NASA Spacecraft Aims To Find and Map Mystery Planets

TESS exoplanet

NASA's powerful, planet-hunting satellite TESS was supposed to launch into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 on Monday, but plans were nixed at the last moment due to unspecified complications.

A backup launch window at 2232 UTC was available today, but the team has elected to take some extra time to resolve the problem.

The satellite will travel into space on a two-stage SpaceX rocket known as the Falcon 9. NASA stated that spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that will allow it to study almost the entire sky over two years.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is embarking on a new search for planets outside of the solar system, including those that could support life.

You'll want to hang on after the launch and landing to see TESS officially get sent on its way when it is deployed about 48 minutes after launch.

"I think it's fair to say that the CCDs that TESS is flying are the most ideal CCDs that have ever been flown on any science mission, NASA or otherwise", said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nasa predicts that TESS will discover 20,000 exoplanets - or planets outside the solar system - including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of Earth. The postponement of the launch was announced just before two hours after the launch.


SpaceX hasn't provided my additional details regarding the delay of the launch, but we know that "GNC" means "guidance, navigation and control", so it sounds like it was a pretty serious issue.

Illustration of what TESS might look like in orbit.

With Kepler running low on fuel and nearing the end of its life, TESS aims to pick up the search while focusing closer, on planets dozens to hundreds of light years away.

"Tess will tell us where and when to point", said Cheops' Esa project scientist, Kate Isaak. "It's going to be a game-changer in our ability to study planets".

Like Kepler, TESS will use a detection method called transit photometry, which looks for periodic, repetitive dips in the visible light from stars caused by planets passing, or transiting, in front of them.

Follow-up observations by ground-based and space-based telescopes will help characterize the planets' sizes and compositions, and possibly analyze their atmospheres for signatures of habitability. It also used the "transit technique" to confirm more than 2,000 so-called exoplanets.

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