The scheduled launch of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite or CHEOPS telescope, set to usher in a new era of exoplanet research was cancelled today.
The launch, which was set to take place at 12:54 am local time (roughly 4am ET) from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana was called-off due to what the University of Bern is calling a software error. The institution was set to live stream the event.
The launch has been rescheduled and is expected to take place within the next 24 to 48 hours. The official revised launch time and date will be announced at 6:00pm (ET).
CHEOPS is loaded aboard a Russian Soyuz-FG, which will place it in a low-Earth orbit. The procedure — which will take around 145 minutes to complete — will result in CHEOPS taking a rare pole-to-pole orbit.
The CHEOPS mission is designed to observe exoplanets in relatively close proximity to Earth. The aim of this is to select viable targets for future investigation by the next major development in both the fields of astronomy and exoplanet research — the James Webb Telescope, set to launch in 2021.
It is hoped that by using a combination of these instruments, researchers will finally be able to uncover characteristics of rocky exoplanets, which has been tricky up until now. This will include discovering if such bodies can maintain atmospheres and deduce the chemical compositions of these atmospheres.
It is likely that when the launch does occur, live coverage will be provided by the ESA on its website.