The primary science goals of Planck include:
Planck, originally named COBRAS/SAMBA, was renamed on approval of the mission in 1996 in honour of the German scientist Max Planck (1858-1947) who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918. J.C. Mather and G.F. Smoot have received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006 for their discovery of the blackbody nature of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation and the small-scale deviations from the blackbody curve.
Mass - about 1900 kg at launch
Dimensions - 4.2 m high, 4.2 m maximum diameter
Launcher - Ariane 5 ECA from Guiana Space Centre
Mission Lifetime - 15 months nominal from end of Calibration and Performance Verification Phase
Wavelength - Microwave: 27 GHz to 1 Thz
Telescope - 1.9×1.5m primary mirror (1.5m projected aperture)
Planck was launched on an Ariane 5 ECA rocket together with ESA's Herschel spacecraft on 14 May 2009, at 13:12 UTC.The two spacecraft separated after launch and were directly injected towards the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. On 3 July, following a few orbit correction manoeuvres, Planck reached its final operational orbit: a Lissajous orbit with an average amplitude of about 400 000 km around the L2 point at a distance of around 1.5 million km from Earth.
The ground segment of Planck is composed of the Operations Ground Segment, comprising all the elements under the responsibility of the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC), which includes the Mission Operations Centre, the ground stations and the communications network, and the Scientific Ground Segment.
The Mission Operations Centre (MOC) is located at ESA's European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. For communication with the spacecraft ESA's 35-m deep-space antenna at New Norcia (close to Perth, Australia) is the prime ground station, and Cebreros (close to Avila, Spain) is the back-up.
The Scientific Ground Segment is distributed between the following centres: the Planck Science Office, taking care of the scheduling of the survey strategy, and the two instrument teams' Data Processing Centres and Instrument Operations Teams, responsible for each instrument to process the telemetry and monitor the instrument operations respectively.