The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Germany’s OHB System as the prime contractor for its PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (Plato) mission that aims to search and study planets beyond the Solar System.

OHB System will be responsible for delivering the satellite, including the testing phase leading to launch.

The company will also provide support during the launch, and throughout the in-orbit commissioning phase.

OHB System will manufacture and assemble the satellite, in collaboration with Thales Alenia Space and RUAG Space Switzerland. A number of ESA member states will also take part in the construction of Plato.

In addition, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and a consortium of European research centres and institutes will deliver Plato’s scientific instrument, which includes 26 cameras and electronic units to monitor the sky for new planets.

“We are focusing on Earth-like planets orbiting up to the habitable zone around other stars which are similar to our Sun. This will be a major step towards finding another Earth.”

ESA director general Johann-Dietrich Wörner said: “Does a second Earth exist in the Universe? is one of the exciting questions in astrophysics today.

“With our Plato satellite we are focusing on Earth-like planets orbiting up to the habitable zone around other stars which are similar to our Sun. This will be a major step towards finding another Earth.”

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Plato is scheduled to be launched in 2026 with a special focus on identifying rocky planets around Sun-like stars and their habitable zone.

The mission is designed to examine the properties of the planets’ host stars and determine the planets’ masses, sizes and ages.

Furthermore, Plato will conduct asteroseismology, the study of seismic activity of stars, to provide knowledge on stellar interiors and evolution.

Following its launch, Plato will operate from the ‘L2’ virtual point in space, which is situated 1.5 million km beyond Earth.