Plato’s ground segment will consist of three elements:
- The Science Operations Centre (SOC) will be located in the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain. The SOC will be in charge of planning and preparing for observations, as well as routine data analysis resulting in verified light curves. Most of Plato’s data will be made public as soon as it has been compiled; only a small fraction will be available exclusively to Principal and Co-Principal Investigators in the Payload and Data Centres. This data will be proprietary for 1 year (to be confirmed).
- The Mission Operations Centre (MOC) will be based in the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. The MOC will be the ground control segment for the mission and will supervise operational infrastructure, including converting planning and configuration commands into satellite commands as well as receiving the satellite’s telemetry. Plato’s MOC will be based on existing Ground Segment infrastructure, modified to fit the mission’s specific needs.
- One or more nationally funded Scientific Data Centres will handle the data processing chain resulting in the mission’s final products (calibrated stellar light curves) and archiving and distributing data.
Communication with the Plato satellite will use X-band transmission using the 35-metre antenna in New Norcia, Australia. The ground/satellite contact window lasts 4 hours every day for telecommand and communication. The rest of the day, the satellite is fully autonomous without any contact with the ground.