CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOplanet Satellite) was developed to understand the make-up of exoplanets that orbit nearby stars.
It will accomplish this by seeking out small planets that are similar to Earth and studying them in great detail, with the aim of verifying whether some could support life.
CHEOPS will focus its attention on the gleam of known stars, detecting the decrease that occurs when a planet passes in front of it. This will help CHEOPS precisely measure the size of the planet, as well as determine what it is made of. Once a planets mass is known, the density can then be calculated giving an idea of its internal structure, formation and evolution.
The 300kg spacecraft will have an operational lifetime of at least 3.5 years and is to perform its mission from a Sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth at an altitude of 700 km. CHEOPS lift-off aboard a Soyuz launcher is targeted for mid-December from the Spaceport in French Guiana.
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