Thales Alenia Space announced that it has been selected by the European Space Agency for one of the three phase B1 studies of the PLATO (Planetary Transits and Oscillation of Stars) programme, part of the Agency's Cosmic Vision 2015-25.
According to Thales, phase B1 includes the consolidation of all mission, system and subsystem requirements, including definition of the satellite configuration and operational aspects, comparative analyses and assessment of scientific performance.
The main purpose of the PLATO mission, scheduled for launch in 2024, is to study planetary systems outside the solar system by identifying and analysing planetary transits.
Thales Alenia Space Italia will conduct this phase of the project by defining the system and subsystem aspects of the satellite, with Thales Alenia Space France providing the payload definition.
PLATO will also study stars to determine their age, mass and dimensions. By observing stars relatively close to Earth, it will evaluate the slight but regular changes in brightness that indicate the presence of planets. PLATO will provide key information to determine these planets’ mass, radius, density, bulk composition and distance from their ‘sun’, in the ongoing search for worlds potentially similar to our own.
Thales Alenia Space, a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%), is a key European player in space telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, exploration and orbital infrastructures. The company posted consolidated revenues in excess of 2 billion euros in 2013, and has 7,500 employees in six countries.
The company was also recently selected by French space agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) to build the oceanography satellite SWOT (Surface Water and Ocean Topography), to be produced in collaboration with US space agency NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).