Follow along with NASA as it launches its next planet-hunting satellite

TESS Mission - NASA Blogs

TESS Mission - NASA Blogs

TESS will survey far more cosmic terrain than its predecessor, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009.

"Our planet-hunting NASA TESS spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that'll allow it to study the entire sky for over two years", NASA said on Twitter.

TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, lifted off at 6:51 p.m. EDT from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch window was narrow - just 30 seconds - and TESS will be deployed into orbit about 48 minutes after launch. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, once launched in 2020 or so, will probe these planets' atmospheres for potential traces of life.

Roughly the size of a refrigerator with solar-panel wings and four special cameras, TESS will take about 60 days to reach a highly elliptical orbit between Earth and the moon to begin its observations.

"The stories of these planets will continue on, long after their detection", Martin Still, TESS program scientist, said Wednesday.

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The launch will be the eighth of the year for SpaceX, which most recently launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station on April 2. It is the 24th booster landing for SpaceX, which aims to reduce launch costs by reusing rocket parts.

Once in orbit, the spacecraft will peer at hundreds of thousands of bright neighboring stars, seeking planets that might support life.

The TESS mission, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, is created to find potential planets orbiting stars close to Earth. But those found by TESS should be close enough for mega telescopes in the future to detect any atmospheric signs of life.

NASA's newest satellite is scheduled to launch on the evening of Wednesday 18 April, 22:51 UTC. SpaceX halted Monday's countdown for extra rocket checks. The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

TESS will target 200,000 of the brightest stars in our celestial neighborhood, looking for the faint dimming of starlight as an exoplanet passes over a given star's disk.

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