ESA’s Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, is getting ready for launch at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Launch is scheduled on 17 December.
In this picture, taken on 6 December, the Souyz Arianespace System for Auxiliary Payloads (ASAP-S), enclosing Cheops and supporting the three Cubesats, is being positioned onto the interface ring of the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz launcher, and the technical staff is monitoring the manoeuvre. The ASAP-S multi-passenger dispenser system will be used to integrate the main passenger, Cheops and the Cubesats into the launcher.
The Cheops radiators, star trackers and sunshield panels can be seen inside the ASAP-S system, and the three Cubesats on the side platforms.
Cheops is ESA’s first mission dedicated to the study of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. It will observe bright stars that are already known to host planets, measuring minuscule brightness changes due to the planet’s transit across the star’s disc.