OHB to negotiate implentation of ESA exoplanet research satellite

The European Space Agency has selected OBH System AG as industrial prime contractor to negotiate the implementation of its PLATO satellite, which will detect and conduct research into exoplanets.

OHB System AG (Bremen, Germany) announced April 26 it has been selected by ESA as industrial prime contractor to negotiate the implementation of the PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) scientific research mission of the European Space Agency (ESA), which is to be launched in 2026.

PLATO is a satellite-based observatory for use in space to detect and conduct research into exoplanets orbiting in other solar systems. As the prime contractor, OHB will be able to rely on an existing industrial core team comprising Thales Alenia Space (Cannes, France) and RUAG Space Switzerland (Zürich, Switzerland) to design and develop the satellite.

Thales Alenia Space is responsible for avionics, and integrating and testing the satellite platform. RUAG Space Switzerland, will be designing and assembling the optical bench, which is comprised of carbon fiber face sheets with an aluminum honeycomb core. The optical bench forms the “basis” for the integration of 26 high precision cameras, which are being developed and assembled by the German Aerospace Center (DLR, Cologne, Germany) and a consortium of various European research centers and institutes. This work will be carried out by the OHB experts at the OHB-Space Center Optics & Science in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in a special ISO Class 5 clean room.

Antonio Garcia, the technical manager for the PLATO satellite, says, “This ambitious mission is designed to take exo-planetary science a large step forward. In order to achieve the required quality of the scientific observations, we have defined challenging performance requirements for our satellite design – for example, with regard to the alignment and pointing stability of the optical instrument. We want to achieve extremely precise, long-term and uninterrupted photometric observations of bright stars in the visible range. This is not only the way of discovering exoplanets, but also the means to characterize their composition and bulk properties, for determining the potential habitability.”

OBH’s contract with ESA covers the delivery of the satellite including the necessary pre-launch testing and support by OHB staff during the launch campaign and the start-up phase in orbit, and will expire with the completion of in-orbit verification to confirm the satellite’s full performance capabilities. The contract is valued at around € 297 million. The negotiations between ESA and OHB are expected for mid-June, upon which the contract will be signed.