Launched on 18th December 2019, CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, pronounced K-ops, not Chee-ops) is a joint ESA/Switzerland mission. A very exciting project, this is ESA’s first ever mission to study exoplanets (or extrasolar planets) which are worlds outside of our own solar system!


The main goal of CHEOPS, which operates as a compact space telescope, is to study bright stars already known to host small orbiting exoplanets the size of Earth or Neptune. This will allow ESA scientists to measure the density of exoplanets which in turn will provide vital clues to the character of such exoplanet terrain. This means they can ascertain whether the exoplanets are rocky or gassy, their evolution, and if they contain oceans.


By following up the discovery of previously discovered exoplanets, CHEOPS can identify those which merit closer in-depth scrutiny by use of the enormous James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is the successor to Hubble. If you were fortunate enough to be at Space Rocks London in September this year, you would have seen a model of the JWST, which is due for launch in March 2021. You can find out more about Cheops from this video plus you can read an interview here with ESA Project Scientist Kate Isaak.


You can see the launch of CHEOPS here – which was aboard the Soyuz-Fregat rocket from the ESA spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we’ve created our very own Space Rocks spacelist which you can listen to here!