SpaceX to Launch NASA's Exoplanet-Hunting Spacecraft Today

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite,TESS will search for planets beyond our solar system. Image NASA

NASA and SpaceX are gearing up again to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS - and if all goes as planned, you can pick from two streaming-video channels for watching liftoff. The Transitioning Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is created to search the stars for other planets outside our solar system, and it's equipped with new tech in order for it to be able to detect relatively small planets orbiting other suns. "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds whose properties can be probed by NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and other missions". The project is led by astronomers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

After the TESS launch has compiled a list of candidate exoplanets, ground-based surveys, using telescopes here on Earth, will use this data to look at each planet's composition to see if they're rocky, like Earth, or gas giants like Jupiter. "We're going to be able study individual planets and start talking about the differences between planets". From there, it will search for a telltale darkening of starsas planets pass in front of them. TESS's search will cover 85% of the sky, focusing on the southern sky during its first year and the northern sky during the second year.

This mission's navigation includes getting the satellite close to the Moon, so it can slingshot around and enter an elliptical orbit.

NASA’s planet-hunter the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is successfully launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Image NASA
NASA’s planet-hunter the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is successfully launched into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Image NASA

TESS's launch was originally scheduled for yesterday, but was rescheduled for tonight after weather concerns put the safety of the launch into question.

The U.S. space agency says the launch of its next planet-hunting satellite will take place "no earlier" than 6:51 p.m. Wednesday evening, April 18. Fortunately, NASA's got our backs: you can watch a live stream of the launch right here!

For more about TESS, check out our earlier story and the mission website. While it's fun to try and imagine, the reality is that TESS will probably discover things we can't even predict.

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