Thales Alenia Space has signed a contract with OHB System AG for the new ESA program PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) in which OHB System AG will be the prime contractor with Thales Alenia Space as a partner. PLATO will be the third medium-class (M3) science mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision Program, following Solar Orbiter (M1) and Euclid (M2), and preceding Ariel (M4). The satellite will be launched in 2026 for an initial mission length of 4.5 years.
The aim of PLATO is to find and study extrasolar planetary systems, especially terrestrial type planets in the habitable zone (compatible with water in the liquid state) around stars similar to the Sun. Unlike the previous missions, CoRot and Kepler, it will offer the unique ability to carry out stable, wide-field observations of bright stars over a very long period (two to four years), enabling the detection and to characterize planets orbiting slowly around their sun, such as the Earth. It will be placed into orbit around the L2 Lagrangian point, and will carry a scientific payload comprising 26 cameras and the associated electronics.
Thales Alenia Space (France and UK) will be in charge of avionics and integration for the service module (SVM). The AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control System) software proposed for PLATO draws on the expertise and processes developed over the last 20 years and more. Thales Alenia Space offers their expertise in satellite avionics development and testing, from initial equipment specifications to test benches and AIT (assembly, integration, testing). The avionics test bench will be integrated and operated at Thales Alenia Space’s Cannes facility, with teams from Thales Alenia Space in UK also heavily involved. Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67 percent) and Leonardo (33 percent), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ “Space Alliance”, which offers a complete range of services and solutions.
The PLATO Telescopes Optical Units (TOU), funded by Italian Space Agency (ASI), were designed by INAF (Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica) and will be built at Leonardo site in Campi Bisenzio in collaboration with the universities of Berna, Thales Alenia Space and Medialario to be delivered for the global integration of the cameras at the OHB Space Center “Optics & Science” in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in a special ISO Class 5 clean room.
Donato Amoroso, SE Vice-President Observation, Exploration, Navigation at Thales Alenia Space said that they are very proud to cooperate with OHB System AG in developing and assembling this unique science satellite for ESA. The PLATO program will draw on the full range of their avionics skills, already deployed across their telecommunications and Earth observation satellite product lines, as well as knowledge acquired through their work on other L2 missions, namely Herschel-Planck and Euclid. The integration operations assigned to Thales Alenia Space in the United Kingdom reflect their company’s strategy of expanding their European footprint.