The European Space Agency (ESA) launches today in Kourou, French Guyana (South America), the Cheops satellite which, with the involvement of several Portuguese companies, will study planets outside our solar system.
ESA’s first mission dedicated to the study of exoplanets was planned since 2017 but was successively postponed, and is now scheduled for 08:54 today (Lisbon time).
The satellite was built from a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, through a consortium led by the University of Bern, and has “important contributions” from 10 other member states of the European agency, including three Portuguese companies and a research centre.
According to a statement from the Portuguese space agency Portugal Space, the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences and Deimos Engenharia “lead” the scientific component of Cheops.
FreziteHP has designed and produced the protection that will ensure that the equipment can withstand the extreme temperature range of space.
The Portuguese LusoSpace, which investigates new technologies and their application in space, also participates in the project.
“The Cheops mission will measure the size of exoplanets [planets outside the solar system] with great precision, find out if the exoplanets have moons, if they have rings, and also open a door to the unknown,” says Nuno Santos, researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics and Space Sciences and the University of Porto, quoted in the press release.
The 280 Kg satellite has its main body in the shape of a cube with 1.5-metre edges and will be placed in orbit, at an altitude of around 700 kilometres, by a Soyuz-Fregat rocket.
The orbit chosen, according to ESA, allows the rear of the satellite to be permanently directed towards the sun, keeping sunlight to a minimum, while a telescope is observing nocturnal targets in the opposite direction.
ESA will broadcast the launch live via a webstreaming link on the ‘esawebtv.esa.int’ page from 09:30 (08:30 in Lisbon).