French space agency CNES, together with CNRS-INSU and the Observatoire de Paris, partner nations and the European Space Agency, has extended the operations of the CoRoT mission satellite for three additional years.

The partner nations include Austria, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Brazil.

CoRoT, which stands for ‘convection, rotation and planetary transits’, studies the internal structure of stars and searches for planets outside the solar system (exoplanets).

The satellite was launched on 27 December 2006 and was initially scheduled for a design life of three years.

CoRoT has measured vibrations of various types of stars and confirmed the existence of seven exoplanets, including the smallest and only rocky exoplanet, CoRoT-7b, and the densest one, CoRoT-3b.

The mission extension will allow to sound new types of stars and also re-examine those which have exhibited the most unexpected behaviours.

CoRoT will search for more exoplanets in the three years and specifically search for ‘hot super earths’ – planets slightly more massive than the Earth but much closer to their parent star.

The mission has been extended to 31 March 2013.