Plato exoplanet mission gets green light for next phase

Fri, 14 Jan 2022 05:00:00 GMT
ESA Top News

Plato, ESA’s next-generation planet hunting mission, has been given the green light to continue with...

Plato, ESA's next-generation planet hunting mission, has been given the green light to continue with its development after the critical milestone review concluded successfully on 11 January 2022.

Plato will use the 26 cameras to discover and characterise exoplanets that orbit stars similar to our Sun.

The critical milestone review was established specifically for Plato at the time of mission adoption because of the development risks associated with the series production of the cameras.

The provision of the Plato payload is the responsibility of the European Space Agency in collaboration with a European consortium of institutes and industry, the Plato Mission Consortium in accordance with the established Multi-Lateral Agreement with the Agency.

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

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

Currently planned for end 2026, Plato will travel to Lagrange point 2 in space, 1.5 million km beyond Earth in the direction away from the Sun.

"After this successful review we can continue the implementation of this exciting mission that will revolutionise our knowledge of exoplanets down to Earth size and open new venues in the study of the evolution of stars," said Ana Heras, project scientist of Plato at ESA. Notes for editors.

Plato, or PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars, is the third medium-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision programme.

Plato has also been designed to investigate seismic activity in stars, enabling the precise characterisation of the planet host star, including its age.

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