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Thales Alenia Space to Work on ESA’s PLATO Program

By | October 5, 2018
Artist rendition of the PLATO mission. Photo: OHB Systems AG

Artist rendition of the PLATO program. Photo: OHB Systems AG

Thales Alenia Space, the joint company between Thales and Leonardo, signed a contract with OHB System AG for the new European Space Agency (ESA) program PLATO (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars). OHB System AG will be the prime contractor, with Thales Alenia Space as a partner. PLATO will be the third medium-class (M3) science mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision Program, following Solar Orbiter (M1) and Euclid (M2), and preceding Ariel (M4). The satellite will be launched in 2026 for an initial mission length of 4.5 years.

The aim of PLATO is to find and study extrasolar planetary systems, especially terrestrial type planets in the habitable zone (compatible with water in the liquid state) around stars similar to our Sun. Unlike the previous missions, CoRot and Kepler, it will offer the unique ability to carry out stable, wide-field observations of bright stars over a very long period (two to four years), enabling the detection and characterization of planets orbiting slowly around their sun, such as the Earth. It will be placed into orbit around the L2 Lagrangian point, and will carry a scientific payload comprising 26 cameras and the associated electronics.

Thales Alenia Space (France and U.K.) will be in charge of avionics and integration for the Service Module (SVM). The AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control System) software proposed for PLATO draws on the expertise and processes developed over the last 20 years and more. Thales Alenia Space offers full expertise in satellite avionics development and testing, from initial equipment specifications to test benches and Assembly, Integration, Testing (AIT). The avionics test bench will be integrated and operated at Thales Alenia Space’s Cannes facility, with teams from Thales Alenia Space in U.K. also heavily involved.