PLATO in a nutshell
 
fast facts
NAME
PLATO means PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars
Mission:
ESA Cosmic Vision - M Class
Objective:
Discover and characterize exoplanetary systems like the solar one.
Launch:
2022-24
life:
≥ 6 years from operation start
Orbit:
Lissajous L2, continuos observations with field rotation every 3 months 
Launcher:
Soyuz-Fregat from Kourou
status:
Selected as M3 in the Cosmic Vision Program

Key scientific goals

  1. BulletDetection of terrestrial exoplanets in the habitable zone of solar-type stars and characterization of their bulk properties needed to determine their habitability.

  2. BulletCharacterization of thousands of rocky (including Earth twins), icy or giant planets, including the architecture of their planetary system, to fundamentally enhance our understanding of the formation and the evolution of planetary systems.

  3. BulletThese goals will be achieved through:

  4. Bulletplanet detection and radius determination (2% precision) from photometric transits;

  5. Bulletdetermination of planet masses (better than 10% precision) from ground-based radial velocity follow-up,

  6. Bulletdetermination of accurate stellar masses, radii, and ages(10% precision) from asteroseismology,

  7. Bulletidentification of bright targets for atmospheric spectroscopy.


Observational concept

  1. BulletUltra-high precision, long (up to several years), uninterrupted photometric monitoring in the visible band of very large samples of bright (mV ≤11) stars.


Primary data product

Very accurate optical light curves of large numbers of bright stars.


Payload

Payload concept

  1. BulletSet of 32 normal cameras organized in 4 groups resulting in many wide-field co-aligned telescopes, each telescope with its own CCD-based focal plane array;

  2. BulletSet of 2 fast cameras for bright stars, colour requirements, and fine guidance and navigation.

Optical system

  1. Bullet6 lenses per telescope (1 aspheric)

Focal planes

  1. Bullet136 CCDs (4 CCDs per camera) with  4510 x 4510 18 μm pixels

Instantaneous field of view

  1. Bullet 2250 deg2

More information on the PLATO 2.0 Payload are here.



Overall mission profile

Observing plan

  1. BulletTwo long monitoring phases (two years each) single field monitored. Two years additional "step-and-stare" phase with several successive fields monitored for a few months each.

Duty cycle

  1. Bullet ≥ 95%

Launcher

  1. BulletLaunch by Soyuz-Fregat2-1b from Kourou in 2022/2024 

Orbit

  1. BulletTransfer to L2, then large amplitude libration orbit around L2


Description of Spacecraft

Stabilisation

  1. Bullet3-axis

Telemetry band

  1. BulletX-band (10 MHz maximum bandwidth)

Average downlink capacity

  1. Bullet109 Gb per day

  2. (Assumption: ground station contact for 4 hours per day, 3.5 hours for data downlink with a rate of 8.7 Mbps)

Pointing stability

  1. Bullet0.2 arcsec rms over 14 hours

Pointing strategy

  1. BulletA 90° rotation around the line of sight every 3 months

Mission Summary