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Logo of the PLATO mission

PLATO ( English PLAnetary Transits and Oscillation of stars for planetary transits and oscillations of stars) is an ESA project to research extrasolar planets . PLATO is supposed to discover and characterize exoplanets in transit in front of their parent star, i.e. the passage of the planet in front of the star disc. Up to a million stars are to be examined. Major breakthroughs are expected from the mission, as the project will focus on rocky planets orbiting around brighter and better characterized stars.

The space probe, equipped with 26 cameras, is to launch into space in 2026 as part of the medium-sized missions of ESA's Cosmic Vision program Template: future / in 5 yearsand search a large part of the sky for six years. The mission is managed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen is also involved. The hardware mainly comes from research institutions in Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain and Spain.


  • 03/2007 Start of Cosmic Vision (ESA's science mission program for 2015-2025)
  • 10/2007 Selection of PLATO for preliminary studies for a start in 2018
  • 2008 Start of three feasibility studies: one under independent and two under commercial ( Astrium and Thales ) direction
  • 2009 Publication of the preliminary study
  • 2010 selection in the round of the last three candidates
  • 2011 Publication of the definition study
  • In 2011 the two competitors received construction approval, PLATO remained as an option for future flights
  • 01/2013 Reorganization of the PLATO group, candidacy for the last remaining start opportunity within the framework of Cosmic Vision in 2024
  • 02/2014 Decision of ESA for the realization of PLATO as well as announcement of a rocket launch planned for 2024

Mission objectives

PLATO is to observe two sections of the sky one after the other over two (according to the mission definition study) to three (according to the homepage) years and use the transit method to detect planets. He is to continue the work of CoRoT and Kepler . PLATO, however, is to have a significantly larger observation area and optics that are specialized in Earth-like planets, so that, in contrast to the previous missions, many finds of rocky planets the size of the earth with brighter or sun-like stars are expected. So far, due to the methodology, earth-sized planets were mostly found in very cold, small stars. Only planets with a year length of less than 365 days can be detected, since three star occlusions have to be observed for a proven observation. The two long-term observation phases are followed by several approximately three-month observations of individual areas of the sky.

In addition, the stars hosting the planets will be measured using asteroseismological methods. In combination with the data from Gaia (position determination of stars) one would get such good data, which are necessary for many calculations about the planets.

Takeoff and orbit

PLATO is Template: future / in 5 yearsscheduled to start in 2026 . Is planned with a Soyuz - Fregat launch, aim to the Lagrange point 2 be. Due to the unstable position of this orbit, corrective maneuvers are planned approximately every four weeks. Furthermore, PLATO will change its orientation by 90 ° every 90 days in order to align its solar panels to the sun.


The scientific payload should consist of 24 dioptric cameras, each equipped with a 120 mm wide-angle lens. Each camera has its own focal plane (focal point) with four large format CCD sensors. The system is said to work in the wavelengths of visible light and in the near infrared from 0.5 to 0.95 micrometers. Two additional special cameras should cover two broad red and blue spectral ranges. The 24 normal cameras should have a cadence of 25 s and the two special cameras should have a cadence of 2.5 s. The measurements from the special cameras are transmitted to the orbit and position control system as a very precise reference signal.

Earth communication is to take place in the X and K bands for four hours a day; PLATO will operate autonomously for the remaining 20 hours. In total, PLATO will generate approx. 435 GB of data every day and transmit it to the ground station.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Gravitational wave mission selected, planet-hunting mission moves forward , ESA Science & Technology, June 20, 2017.
  2. DLR: Searching for the second earth with the PLATO 2.0 space telescope
  3. PLATO assessment study report (SRE-2009-4) ( Memento of October 12, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  4. "Red Book" PLATO ( Memento of the original from June 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. "ESA selects planet-hunting PLATO mission" at
  6. Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research: In Search of a Second Earth: Green Light for PLATO Mission. June 20, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2019 .
  7. a b c PLATOMission: ESA Books. March 8, 2018, accessed April 22, 2020 .