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European planet-studying spacecraft launches from S. America atop Russian Soyuz rocket

European planet-studying spacecraft launches from S. America atop Russian Soyuz rocket

A European spacecraft launched from South America on Wednesday on a three-year mission to study planets in other solar systems. The Characterizing ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS) mission blasted off from Kourou, French Guiana at 08:54 GMT atop a Russian Soyuz rocket, AP reports.

The launch came 24 hours after a first attempt was delayed shortly before liftoff because of a software problem in the upper stage of the rocket.

The satellite is the first mission dedicated to studying bright nearby stars that are already known to have planets, and will focus on “planets in the super-Earth to Neptune size range,” the European Space Agency says. The data sent by the mission could enable the bulk density of those planets to be calculated.

Swiss astronomer and Nobel Physics Prize winner Didier Queloz, who heads the CHEOPS science team, said earlier that the mission will focus on 100 of the more than 4,000 exoplanets.