Europe's Cheops satellite launched into space

Photo: EPA Head of Science and Operations of the ESA Markus Kissler- Patig speaks during an event held for the launching of the satellite, Madrid, 17 December.

The Cheops satellite was launched into space on Wednesday morning, a day late, on a mission to observe bright stars that are already known to be orbited by exoplanets, dpa reported. The lift-off was transmitted live on the website of the launch firm, Arianespace.

The Soyez rocket launcher lifted off from the Korou spaceport in French Guiana, carrying the Cheops satellite platform with a space telescope on board and the OPS-SAT nano-satellite, a space laboratory.The satellite is expected to travel at an orbit of 700 kilometres, guided from Spain's Mission Operations Centre near Madrid.

The Cheops (Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite) mission plans to measure minuscule changes in the brightness of the stars as the planets - named exoplants as they are outside the Solar System - move across their disc.That should yield a precise measurement of the planets' sizes, which scientists hope to combine with separate information about their masses in order to determine their density.

The joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Swiss researchers is the ESA's first satellite to study planets in other star systems. The mission's scientific operating centre is located in Switzerland.

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