Engineers from the Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern, Germany, will package the CHEOPS telescope this week and send it to Madrid, Spain, where it will be integrated on the satellite platform.
The CHEOPS telescope is set to be launched in early 2019, when it will observe how exoplanets in other solar systems pass in front of their host star – and assist in the search of potentially habitable planets.
Airbus Defence and Space, Spain, built the satellite platform that supports the telescope and enables it to operate in space. Within the forthcoming weeks the instrument will be integrated, and the satellite will then be tested.
What will the CHEOPS telescope observe?
CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is set to observe stars in our cosmic region that are known to be orbited by exoplanets. The telescope measures the brightness of stars which then decreases when exoplanets pass in front of them, the size of the exoplanet can be determined by the decreased brightness during this process.
Willy Benz, professor of Astrophysics at the University of Bern and principal investigator of the mission said: “The instrument must be able to measure with extreme precision. This was the major design challenge.”
The collaboration and co-operation
The mission is a collaboration between the University of Bern and the European Space Agency (ESA), however, institutes from 11 European nations are also involved:
- The structure was designed and manufactured in Switzerland, the optics as well as the flight software and other components originate from international partner institutions;
- At the University of Bern, the various parts were assembled in the cleanroom and the telescope was exposed to vibrations on the shaker, similar to those it will have to withstand during take-off;
- The satellite will be tested at several locations in Europe before being sent to Kourou, ESA’s space station in French Guiana; and
- By early 2019 the satellite should be ready to launch.
CHEOPS is ESA’s first small ‘s-class mission’ and must be implemented within a few years. To achieve this, engineers had to complete tasks in parallel instead of following the initial plan. This meant that the structure had to be determined prior to knowing how the mirror was to be mounted. This element was particularly difficult as the position of the main and secondary mirrors must remain stable, even if the temperature changes in orbit.
Benz said: “I’m looking forward to seeing CHEOPS in space and getting the first data.”
Source: University of Bern