Plato exoplanet mission gets green light for next phase

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.

The review verified the maturity of the complete space segment (spacecraft platform and payload module), confirming the solidity of the spacecraft-to-payload interfaces, the payload schedule with particular focus on the series production of the 26 cameras, and the robustness of the spacecraft schedule. Plato will use the 26 cameras to discover and characterise exoplanets that orbit stars similar to our Sun.

The review board meeting was held on 11 January 2022. Nearly all aspects of the cameras production, assembly, and testing have been exercised successfully with the tests of structural, engineering and qualification models of the camera units carried out at several European facilities. The thermo-elastic properties of the optical bench, which hosts the cameras, were verified with a novel test technique developed by the spacecraft prime contractor, OHB System AG.

Also the exoplanet research group of the Stellar Department of the Astronomical Institute is attended in PLATO mission. They are reconstructing the ESO 1.52 telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile as part of the PLATOSpec project. This instrument will serve as one of the PLATO mission’s groundbased support telescopes. Interesting facts about how this telescope will help with research of extrasolar planets you can hear (in Czech) in this part of the Czech Space News Podcast. Petr Kabáth, head of the exoplanet group of the ASU Stellar Department, answers Vojtěch Koval’s and Jan Spratek’s questions.

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