THE Cheops – Characterizing ExOPlanet Satellite – is ESA's first mission to investigate planets outside our Solar System. It integrates a telescope designed to obtain detailed information about known exoplanets orbiting bright stars, including data on their composition and internal structure.
More specifically, the telescope was designed to operate for about three years, analyzing the size, atmosphere, and other variables of 300 of the 4,000 exoplanets so far identified, those with a mass between that of Earth and Neptune.
When Cheops reaches 700 km altitude without interference from the atmosphere, it will use its telescope to measure very small variations of light from these planets that revolve around other stars. To achieve this, the telescope is capable of measuring brightness changes in the order of 0.0001%.
The mission, which involves the participation of more than 30 institutions from different countries – Portugal included -, will launch from Kourou launch pad on December 17, if weather conditions remain as expected.