Exploring planets outside our solar system
CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a mission to explore exoplanets. The space telescope observes bright stars already known to host planets. It measures tiny changes in brightness that occur when a planet passes in front of its host star. The mission focuses on stars whose orbiting planets range in size from the Earth to Neptune. The aim is to provide accurate data on planet sizes.
These data, together with existing information on the masses of planets, will allow scientists to determine planet density and for the first time, describe worlds outside our solar system. The density of a planet provides valuable information on its composition and structure - for example, whether it is predominantly rocky or made up of gases, and whether there are large oceans on it.
Launch from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana
A satellite produced by the Italian Cosmo SkyMed satellite programme will be loaded alongside CHEOPS as it lifts off into space on board a Soyuz frigate launcher. The launch vehicle will also have five 'CubeSats' on board. These are small satellites on units assembled from standardised 10 cm3 cubes.
Selected in October 2012, CHEOPS is ESA's first and so far only S-Class mission. It was developed as a partnership between ESA and Switzerland. Led by the University of Bern, this joint Swiss-ESA project resulted in a consortium of over a hundred scientists and engineers from a total of twelve nations, all working together to build this satellite over a period of five years.
Funded through the PRODEX programme
CHEOPS is also funded by SERI's Space Office through the European Space Agency’s (ESA) PRODEX programme. All instruments developed in Switzerland involve substantial contributions from Swiss industry.
The scientific instruments and subsystems produced through the PRODEX programme require the participation of industry and gives Switzerland a structurally competitive advantage as a location for business activities, the latter also the result of spill-over effects reach sectors apart from those of the companies involved.