e2v To Develop Image Sensors For PLATO Exoplanet Mission
Paris, France (SPX) Nov 02, 2010
e2v has been awarded a contract to develop a new Charge Coupled Device (CCD) imaging sensor by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) space science mission.
The aim of PLATO is to search for transiting planets within our galaxy to understand the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life.
PLATO aims to detect planets from their transits across their host star and to characterize their host stars by studying their oscillations.
In order to achieve this aim the mission proposes to fly a satellite with a focal plane of up to 34 mini-telescopes, each containing 4 large area back illuminated CCDs to provide ultra high precision photometry. If successful, the satellite will have nearly 0.9 m2 of image sensors and will be by far the largest image sensor focal plane ever flown.
Once launched, the satellite will orbit the sun 1.5 million km beyond the Earth for a period of 6-8 years. During that time at least 40% of the sky could be surveyed - a magnitude greater than previous space missions.
The mission is in a competitive definition phase with two other ESA Cosmic Vision programmes: Solar Orbiter and Euclid, for which e2v has also won a development contract.
The two successful missions will be selected in June 2011 and will be carried forward into implementation leading to a launch in 2018.
Dr Anamarija Stankov from the Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Section at ESA said "The PLATO mission will study complete planetary systems. The planets and their host stars will be observed together with the same techniques and this will enable us to understand how planets are formed and how they evolve."
e2v Marketing and Applications Manager, Jon Kemp said, "e2v is very pleased to be developing high performance image sensors for Plato. If it is selected next year, the largest focal plane to fly will again demonstrate that e2v is the world's leading supplier of image sensors to space programmes."
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