The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus to design and build the exoplanet satellite Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey). The contract between Airbus and ESA is valued at €200 million. Ariel is scheduled for launch in 2029.  

In an exoplanet (a planet outside the Solar system) exploration mission, Ariel will be dedicated to measuring the chemical composition and thermal structures of 1000 exoplanets with visible and infrared wavelengths. 

“In our Toulouse facilities, the largest space site in Europe, we have all the resources, facilities and expertise to design, manufacture and integrate the spacecraft and actively support ESA with payload development,” said Jean-Marc Nasr, Head of Space Systems at Airbus. 

According to ESA, the Ariel mission will fill a significant gap in our knowledge of “how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or if and how the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution”. 

“Launch may still seem a long way ahead for Ariel, but we are firmly on the road to a wonderful science mission, which will further broaden our understanding of solar system science well beyond the boundaries of our own planetary neighborhood,” says Theresa Lueftinger, ESA Ariel Project Scientist. 

More than 5,000 exoplanets have been discovered since the first observation in 1995, but little is known about the exoplanets’ chemical and thermal compositions.

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