ASP was selected by ESA to contribute to the PLATO mission with the Ancillary Electronic Unit (AEU). The PLATO (PLanetary Transits and Oscillations of Stars) mission aims to find and characterize a large number of extrasolar planetary systems, focusing on the properties of extraterrestrial planets in the habitable zone around bright Sun-like stars. PLATO also aims to study seismic activity in stars, which will allow accurate characterization of the planets’ host star, including its age. PLATO will determine planetary features such as radius, stellar irradiance, planetary system architecture, and evolutionary age with unprecedented accuracy.
To achieve its science goals, PLATO relies on high-precision cameras that produce a large number of precise stellar light curves taken at high duty cycle time intervals ranging from months to several years. The 24 cameras are arranged in 4 groups of 6 cameras each. Each group has the same field of view but is offset 9.2 degrees from the payload module axis, increasing the observed field of view to ~ 2250 degrees. Two fast cameras are also used as Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS) for the AOCS in science observing mode (higher performance, i.e., much better accuracy than standard star trackers) to meet the stringent alignment stability requirements.
The AEU provides power for two different types of high precision cameras, the N(ormal) camera and the F(ast) camera: the N-AEU consists of 6 power supply modules, 2 command and control modules and an internal supply module. The F-AEU consists of 1 power supply module, 2 command and control modules, and 1 internal supply module. Protection functions, filtering, telemetry and telecommand capabilities, and full redundancy are implemented.