An artist’s impression of CHEOPS and exoplanets.

ESA/ATG medialab

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) “Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite” (CHEOPS) was scheduled to launch Dec. 17 from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The CHEOPS flight has been cancelled due to a “software error,” according to the University of Bern, which was carrying a livestream for the momentous launch.

CHEOPS is set to fly on the back of a Russian Soyuz-FG and be placed into low-Earth orbit approximately 145 minutes after launch in a rare pole-to-pole orbit, around 500 kilometers above Earth. 

The launch was scheduled for the unfriendly time of 12:54 a.m. PT (3:43 a.m. ET) on Dec. 17, with a new launch time to be announced by the ESA shortly. It is expected to be within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Coverage of the launch will be handled by the agency, which is likely to operate a livestream at its website and Vimeo when a new launch time is announced. 

If a YouTube link becomes available, we’ll make sure to include it right here.

The chief mission for CHEOPS, an observatory the size of a mini fridge, is to measure the size of exoplanets discovered by late, great planet hunting machines such as the Kepler space telescope. The exoplanets CHEOPS is most interested in fall in the mass range between a super-Earth and Neptune. The space observatory is designed to study these worlds in greater detail than ever before.

With high-precision measurements, the observatory will allow researchers to better understand the composition of exoplanets and investigate whether or not they may be potentially habitable worlds. 

Updated 12:43 a.m. PT, Dec. 17: CHEOPS launch has been postponed.



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