History of Planck

COBRAS/SAMBA: The beginning of Planck

PLANCK was initially called COBRAS/SAMBA. This awkward former double name had historical roots, since the mission grew out of a pair of proposals with similar objectives, with the names COBRAS and SAMBA respectively. The two proposed payloads were eventually merged into one mission, and the double name was kept.

The acronyms stood for:
Cosmic Background Radiation Anisotropy Satellite and
Satellite for Measurement of Background Anisotropies.

COBRAS/SAMBA was studied during an initial Assessment phase (1994) by ESA, and together with industry at Phase A level (1995-1996). The picture below is a result of the latter study, which was the basis for the selection of COBRAS/SAMBA as the 3rd Medium-sized mission (M3) in ESA's Horizon 2000 Scientific Programme.



Some of the major milestones in the history of Planck are listed below

(in reverse chronological order)


Operations and post-operations phases

Date Event
August 31 2016 Web article: First stars formed even later than previously thought
August 11-13 2015 Planck Conference: The Legacy of Planck , at the General Assembly of the IAU in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. Presentations.
August 10 2015 Completion of 2015 data release: ALL PLANCK DATA ARE NOW PUBLICLY AVAILABLE !
July 9 2015 Release of the Second Planck Catalogue of Compact sources
March 31 2015 Web article: Herschel and Planck find missing clue to galaxy xluster formation
February 5 2015 Release of main products part of 2015 data release
May 6 2014 Web article: Planck takes magnetic fingerprint of our Galaxy
30 January 2015 Release of results of analysis of joint Planck/Bicep2/Keck Array data
December 15-19 2014 Conference: The primordial Universe after Planck (Paris, France). Videos .
December 1-5 2014 Planck 2014 Conference: The microwave sky in temperature and polarization (Ferrara, Italy). Announcement, conference website, and presentations.
October 23 2013 The final command to the Planck satellite was sent on 23 October 2013, marking the end of operations.
October 18 2013 Web article: Celebrating the legacy of ESA's Planck mission
October 4 2013 End of routine operations, and start of Planck's decommissioning activities.
August 14 2013 Planck's departure manoeuvre was successfully executed.
April 2-5 2013 Planck conference: ESLAB 2013: The Universe as seen by Planck , Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Presentations.
March 21 2013 Planck 2013 results are made public. Web article: Simple but challenging: the Universe according to Planck
November 20 2012 Web article: Planck discovers filament of hot gas linking two galaxy clusters
February 13 2012 Planck releases intermediate results focussed on Galactic and extragalactic science. See Planck publications.
February 13 2012 Web article: Planck releases all-sky images of distribution of carbon monoxide, and of a mysterious Galactic Haze.
February 13-17 2012 Planck conference: Astrophysics from the radio to the sub-millimetre , Bologna, Italy
February 8 2012 Planck completes 1000 days in space.
January 31 2012 ESA and the Planck Collaboration have released a revised version of the ERCSC.
January 30 2012 Planck-LFI starts its sixth all sky survey.
January 14 2012 Planck's HFI completes its survey of early Universe. The sensor ran out of coolant on January 14 2012 as expected, ending its ability to detect this faint energy. Read full story.
December 23 2011 Further results from the ongoing XMM-Newton follow-up of Planck clusters, detailing X-ray observations of 11 candidates, are made available on arXiv astro-ph.
December 1 2011 The Special Feature of Planck's "Early results" is published by Astronomy & Astrophysics. 
August 4 2011 Planck, Swift, and Fermi release simultaneous observations of X-ray and gamma-ray selected blazars. Get to know more on arXiv astro-ph.
July 29 2011 Planck starts its fifth all sky survey after successfully concluding its fourth survey. Planck has been acquiring high-quality science data for more than 100 weeks, the spacecraft remains extremely healthy, and operations continue flawlessly.
July 21 2011 Third data release of Planck's internal archive for scientific exploitation within the Planck collaboration.
June 7 2011 Planck detects, and XMM-Newton confirms, an exceptionally X-ray luminous and massive galaxy cluster at z~1. Get to know more on arXiv astro-ph.
February 14 2011 Planck starts its fourth all sky survey after successfully concluding its third survey.
January 11 2011 Web articles: Planck traces the coldest objects in the nearby Universe; Planck sees traces of early structure formation in the cosmic infrared background; Planck's successful hunt probes galaxy clusters on very broad mass range; Planck sees new, mysterious components in Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds.
January 11 2011 Planck releases its "Early results": a collection of 26 articles presents the 1st year of operations of Planck; the performance of its payload; the Early Release Compact Source Catalogue (ERCSC), and the first scientific results covering both galactic and extragalactic sources.
January 10-14 2011 Planck conference: The millimetre and sub-millimetre sky in the Planck mission era (Paris, France)
November 26 2010 Planck successfully ends its 15 months nominal mission, and starts its extended mission. Planck is planned to continue surveying the sky until the exhaustion of its cryogenic consumables.
September 15 2010 Planck's first glimpse at galaxy clusters and a new supercluster. Visit the fifth Planck post launch press release.
September 15 2010 A set of Planck pre-launch papers appears on a special feature of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 520 (September-October 2010).
August 17 2010 Second data release of Planck's internal archive for scientific exploitation within the Planck collaboration.
August 14 2010 Planck starts its third all sky survey after successfully concluding its second survey.
July 5 2010 ESA's Planck mission delivers its first all-sky image. Visit the fourth Planck post launch press release. And see Planck's first all-sky image on Chromoscope, where you can also compare it to other all-sky images.
May 28 2010 Planck HFI completes coverage of 100% of the sky.
April 26 2010 Planck LFI completes coverage of 100% of the sky.
April 26 2010 Planck highlights the complexity of star formation. Visit the third Planck post launch press release.
March 17 2010 New Planck images trace cold dust and reveal large-scale structure in the Milky Way. Visit the second Planck post launch press release.
March 1 2010 First data release of Planck's internal archive for scientific exploitation within the Planck collaboration.
February 14 2010 Planck starts its second all sky survey after successfully concluding its first survey.
January 15 2010 ESA approves an extension of Planck operations by 12 months. Planck is scheduled to continuously acquire high-quality science data until the end of 2011.
December 29 2009 A set of 21 pre-launch papers reporting on technical aspects concerning the Planck LFI are published by JINST.
December 23 2009 Pre-release of Planck's internal archive for scientific exploitation within the Planck collaboration.
September 17 2009 Planck's First Light image yields promising results. Visit the first Planck post launch press release and more in depth.
August 13 2009 Planck starts its first all sky survey after successfully concluding its commissioning phase.
July 3 2009 Planck's instruments reach their lowest temperatures.
May 20 2009 Planck and Herschel commissioning has begun.
May 14 2009 Planck is launched, on an Ariane 5 rocket from ESA's Spaceport in French Guiana, into its planned trajectory towards L2. ESA is en route to the origins of the Universe !


Selection and development phases

Date Event
14 May 2009

Launch ! See some pictures...

13 May 2009 Planck and Herschel are on the launch pad
13 May 2009 Successful Launch Readiness Review
20 April 2009 Launch of Planck and Herschel is postponed
8 April 2009 Launch date for Planck and Herschel is set to 6 May
17 March The launch campaign teams take time out to record a special moment
19 February 2009 Planck flies to French Guyana.
09 February 2009 Planck and Herschel get green light for launch campaign
16 January 2009 The Planck Dome is showcased at the kick-off of the International Year of Astronomy
27 November 2008 The Ground Segment Readiness Review is successfully completed
November 2008 - January 2009 Flight Acceptance Review
May - August 2008 Cryogenic testing of FM satellite at CSL. Tank closed 16 June. 100 mK reached on 20 July 2008. Tank opens 19 August. TRB 6-7 November.
July 2007 Newsletter No 9
February - April 2007 Qualification Review
Jan 2007 Completion of FM integration. Press event in Cannes.
November 2006 - March 2007 Implementation review of the Science Ground Segment
November 2006 Mating of LFI and HFI.
July-September 2006 Delivery of instrument flight models to ESA.
March 2006 Newsletter No 8
June - October 2005 Testing of QM satellite (complete minus LFI, SCS compressors, and reflectors) at the Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL).
April 2005 Newsletter No 7
Jan 2005 Delivery of HFI Cryo-Qualification Model to ESA.
1 January 2005 Publication of the Bluebook: The Scientific Programme of Planck - ESA-SCI(2005)1
June 2004 Newsletter No 6
18 March 2004 The Qualification Model of the Planck telescope is tested in Cannes
April - October 2004 Critical Design Review
November 2003 Newsletter No 5
23 April 2003 Web article: How constant is our changeable Universe ?
April 2003 Newsletter No 4
December 2002 Review of the Science Ground Segment
3 December 2002 Web article: When more data can mean more fun...
September 2002 Newsletter No 3
July-October 2002 Preliminary Design Review
Jan 2002 Newsletter No 2
September 2001 System Requirements Review
July 2001 Newsletter No 1
29 June 2001 Web article: WMAP blazes the way for Planck...
22 June 2001 ESA announces signature of its largest-ever contract awarded to build astronomy satellites
April 2001 The Prime Contractor for the design, manufacture and test of both Planck and Herschel has been selected and work has started. Following the approval of ESA's Industrial Policy Committee, and the subsequent successful negotiations, the contract between ESA and Alcatel Space (Cannes, France) has been finalised. The Phase B study has already begun, in advance of its initially scheduled start date of 01/06/2001.
24 January 2001 The first meeting of the entire Planck Collaboration takes place at Estec
1 September 2000 The European Space Agency released today an Invitation to Tender to European industry to present proposals for the design, manufacture and launch of the FIRST and Planck satellites. The proposals are expected to be presented on 1/12/00, and work will begin in mid-2001. The launch of FIRST and Planck is planned for the first quarter of 2007.
5 June 2000 Signature of the contract for the manufacture of the Planck reflectors
23 May 2000 In view of the upcoming release of an Invitation to Tender to industry for the procurement of the Planck (and FIRST) spacecrafts, a detailed review of the Planck (and FIRST) payload was conducted by ESA's Director of Science Prof. R.M.B. Bonnet. The review ended succesfully, declaring the payloads ready for the release of the ITT, which is now planned to occur on 1/9/00.
January-May 2000 A full-scale mockup of the Planck satellite has been built to help its design, and was displayed in Bologna and at Copenhagen Planetarium
December 1999 The "Payload Architect Study" was completed in December of 1999, and provides a very detailed design of the Planck payload module. In the last phase of the study a full-scale mock-up of Planck was built and used to validate the proposed integration procedure for the payload module.
11-12 May 1999 At the Ministerial Council held in Brussels on 11/12 May 1999, a Level of Resources (LoR) was approved for the Scientific Programme covering the period 1999-2002. Although the LoR according to the convention should cover a period of 5 years, exceptionally a period of 4 years has been agreed since no agreement could be reached at this stage for a 5 year period. The ministers have decided to agree a new LoR at the latest in December 2001. The LoR was approved on the understanding that the 'position of MARS EXPRESS and FIRST/PLANCK in the programme is preserved'.
17 February 1999 ESA's Science Programme Committee formally approved the selection of the FIRST and Planck scientific payload, as proposed by the scientific community last year. Although some of the delegations' votes were "ad referendum", no significant problems in funding the instruments are expected. The Planck payload consists of two instruments: the Low Frequency Instrument, proposed by a consortium of institutes led by Dr N. Mandolesi of CNR-ITESRE (Bologna); and the High Frequency Instrument, proposed by a consortium of institutes led by Dr J.L. Puget of IAS (Orsay).
12 January 1999 An industrial activity to define the Planck payload system was kicked off today at Estec by the FIRST/Planck Project Team. The Planck Payload Architect study will be conducted by Alcatel (Cannes) and will last approximately one year.
13 October 1998 Several proposals have been received from industry in response to the Invitation to Tender to carry out a technical study of the Planck payload (the so-called "Planck Architect"). The proposals are being evaluated and it is hoped to kick off this activity before the end of November. This study will last about one year, and will provide the inputs required for the issue of the ITT to industry for the development of the mission (phases B/C/D).
28 May 1998 The SPC discussed the implementation scenario for FIRST and Planck, and has decided to adopt the "Carrier" as the preferred scenario (in this solution FIRST and Planck are launched together but separate shortly after launch and proceed to different orbits). The SPC additionally set a target cost for FIRST and Planck (corresponding to that of one Cornerstone mission minus 10%), and a target launch year (2007).
28 May 1998 The SPC endorsed the recommendations of the Planck Scientific Evaluation Committee and in so doing (pre-)selected the two Consortia which will provide the instruments for Planck. The Consortium providing the Low-Frequency Instrument will be led by N. Mandolesi of CNR- Bologna, and the High-Frequency Instrument will be provided by a Consortium led by J.L. Puget of IAs - Orsay.
17 February 1998 As expected, only two proposals have been received for Planck instruments. A Consortium led by J.L. Puget of the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay (France) is proposing for the High Frequency Instrument, and a Consortium led by N. Mandolesi of the Istituto TeSRE - CNR in Bologna (Italy) is proposing for the Low Frequency Instrument. The evaluation process for the proposals is now officially underway !
16 February 1998 The technical part of the system definitions studies for FIRST/Planck have now been completed with the final presentation of the results at Estec on February 13. Both industries involved (Matra Marconi Space - Toulouse, and Aerospatiale - Cannes) have concluded that both the merger concept and the stand-alone Planck concept are technically feasible. The costing part of the study will now begin, with results due in late March or early April.
21 November 1997 At its last meeting on 17-18 November, ESA's Science Programme Committee strongly endorsed the baseline scenario of Horizons 2000 presented by the Executive. Regarding FIRST and Planck, the baseline scenario now assumes a launch date in mid-2006. However, for purposes of the AO, the launch date is still considered to be end of 2005.
3 October 1997 The Announcement of Opportunity for Planck and FIRST instruments has been released on October 3. AO documents are available for electronic download. Note: the deadline for submission of questions for clarification has been moved to November 10.
6 June 1997 A number of similarities between the PLANCK (M3) mission and the FIRST (CS4) mission have prompted ESA to study the possibility of combinining the two projects. Some information on this study is available here .
July 1996 SPC selects COBRAS/SAMBA as the M3 mission. Foreseen launch in 2004-2005.
February 1996 Redbook published.
December 1994 - December 1995 Phase A study, carried out by Matra Marconi Space Toulouse.
May 1994 Assessment study of COBRAS/SAMBA published as SCI(94)7
September 1993 SSAC recommends a full assessment study of a mission to investigate the CMB with scientists from both the COBRAS and SAMBA teams brought together with the aim of finding the most effective means for a European mission in this area.
May 1993 Proposals for COBRAS and SAMBA are submitted to ESA in response to the call for proposals for the M3 element of the Horizon 2000 programme