ESA to Launch Cheops Exoplanet Satellite on Tuesday

CHEOPS space telescope (Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — Tune in to ESA Web TV from  08:30 GMT (09:30 CET) Tuesday, 17 December to watch ESA’s exoplanet mission soar into space on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Cheops, the CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, is scheduled for liftoff at 08:54 GMT (09:54 CET)  on its exciting mission to study planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. It is ESA’s first mission dedicated to the study of exoplanets.

Cheops will observe bright stars that are already known to host planets, measuring minuscule brightness changes due to the planet’s transit across the star’s disc.  The mission will target Earth- to Neptune-sized planets and will provide information about the character of the planets: that is, if they are rocky, gassy, icy or perhaps harbour oceans. This is a critical step in understanding the nature of planets beyond our own Solar System.

Cheops shares the ride into space with the Italian space agency’s Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation satellite and three CubeSats: ESA’s OPS-SAT and the French space agency’s CNES’s EYE-SAT and ANGELS satellites.

Cheops is scheduled to separate from the upper stage at  11:19 GMT (12:19 CET). The first opportunity for acquisition of signal is expected some 30-40 minutes later, and will be announced from the Mission Operations Centre located at INTA, Spain.

Cheops is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, with important contribution from 10 other ESA Member States.

OPS-SAT is an ESA CubeSat. It was developed under the management of ESA in partnership with the Graz University of Technology and partners in Austria, Poland, Germany and Denmark.

ESA TV Programme live from Kourou (all times CET)

Watch live via ESA Web TV 
09:30 – 15:00 CET

Key moments:
09:54 – Launch
10:17 – Separation of Cosmo-SkyMed
12:19 – Separation of Cheops
14:05 – Separation of OPS-SAT
14:11 – All CubeSats separated
14:15 – Official speeches

Around Cheops separation, commentary will be provided in English by ESA’s project scientist Kate Isaak, and in French by the Cheops consortium principal investigator Willy Benz.

Follow online

Join the conversation online with the hashtag #Cheops.

For live updates follow @ESA_Cheops and @esascience.

Twitter coverage will also include insights from ESA’s European launch media event hosted at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre, ESAC, near Madrid, Spain.