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The European Space Agency has signed a contract with Airbus to build the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey mission. The newly signed contract is valued at around €200m (£170m). Airbus will be leading the project, and the company is hoping that it can launch the Ariel mission sometime in 2029.

Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey mission (or Ariel, in short) will study planets orbiting around other stars to understand the conception of the stars and how they evolved over time. The project will be led by the UK. However, Airbus in Toulouse, France is overall in charge of building Ariel, whereas they will use the facilities available at Stevenage, UK to carry out the structural and avionics work.

Since the mid-1990s more than 500 planets have been discovered by scientists but very little research has been done to count how many worlds might be out there. In this decade, among many things, the scientists took up the task of looking at how these planets are made and how the atmosphere of those planets functions. Notably, NASA will launch a $10 billion James Webb infrared space telescope sometime late in December which will be engaged in the investigation of many exoplanets. Ariel’s job will be similar to James Webb’s, but Ariel is likely to study about 1000 exoplanets. Ariel will monitor the specific target planets.

The European Space Agency members first selected Ariel for development back in 2018, and now under a new contract with Airbus, Ariel will get a push forward for its design, and the new contract will also finalize some of the necessary technologies of the mission. But the mission would not be limited to only that. Ariel will also work towards building a large type-catalog. Space scientists will use Ariel to answer some of the questions regarding what kinds of worlds are out there, and what might be regarded as the “standard model” for planetary systems.

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