The European Space Agency (ESA) has entered into an agreement with e2v, an imaging solutions provider, to manufacture an imaging sensor using the Charge Coupled Device (CCD) technology, for the space science mission of PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO).
The PLATO plans to use the technology to investigate the transiting planets in the Milky Way galaxy to evaluate the evolution of life and other planet data.
PLATO plans to send a focal plane with about 34 mini-telescopes, each comprising four broad area backlit CCDs, through a satellite to offer very high precision photometry, to identify planets from their transits across their host star and to differentiate their host stars by analyzing their oscillations. If this mission succeeds, the satellite will carry image sensors covering 0.9m2, which will become the largest image sensor sent so far in a focal plane. The satellite is assigned to orbit the sun at an altitude of 1.5 million km away from the Earth for six to eight years and will survey no less than 40% of the sky, which is of a greater scale when compared to past space missions.
e2v has won a development agreement with ESA Cosmic Vision programmes named Solar Orbiter and Euclid in a competition, which will be chosen in June 2011 and is expected to be launched in 2018.