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21 October 2010

e2v awarded a contract to develop image sensors for ESA’s PLATO mission to search for Earth like planets

e2v, a leading global provider of high performance imaging solutions, has been awarded a contract to develop a new Charge Coupled Device (CCD) imaging sensor by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the PLATO (PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) space science mission. The aim of PLATO is to search for transiting planets within our galaxy to understand the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life.

PLATO aims to detect planets from their transits across their host star and to characterize their host stars by studying their oscillations. In order to achieve this aim the mission proposes to fly a satellite with a focal plane of up to 34 mini-telescopes, each containing 4 large area back illuminated CCDs to provide ultra high precision photometry. If successful, the satellite will have nearly 0.9 m2 of image sensors and will be by far the largest image sensor focal plane ever flown.

Once launched, the satellite will orbit the sun 1.5 million km beyond the Earth for a period of 6-8 years. During that time at least 40% of the sky could be surveyed – an order of magnitude greater than previous space missions.

The mission is in a competitive definition phase with two other ESA Cosmic Vision programmes: Solar Orbiter and Euclid, for which e2v has also won a development contract. The two successful missions will be selected in June 2011 and will be carried forward into implementation leading to a launch in 2018.

Dr Anamarija Stankov from the Astrophysics and Fundamental Physics Section at ESA said “The PLATO mission will study complete planetary systems. The planets and their host stars will be observed together with the same techniques and this will enable us to understand how planets are formed and how they evolve.”

e2v Marketing and Applications Manager, Jon Kemp said, “e2v is very pleased to be developing high performance image sensors for Plato. If it is selected next year, the largest focal plane to fly will again demonstrate that e2v is the world’s leading supplier of image sensors to space programmes.”

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e2v is a leading global provider of technology solutions for high performance systems; delivering solutions, sub-systems and components, to advanced systems companies, for specialist applications within medical & science, aerospace & defence, and commercial & industrial markets.

e2v is headquartered in the UK, employs approximately 1500 people, has design and production facilities across Europe and North America, and has a global network of sales and technical support offices. For the year ended 31 March 2010, e2v reported sales of over £200m and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information visit