On Tuesday, the Cheops satellite was scheduled to be launched into space on a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket from its European base in Kourou, French Guiana. But when everything seemed ready, red light was given and the mission was aborted at the last minute. According to Lusa, citing AFP, the reason for the cancellation was due to a failure in the satellite control systems.
The launch went on Wednesday at 8:54 am (Lisbon time), Roscosmos said in a statement, adding that the malfunction is being addressed and the causes of the incident are being investigated. Since 2017, the launch of the satellite – a mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) – has been postponed successively.
The Cheops satellite (CHARacterising ExOPlanet Satellite) will study planets outside our solar system and will take on board Portuguese technology from three companies and a development center, which were involved in ESA's development consortium, led by the University of Bern, in a project developed in partnership with Switzerland. Cheops is the first in a series of three missions, which also include Plato and Ariel, planned for the next decade, with the aim of addressing different aspects of scientific research from the farthest planets. .
The satellite was built from a partnership between ESA and Switzerland through a consortium led by the University of Bern, and has “significant contributions” from 10 other European Agency Member States, including three companies and one Portuguese research center. The Portuguese companies FreziteHP and LusoSpace were also involved, and the first designed and produced the protections that will ensure that the equipment withstands the extreme thermal amplitude of the space.
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 able to measure brightness changes in the order of 0.0001%.
The mill is decorated with two metal plates engraved with various drawings made by children, including 88 Portuguese. The drawings were made by children aged 8 to 14 years.