SpaceX launches NASA's planet hunting satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket

Exoplanet Satellite

TESS Mission - NASA Blogs

Launch windows are often about two hours.

The launch had been scheduled for Monday in Cape Canaveral but it was postponed for additional systems analysis.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS for short, hitched a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

It's a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and managed by Goddard.

Like Kepler, TESS will be searching for planets that cross the faces of their stars from our perspective, causing their star's light to dim briefly. The overall effect is the Moon's pull is evened out, and it's a very stable configuration over many years. The spacecraft will begin its work after approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing.

NASA's new project is a quest to expand astronomers' known inventory of so-called exoplanets.

The fully integrated Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

The technique it will use is fundamentally the same as that employed by NASA's long-running and highly successful Kepler mission. This includes 200,000 of the brightest nearby stars.

"TESS is equipped with four highly sensitive cameras, which will allow you to monitor nearly the entire sky", says George Ricker (George Ricker), principal investigator of the mission, of mit, who heads the project. Together with its northern-hemisphere counterpart in Arizona, US, the observatory will scour the skies for new worlds.

"When you look at what Kepler found, no one assumed there might be a planet made entirely of diamond, or that there could be worlds all covered in water..." The cameras sit on top, beneath a cone that will protect them from radiation. Bright stars allow for easier followup study through ground- and space-based telescopes. However, NASA reported that TESS remained in excellent health.

The cameras can detect light across a broad range of wavelengths, up to infrared.

Kepler had its main mission between 2009 and 2013 in which it stared in the same direction in the sky, managing to monitor 150,000 stars. Those could be the best candidates for supporting life outside our solar system.

NASA has launched the TESS telescope on April 18 aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9.

By sticking to stars closer to home, it will be easier for Webb and other massive telescopes planned for space and Earth to sniff out possible signs of life in the atmosphere.

USQ's project lead, Associate Professor Rob Wittenmyer, said that for the first time in human history we know almost every star in the sky has planets around it, however don't know what these planets are like.

The telescope was created by MIT University, which has the scientific responsibility for the cost of 337 million U.S. dollars mission, in collaboration with the Space Flight Center of the NASA Goddard.

Manufactured in Orbital ATK's Virginia facility, TESS is the company's 31st science spacecraft in the 35 years it has been collaborating with NASA.

About an hour later, NASA confirmed that TESS was successfully separated from the rocket.

What will TESS find? "A few months after TESS launches, we will be able to point out the first ones of these familiar stars, which host planets that could be like ours", says Cornell University's Lisa Kaltenegger. Said Hertz, "The planets that we are going to be most interested in looking for habitability are those that are rocky, and those that are the right temperature". Wednesday's launch brings its 2018 tally to eight.

But if TESS discovers as many exoplanets as anticipated, observing time might be stretched. "We will continue flying flight-proven Block 4 stage one boosters for a couple more times, but we will then switch over to Block 5".

But exoplanets aren't the only intriguing objects that TESS has set its sights on.

"It was incredible, it was so emotional", said MIT researcher Natalia Guerrero. It's like we're making a treasure map: Here are all these cool things.

TESS data will also be publicly available so that anyone can download them and search for exoplanets.

For a crash course on TESS and its mission, check out the above video. The launch followed a two-day postponement. The satellite will be scouting for the planets who all will have a habitable zone and can support the life.

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