After a pause for review, ESA resumes development of the planet-hunting space telescope

Last week, Plato, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) planet-hunting nation, received the green light to continue its development after reviewing important milestones to be completed successfully.

According to ESA, the review verified the maturity of the complete space segment (space platform and payload module), confirmed interface solidity and payload schedule with particular focus on 26 camera series production and spacecraft robustness. . Plato will use 26 cameras to find and characterize exoplanets orbiting stars similar to our Sun.

Tests reproduced the intended operating environment for the Plato telescope in space. In the image above, one of the observatory’s 26 cameras. Image: ESA-Matteo Apolloni

Also according to the agency, a review of important milestones was made for Plato (the English form of Plato – PLA netary T ransit dan The scillations of stars) at the time of mission adoption due to the development risks associated with serial camera production.

Reviews last for six months

Conducted between July and December 2021, the review featured a team of more than 100 ESA staff divided into two panels (one for spacecraft and one for cargo) who submitted their findings to the board.

Last Tuesday (11/11), a review board meeting was held which identified that all aspects of camera production, assembly, and testing were successfully carried out with structural model testing, engineering, and camera qualification. The thermo-elastic nature of the optical bench, which houses the camera, was verified by a new test technique developed by the spacecraft’s prime contractor, OHB System AG.

With the achievement of this milestone, the second phase of the industrial contract, led by OHB System AG as the main contractor, with Thales Alenia Space in France and RUAG Space System in Switzerland as part of the core team, can be started. .

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For the development of the Plato Cargo module, ESA collaborated with a consortium of European institutions and industry, the Plato Mission Consortium (PMC), in accordance with the Multilateral Agreement (MLA) formed with the agency.

The next major milestone for Plato is the critical design review of the spacecraft, which takes place in 2023, to verify the detailed layout of the complete spacecraft before proceeding with its assembly.

“Plato continues the European tradition of excellence in all areas of space science,” said Filippo Marliani, Plato project manager at ESA. “This mission will serve the scientific community to gather invaluable knowledge about the planets in our galaxy as well as our own solar system. The successful completion of this important milestone and the formal start of the second phase of this extraordinary mission is an important boost of positive energy for the next challenges to be faced with our industrial, institutional and academic partners.”

ESA’s new space telescope will be next door to James Webb

Following the launch, which is currently scheduled for late 2026, Plato will travel to the Second Lagrange Point (L2) in space, 1.5 million km beyond Earth, in the opposite direction from the Sun – the destination site of the James Webb Space Telescope.

From then on, Plato will observe more than 200,000 stars during a nominal four-year operation, looking for regular dips in their light caused by planetary transits through the stellar disk.

According to ESA, analysis of these transits and variations in starlight will allow an accurate determination of the properties of the exoplanet and its host star. “After this successful review, we can continue to implement this exciting mission that will revolutionize our knowledge of exoplanets to the size of Earth and open up new places in the study of stellar evolution,” said Ana Heras, Plato Project Scientist at ESA.

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Posts After Pause for Review, ESA Resumes Development of the Planet Hunt Space Telescope first appeared on Digital Display.

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