Launch delay for NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft

Cornelia Mascio
Aprile 17, 2018

But SpaceX tweeted earlier tonight that the launch would now be delayed until Wednesday, April 18.

"You can think of TESS as the finder scope for the James Webb Space Telescope", astrophysicist Padi Boyd, TESS deputy project scientist, told CBS News.

The latest SpaceX launch is scheduled for today in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a Falcon 9 rocket will blast off carrying a NASA satellite that will search for exoplanets outside our solar system.

The Launch team of the TESS is standing down in order to run a test involving the guidance navigation system and control analysis of the rocket.

The satellite, TESS, is the US space agency's newest planet-hunting spacecraft that will search for undiscovered planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets.

The stars being studied by TESS are between 30 to 100 times brighter than those surveyed by the Kepler and K2 missions and TESS will cover a sky area 400 times larger than that monitored by Kepler.

TESS is the successor of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and it is created to scan the sky for exoplanets within 300 light-years of Earth. Sixty days after the launch and following tests of its instruments, the satellite will begin its initial two-year mission.

If there's any bad weather, technical glitches, or other problems, SpaceX may delay the launch to 6:13 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

"That is about 20 times what the Kepler mission was able to detect", George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at MIT, said in a statement.

The spacecraft is meant to be maneuvered into an unusual Earth orbit that ranges in altitude from roughly 63,000 to 200,000 miles. The mission will focus on planets circling bright stars that are less than 300 light-years from Earth.

TESS uses the same method as Kepler for finding potential planets, by tracking the dimming of light when a celestial body passes in front of a star.

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. "TESS is basically the discoverer, it's going to find the really exciting planets that we can then follow up with powerful telescopes". "Kepler was a statistical survey that looked at a small patch of sky for four years and taught us that Earths are everywhere. These types of planets that are close to us are much more easy to study, and we can measure their masses from telescopes here on Earth".

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