An artist’s impression of CHEOPS and exoplanets.

ESA/ATG medialab

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) “Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite” (CHEOPS) is scheduled to launch on Dec. 17 from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The space observatory is designed to study, in great detail, alien worlds astronomers have discovered outside of our solar system. It will fly on the back of a Russian Soyuz-FG and be placed into low-Earth orbit approximately 145 minutes after launch.

If you’re in the US and are keen on seeing these satellites get to space, you’ll likely be pulling a late night. The launch is scheduled for the unfriendly time of 12:54 a.m. PT (3:43 a.m. ET) on Dec. 17.

Coverage of the launch will be handled by the ESA, which is operating a livestream at its website and Vimeo. If a YouTube link becomes available, we’ll make sure to include it right here. Coverage will kick off a little prior to launch at 12:30 a.m. PT.

The chief mission for CHEOPS, an observatory the size of a mini fridge, is to measure the size of exoplanets discovered by late, great planet hunting machines such as the Kepler space telescope. The exoplanets CHEOPS is most interested in fall in the mass range between a super-Earth and Neptune. 

With high-precision measurements, the observatory will allow researchers to better understand the composition of exoplanets and investigate whether or not they may be potentially habitable worlds.