The European satellite in search of a new Earth
Scheduled for launch in 2024, it will explore the planetary systems near the Solar System and it will study new planets similar to Earth. PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillation of stars) program is the new space mission part of ESA’s “Cosmic Vision 2015-25” in which Thales Alenia Space will participate within phase B1 studies.
The new all European challenge will try to give answers to the main questions of the astronomers: what are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the Solar System work?
The Phase B1, which will start shortly, entails the consolidation of all mission, system and subsystem requirements, including definition of the satellite configuration and operational aspects, comparative analyses and assessment of scientific performance.
Thales Alenia Space Italia will conduct this phase of the project by defining the system and subsystem aspects of the satellite, with Thales Alenia Space France providing the payload definition.
The main purpose of the mission, is to study planetary systems outside the solar system by identifying and analyzing planetary transits Plato will also study stars to determine their age, mass and dimensions. By observing stars relatively close to Earth, it will evaluate the slight but regular changes in brightness that indicate the presence of planets. Plato will provide key information to determine these planets' mass, radius, density, bulk composition and distance from their “sun,” in the ongoing search for worlds potentially similar to our own.