WASHINGTON-One of the most significant Russian space science missions in the post-Soviet era has launched from Baikonur.

The Spektr-RG telescope is a joint venture with Germany that will map X-rays across the entire sky in unprecedented detail.

Researchers say this information will help them trace the large-scale structure of the Universe. The hope is Spektr-RG can provide fresh insights on the accelerating behaviour of cosmic expansion.

It should also identify a staggering number of new X-ray sources, such as the colossal black holes that reside at the centre of galaxies.

As gas falls into these monsters, the matter is heated and shredded and “screams” in X-rays. The radiation is essentially a telltale for the Universe’s most violent phenomena.

Spektr-RG is expecting to detect perhaps three million super-massive black holes during its service life.

This has been a decades-long journey for Russian scientists The telescope rode to orbit atop a Proton rocket which left the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 17:31 local time (12:31 GMT).

It will be many weeks however before the mission’s work can begin in earnest.

The spacecraft must first travel to a popular observing position some 1.5 million km from Earth known as Lagrange Point 2.

It’s here that Spektr-RG can enjoy a stable environment free from the shadowing and temperature swings it would otherwise experience if operating closer to our home planet.

But once testing is complete, the observatory can get on with the business of scanning the sky. The launch had been delayed in recent weeks because of technical issues related to the mission’s rocket Spektr-RG is constructed as a two-in-one telescope. Taking up most of the room on the spacecraft bus, or chassis, is the German-developed eRosita system. Nestled next to it is the Russian-built science hardware known as ART-XC. Both use a cluster of seven tubular mirror modules to corral the X-ray light down on to sensitive camera detectors.