PLATO clears decisive hurdle
by Staff Writers
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Jan 19, 2022
The European Space Agency (ESA) has given the green light to build the flight models of the spacecraft and science payload for the PLATO mission to search for extrasolar planets. The Critical Milestone Review officially concluded on 11 January 2022. This means that the production of the hardware for the space telescope system can now commence. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has developed parts of the scientific payload and will be involved in its operations.
This critical assessment confirms that the complete space segment, which includes both the spacecraft platform and the scientific payload, is at a mature technical level. "The interfaces between the spacecraft and the payload are working and the schedule for the production of the payload, specifically the production of the 26 individual cameras, is firm," explains Heike Rauer from DLR.
This will ensure the spacecraft's operational capability. PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillation of Stars) will be launched in 2026 and will search for, detect and characterise Earth-like planets in particular, especially those orbiting Sun-like stars. The scientific consortium, which is developing the spacecraft's payload together with ESA, is headed by Heike Rauer, Director of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin-Adlershof.
Together with the neighbouring DLR Institute for Optical Sensor Systems, the Institute is responsible for the readout electronics of the fast telescopes as well as the payload computers and data processing on board the space telescope system. The PLATO payload consortium is funded through national agencies, including the German Space Agency at DLR, which has received funds from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.
"The 'Critical Milestone' is a decisive step towards the completion of the spacecraft. Never before has a science mission required a comparable number of identical cameras to be built for use in space," emphasises Rauer. "In order to overcome the associated obstacles, this special assessment was necessary, which we have now successfully mastered. We are pleased with the positive outcome and are now looking forward, together with ESA and our partners, to the completion of the mission."
Wanted! Earth-like planets in the 'habitable zone'
ESA convened the Critical Milestone Review specifically for PLATO to assess the considerable risk associated with the production of the cameras. This exceptionally comprehensive review took place between July and December 2021. More than 100 ESA staff were involved in two teams. One team examined the spacecraft and the other examined the payload. They reported their findings at the end of their review to the panel responsible for the assessment.
Extensive testing across Europe
Reaching this 'milestone' marks the beginning of the second phase in the development of the PLATO space telescope system. The spacecraft itself is being built by an industrial consortium that includes the German company OHB System AG, France's Thales Alenia Space, and Switzerland's RUAG Space. The next 'milestone' for PLATO, which will take place in in 2023, will be the Critical Design Review, during which all details of the entire spacecraft will be verified before the flight model is manufactured and assembled.
In the vicinity of the James Webb Space Telescope
In doing so, the cameras will look for recurring variations in starlight intensity caused by transits, the passage of a planet in front of the stellar disk. Analysis of these transits and intensity changes will allow the properties of newly discovered exoplanets and their host stars to be accurately determined. "PLATO will revolutionise our knowledge of exoplanets from gas giants down to Earth-sized planets," says Rauer, looking forward to the PLATO mission phase.
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.|