The Airbus-built CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) has been successfully launched on the morning of 18 December 2019 on a Soyuz rocket from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
CHEOPS is the first exoplanetary mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). It is also the first satellite built by Airbus in Spain for ESA. CHEOPS will characterise exoplanets of nearby stars, observing known planets in the size range between Earth and Neptune and precisely measuring their radii to determine their density and understand what they are made of. The satellite uses proven technologies to pave the way for bigger and more ambitious missions – with the aim of verifying if any exoplanet may be capable of supporting life.
The Soyuz launcher took off as scheduled with its five passengers allocated on the multi-payload dispenser also built by Airbus. CHEOPS separated after two hours and 23 minutes from lift-off. After the in-orbit commissioning, CHEOPS will start its operational lifetime of at least 3.5 years and will operate in a Sun-synchronous Earth orbit at an altitude of 700 km.
Phillipe Pham, Head of Earth Observation, Navigation and Science, Space Systems said: “CHEOPS, a pathfinder for future exoplanets missions, is a very important programme for Airbus as it is the first Science mission primed from Spain. With the expertise and the strong engagement of our team and our 24 partners from 11 European countries, we were able to deliver the satellite perfectly on time to ESA and contributed to this success. We look forward to the next ESA Science mission, Solar Orbiter.”