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Liftoff for Cheops, ESA’s exoplanet mission

Christian Fernsby |
ESA’s Cheops mission lifted off on a Soyuz-Fregat launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 09:54:20 CET on 18 December on its exciting mission to characterise planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

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Signals from the spacecraft, received at the mission control centre based at INTA in Torrejón de Ardoz near Madrid, Spain, via the Troll ground tracking station at 12:43 CET confirmed that the launch was successful.

Cheops, the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, with important contribution from 10 other ESA Member States. ESA’s first mission dedicated to extrasolar planets, or exoplanets, it will investigate known planets beyond our Solar System and provide key insight into the nature of these distant, alien worlds.

Scientists had long speculated about the existence of exoplanets until the discovery of 51 Pegasi b, the first planet found around a Sun-like star, which was announced in 1995. The discoverers, Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor, shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics for their breakthrough finding, which marked the beginning of a new era of investigation and turned exoplanet research into one of the fastest growing areas of astronomy.


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