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article imageESA's CHEOPS mission passes review — Cleared for flight this fall

By Karen Graham     Mar 17, 2019 in Science
The European Space Agency's (ESA) Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite (CHEOPS) recently passed a crucial review designed to assess the spacecraft's readiness for flight and ability to meet major mission goals. A launch window is anticipated for this fall.
CHEOPS is an European space telescope for the study of the formation of extrasolar planets. The launch window for CHEOPS is October to November 2019. The mission is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland's Swiss Space Office (SSO).
After five years of manufacturing and testing activities that consisted of months of functional tests, environmental tests and system validation tests, in February 2019, only one thing remained to be determined — Was CHEOPS ready for flight?
On February 19, "a board of experts met to draw its conclusions and declared, to the satisfaction of the project team, that CHEOPS is indeed ready for flight," ESA officials said in a statement. "All eyes can now turn to launch and in-flight operations."
CHEOPS in the clean room.
CHEOPS in the clean room.
ESA/S. Corvaja
At the very end of the test campaign, when no significant modifications of the flight hardware could be expected, accurate measurements of the mass, center of gravity and inertial properties of CHEOPS were made. This final, crucial review was made in the cleanroom at Airbus Defence and Space Spain, Madrid. CHEOPS was deemed to be ready on March 11, 2019.
The launch window for CHEOPS
If all goes according to plan, CHEOPS will be stored in Madrid for a few months before being shipped to the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. With a launch window spanning October 15 through November 14, CHEOPS will soar into space aboard a Soyuz rocket operated by France-based company Arianespace, reports Space.com.
The CHEOPS Mission
CHEOPS will study stars already known to host planets. focusing on those planets in the super-Earth to Neptune range. The space telescope will monitor these exoplanets' "transits" across their host stars' faces, measuring the resulting brightness dips. This is the same way NASA's prolific Kepler space telescope measures exoplanets.
A test engineer lowers the upper part of a test container over CHEOPS in preparation for a propulsio...
A test engineer lowers the upper part of a test container over CHEOPS in preparation for a propulsion-module leak test.
Courtesy of Airbus Defence and Space Spain
"The information will enable precise measurements of the sizes of the orbiting planets to be made," ESA officials said in a statement. "Combined with measurements of the planet masses, this will provide an estimate of their mean density — a first step to characterizing planets outside our solar system."
CHEOPS has a very sophisticated instrument system. It consists of an optical Ritchey–Chrétien telescope with an aperture of 30 cm, mounted on a standard small satellite platform. There is also a baffle and cover assembly (BCA) to control stray light, and a sensor electronics module (SEM), including a sensor control unit (for the CCD) and a power conditioning unit to control the voltages and the thermal control. Last, but not least, there is a Back end electronics (BEE), which includes the digital processing unit and a power supply unit.
More about Esa, cheops, exoplanet studying spacecraft, soyuz rocket, Planets
 
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