Mission Profile

The overall PLATO mission profile consists of the following phases: 

  • Pre-launch phase, from launch campaign preparation to launch vehicle lift-off;
  • Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP), from lift-off to the completion of the first trajectory correction manoeuvre performed by the spacecraft on day 2 latest after separation from the launcher upper stage;
  • Transfer phase, from the end of the LEOP up to the insertion at the operational orbit around the Earth-Sun Lagrangian point 2 (L2) where scientific observations will be conducted;
  • Commissioning phase, starting during the transfer phase and running in parallel to it (and after if necessary) until the completion of the check-out and calibration of the spacecraft and its payload maximum 3 months after launch;
  • Nominal science operations phase, starting at the end of the commissioning phase, with a duration of 4 years;
  • Extended science operations phase, starting at the completion of the nominal science operations phase and lasting up to 4 years;
  • Decommissioning phase, starting close to the end of the science operations phase, and consisting of a disposal manoeuvre to comply with the space debris mitigation requirements and the spacecraft passivation.

PLATO mission nominal phases and their respective durations, the key events and ground stations foreseen to ensure the communications coverage

Mission observation strategy

PLATO has a flexible observing approach. Two observing strategies are reflected in the science requirements, long-duration observation of the same field versus shorter coverage of shorter different fields, or step-and-stare. These strategies complement each other and allow for a wide range of different science cases to be addressed. Long-duration pointings would be devoted to surveys for small planets out to the Habitable Zone of solar-like stars. Short pointings would be devoted to shorter-period planet detections and will address a number of different science cases such as galactic exploration. In its nominal science operations, PLATO’s current baseline observation scenario assumes a Long-duration Observation Phase (LOP) consisting of continuous observations of two sky fields, lasting 2 years each. An alternative scenario would consist of a LOP of three years and a step-and-stare phase (SOP) of one year. The current mission design constraints impose the centre of the LOP fields to be at least above 63 degrees or below -63 degrees in ecliptic latitude.

plato skyThe LOP fields preliminary selected are shown as blue areas.