CHEOPS: characterizing potentially habitable exoplanets

Next Tuesday, December 17, at 9:54 spanish mainland time, the CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) satellite is scheduled to be launched from the Kouru base in French Guiana. The Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA) will be responsible for both the satellite's orbit and the operation during its lifetime. For its part, the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, CSIC-INTA) is part of the mission's scientific team.

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CHEOPS is a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Swiss Space Agency dedicated to the characterization of exoplanets of size between Earth and Mercury. Located in Earth orbit, it will perform ultra-high-precision photometry of bright stars already known for hosting planets. The characterization of these exoplanets is fundamental to understanding their formation, origin and evolution.

INTA will be responsible for running the Mission Operations Centre (MOC) located at the institute's headquarters in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid), and more specifically at its Space Centre (CEIT), from where the satellite and data programming associated with the telemetry transmitted by this one. This is the first time that a satellite in the European environment has been controlled by Spain since the initial phase after launch.

INTA engineers will operate the mission in both the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) and the Commisioning Phase (CP) phase, especially critical phases where the proper functioning of the space segment of the instrument; as in the nominal or routine phase.

The main objective of CHEOPS will be to characterize the observed planets, measuring their size and mass, which will allow to know their density and whether the planet is predominantly rocky or gaseous. This is a first step in determining the possible current or past existence of life.

Future ESA missions, such as PLATO and ARIEL, also with the participation of the Centro de Astrobiología, will go a step further and will be able to analyze the composition of their atmospheres and their possible biological ingredients.

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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