NASA to launch its TESS Exoplanet Mission in a SpaceX Falcon 9

18 April, 2018, 03:33 | Author: Kristi Owen
  • SpaceX who recently carried out a launch using a Falcon Heavy rocket will carry the instrument

The technical glitch has delayed the launch of new NASA space telescope, created to detect worlds beyond our solar system, for at least 48 hours.

The launch of NASA's newest planet hunter, originally scheduled for Monday evening, has been delayed. The mission is expected to catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets.

The wildly successful Kepler Space Telescope was created to observe faint stars, and monitor them for brief dips in brightness that would indicate the passage of an object-most commonly a planet.

Surveying almost the entire sky, the minimum two-year mission expects to find some 20,000 so-called exoplanets around nearby, bright stars, ranging from rocky Earth-size planets to gas giants.

The satellite is about the size of a refrigerator and comes with solar-panel wings and four special cameras. With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth.

Perhaps TESS will discover Earth 2.0 - but it wouldn't be able to pinpoint that for sure.

A private sector space transportation firm founded and run by Tesla's Elon Musk, SpaceX has conducted launches for NASA in the past as well. As with Kepler, NASA scientists hope to discover exoplanets, including those that are as big as our Earth, and that have an "optimal" distance to their Sun - because this is considered a theoretical prerequisite for the creation of life. "To me, the most exciting part of any mission is the unexpected result, the one that nobody saw coming". More than 3,700 exoplanets have been confirmed to date using a variety of techniques.


The telescope was created by MIT University, which also has the scientific responsibility for the $ 337 million mission cost, headed by astrophysicist George Ricker, in collaboration with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"Mass is a defining planetary characteristic", said Sara Seager, TESS deputy director of science at MIT. The planets could be rocky, like Earth; gas giants, like Jupiter; or "something even more unusual". One of the many wonderful things that Kepler told us is that planets are everywhere and there are all kinds of planets out there.

Illustration of what TESS might look like in orbit. TESS's mission is different.

Another of the missions to follow up Tess data will be the Swiss-led, European Space Agency (Esa) project called Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite).

If things don't work out for tonight's launch, there will be a few other launch opportunities later this month.

The current vehicle was used to transport equipment to analyze thunderstorms on Earth and research objects such as tissues and plants to artificial gravity. This could be how planets that support life are found. "So it's got to be there somewhere".

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