The European Space Agency formally adopts Ariel, the exoplanet explorer

The European Space Agency (ESA) have formally adopted Ariel, the first mission dedicated to study the nature, formation and evolution of exoplanets. CEED's Professor Stephanie Werner is a co-PI of the Ariel Consortium, which includes more than 50 institutes from 17 ESA countries, and NASA. The mission holds big opportunities for the future of comparative planetology science, and the Norway space and technical industry too. See the ESA Press release here.

Professor Giovanna Tinetti, Principal Investigator for Ariel from University College London said, "We are the first generation capable of studying planets around other stars. Ariel will seize this unique opportunity and reveal the nature and history of hundreds of diverse worlds in our galaxy. We can now embark on the next stage of our work to make this mission a reality."

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Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab

The Ariel mission will:

  • Survey about 1000 planets outside our solar system during its lifetime
  • Unveil the nature, formation and evolution of a large and assorted sample of planets around different types of stars in our galaxy

More than 50 institutes from 17 countries have been working over the past 5 years to develop the science goals and design the instrumentation, which will enable Ariel to survey a diverse sample of around 1000 planets outside our own solar system.

Professor Stephanie Werner, Co-PI in the Ariel Consortium from CEED at the University of Oslo is excited to be part of the mission: “Ariel will provide a unique set of atmosphere observations of numerous exoplanet very different from those we know in the solar system. We will be able to probe the composition of these planets. Studying planetary systems in this detail will completely change the field of comparative planetology!” 

The Ariel mission consortium teams from across Europe will now move on to build and prototype their designs for the payload of Ariel and plan for receiving and processing the data. The industrial contractor for the spacecraft bus, which will support the payload coming from the nationally funded consortium teams, will be selected in the summer 2021.

Pål Brekke of the Norwegian Space Agency is a delegate in ESA's Scientific Programme Committee and was involved in choosing Ariel. He is very happy with the adoption. “Ariel will complement ESA's other upcoming space probes Plato and Cheops. Together these space probes will provide an excellent picture of the properties and conditions of exoplanets.” Furthermore, it is expected that Norwegian industry will have the opportunity to win large contracts to build parts of the satellite, says Brekke.

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Ariel will be placed in orbit around the Lagrange Point 2 (L2), a gravitational balance point 1.5 million kilometres beyond the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office

Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) Facts and Figures

  • Elliptical primary mirror: 1.1 x 0.7 metres
  • Instrumentation: 3 photometric channels and 3 spectrometers covering continuously from 0.5 to 7.8 microns in wavelength
  • Mission lifetime: at least 4 years in orbit
  • Launch date: 2029
  • Payload mass: ~500 kg
  • Launch mass: ~1500kg
  • Destination: Sun – Earth Lagrange Point 2 (L2)
  • ESA Mission Cost: ~550 million Euros, plus nationally funded contribution of the payload
  • Launch vehicle: Ariane 6-2 from French Guiana shared with Comet Interceptor

We're certainly excited!

Additional Images and Information:


Ariel animations:

Welcome to Ariel:

Twitter: @ArielTelescope

Ariel consortium The Ariel mission payload is developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 17 ESA countries – which include the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Estonia – plus a NASA contribution.


STFC RAL Space RAL Space is an integral part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council's (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and is the space hub for UK Research and Innovation. RAL Space carries out world-class space research and technology development with involvement in over 210 instruments on board space missions.

Twitter: @RAL_Space_STFC

By Stephanie Werner
Published Nov. 12, 2020 7:14 PM - Last modified June 9, 2021 4:26 PM
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The CEED blog covers some behind-the-scenes about our latest research and activities. The contributors are a mix of students and staff from The Centre for Earth Evolution and Dynamics, Dept. of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Norway.