European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus DS to design and manufacture its fourth “Medium-class” Cosmic Vision mission. The Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) mission is an exoplanet survey telescope, set to launch in 2029. ARIEL was first selected as the fourth Medium mission by ESA in March 2018 and after three years of further design work Airbus was awarded the construction contract on 7 December 2021. The mission is expected to cost at least EUR€550 million (US$620.5 million). However, additional national contributions are expected to increase this figure.
Primary work on the spacecraft is expected to be carried out at the Airbus DS, Toulouse facility. However, significant contributions will be made from Airbus UK at Stevenage. This is in addition to work o the primary telescopic payload being lead by RAL Space, Harwell, UK.
The mission is expected to utilise an Ariane 6 launch vehicle to propel it to its planned orbit at the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 2. Once at location, ARIEL will have mission lifetime of four years. During this it period it is expected to survey approximately 1,000 exoplanets, providing data on their chemical and atmospheric compositions.