SpaceX to Launch NASA's Exoplanet-Hunting Spacecraft Today

NASA and SpaceX Launch Planet Hunter TESS Into Space

NASA and SpaceX Launch Planet Hunter TESS Into Space

The satellite will be carried aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into its orbit trajectory.

If everything goes smoothly today, TESS will launch on a two-year tour to survey the sky, breaking it into 26 sections, each 24 degrees by 96 degrees across, specifically looking for exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars.

The $337 million TESS mission is aimed at surveying almost the entire sky for exoplanets of all types, but especially for Earth-size worlds that can be targeted for further follow-up. "Maybe we'll find something out there that nobody expected and will leave people scratching their heads".

NASA estimates that TESS will detect more than 20,000 planets over the course of its two-year primary mission.

NASA and SpaceX Launch Planet Hunter TESS Into Space
An artist’s conception of TESS. Source NASA GSFC

The satellite, known as Tess, will survey nearly the entire sky, staring at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them. These so-called "transits" may mean that planets are in orbit around them.

TESS is created to concentrate on stars less than 300 light-years away. That project eventually resulted in TESS. "We're going to be able study individual planets and start talking about the differences between planets. It's the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research". "It's really a scout for this whole process".

Kepler, the first planet-hunting mission of its kind, "was launched to answer one single question: How common is a planet like Earth around a star like the Sun?" said Patricia "Padi" Boyd, director of the TESS guest investigator program at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

The TESS mission is created to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which has discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.

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