CHEOPS launch: Watch live as mission to study alien worlds blasts off

The launch of the European Space Agency's alien world observatory will take place Wednesday morning.

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Jackson Ryan was CNET's science editor, and a multiple award-winning one at that. Earlier, he'd been a scientist, but he realized he wasn't very happy sitting at a lab bench all day. Science writing, he realized, was the best job in the world -- it let him tell stories about space, the planet, climate change and the people working at the frontiers of human knowledge. He also owns a lot of ugly Christmas sweaters.
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An artist's impression of CHEOPS and exoplanets.

ESA/ATG medialab

The European Space Agency's (ESA) "Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite" (CHEOPS) is scheduled to launch Dec. 18 from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, after a "software error" forced a 24-hour delay. CHEOPS is set to fly on the back of a Russian Soyuz-FG and be placed into low-Earth orbit approximately 145 minutes after launch in a rare pole-to-pole orbit, around 500 kilometers above Earth. 

The launch is now scheduled for the super unfriendly time of 12:54 a.m. PT (3:43 a.m. ET) on Dec. 18, and if you're a launch fiend or humble satellite aficionado, you'll want to tune in. Coverage of the launch will be handled by the ESA, which is likely to operate a livestream at its website and Vimeo from 12:30 a.m. PT, Dec. 18.

If a YouTube link becomes available, we'll make sure to include it right here.

The chief mission for CHEOPS, an observatory the size of a mini fridge, is to measure the size of exoplanets discovered by late, great planet hunting machines such as the Kepler space telescope. The exoplanets CHEOPS is most interested in fall in the mass range between a super-Earth and Neptune. The space observatory is designed to study these worlds in greater detail than ever before.

With high-precision measurements, the observatory will allow researchers to better understand the composition of exoplanets and investigate whether or not they may be potentially habitable worlds. 

Requiem for Kepler? NASA's pioneering planet-finder (pictures)

See all photos

Updated 12:43 a.m. PT, Dec. 17: CHEOPS launch has been postponed.
Updated 2:51 p.m. PT, Dec 17: New CHEOPS launch details.