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Glitch delays launch of CHEOPS space telescope

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Paris (AFP)

A problem during countdown forced technicians to call off the launch of the European Space Agency's CHEOPS space telescope, the firm organising the launch said on Tuesday.

The CHEOPS satellite, part of an ESA programme to study planets and stars outside the solar system, was within 90 minutes of launching from Kourou in French Guiana when the problem came up, said Arianespace.

"During final countdown operations for Flight VS23, the Soyuz launcher's automated sequence was interrupted at 1 hour 25 minutes before liftoff," said the statement. A new launch date would be announced as soon as possible, it added.

The launcher and payload were put in "a fully safe standby mode", the statement added.

Arianespace chief executive Stephane Israel tweeted: "Due to a red at the beginning of the automated sequence of the SYZ launch system, operations are stopped for today."

He said an investigation had been launched, adding: "More details expected later on today. Go VS23, Go!"

The mission of the European Space Agency's Characterising Exoplanet Satellite (CHEOPS) is to study the stars where planets have already been identified.

It will try to understand what they are made of as part of the search to identify not just extraterrestrial life but to understand our origins.

Tuesday's launch would have been the ninth of the year from the South American site -- and the third with a Soyuz launcher.

The launcher was also carrying a COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation satellite for the Italian Space Agency.

And it had three smaller payloads -- a nanosatellite from Italian company Tyvak and two from France's space agency.

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