFP

Russia's ambitious Spektr-RG (Spectrum Roentgen Gamma) space mission slated to launch in 2018 will aim to draw up a map of the universe including three million black holes.

"The aim of this observatory is very simple - to create a detailed map of the entire universe with millions of sources," said, Rashid Suyanev, project scientist at Roscosmos. "We attempt to see at least three million supermassive black holes in the sky and put them on the map so people will know where the black holes are," he added.

The mission entails launching a space observatory from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan next year aboard the Proton-M rocket which will take 100 days to transport the satellite 1.5 million kms from Earth at the second Lagrange point or L2. Unlike most observatories, it will not orbit the Earth but remain stagnant at a position where gravitational forces and the orbital motion of the Sun and Earth balance each other.

The observatory will be fitted with two X-ray mirror telescopes, eROSITA and ART-XC, which can detect X-rays in the energy range of 0.2 − 12.0 keV and 6 − 30 keV respectively. This equipment will be used to study gamma rays and X-rays to map up to 50-100 thousand galaxy clusters.

Both these telescopes have been stored for five months waiting for assembly and after final checks, they will be docked on the satellite and Russia will launch it. The project is a joint venture between the Roscosmos and the German Aerospace Centre, Spektr-RG.