Airbus has completed the integration of CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS), the European Space Agency’s (ESA) first small mission satellite that will define the properties of the planets orbiting nearby stars.
The satellite, which is implemented as a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, is on track for launch by the end of the year on a Soyuz rocket from Kourou. The CHEOPS mission will analyse, for at least three and a half years, the transit of exoplanets as they pass in front of their stars. It will operate from a Sun-synchronous orbit, at an altitude between 650 and 800 km.
CHEOPS will study the planets orbiting nearby stars using a Ritchey-Chrétien Telescope supplied by the University of Bern, in Switzerland. It was integrated last month at Airbus’ Madrid-Barajas site on the already-finished platform. Following successful integration, the spacecraft will be sent to France, Switzerland and The Netherlands for a comprehensive test campaign on July 9.
The campaign will include a complete set of functional and environmental tests to ensure that the spacecraft is fit for launch. The satellite will then return to Madrid for final functional tests and a final inspection before it is shipped to Kourou, French Guiana, for launch.