Advanced gravitational wave interferometers, currently under realization, will soon permit the detection of gravitational waves from astronomical sources. To open the era of precision gravitational wave astronomy, a further substantial improvement in sensitivity is required. The future space-based Laser Interferometer Space Antenna and the third-generation ground-based observatory Einstein Telescope (ET) promise to achieve the required sensitivity improvements in frequency ranges. The vastly improved sensitivity of the third generation of gravitational wave observatories could permit detailed measurements of the sources' physical parameters and could complement, in a multi-messenger approach, the observation of signals emitted by cosmological sources obtained through other kinds of telescopes. This paper describes the progress of the ET project which is currently in its design study phase.