Thursday, 24 May, 2018

SpaceX poised to blast off NASA's new planet-hunter, TESS

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. Image credit NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Sherry Houston | 19 April, 2018, 06:26

NASA's planet-hunting pioneer, the Kepler Space Telescope, has spent the past nine years focusing on considerably fainter, more distant stars and discovered almost three-quarters of the 3,700-plus exoplanets confirmed to date. Scientists expect to discover thousands of planets that, over time, will undergo further scrutiny by powerful telescopes in space and on Earth.

"Three, two, one and liftoff!" said a NASA commentator as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) soared into the blue sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 6:51 pm (2251 GMT).

Meanwhile, the second stage will push TESS onward to orbit. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, once launched in 2020 or so, will probe these planets' atmospheres for potential traces of life.

"The stories of these planets will continue on, long after their detection", Martin Still, TESS program scientist, said Wednesday. 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.

This has been a busy few weeks for SpaceX, which launched its 14 resupply mission to the International Space Station on April 2, sending a reused cargo ship packed with supplies and equipment to the orbiting lab.

NASA's Tess spacecraft has embarked on a quest to find new worlds around nearby stars that could support life.

SpaceX halted Monday's countdown to make extra rocket checks. But those found by TESS should be close enough for mega telescopes in the future to detect any atmospheric signs of life. Although the primary objective is, obviously, to successfully deploy the satellite, this is also one of the SpaceX rockets which will attempt a landing.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite takes off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, 2018.

A Falcon 9 rocket has blasted off on SpaceX's first high-priority science mission for NASA, a planet-hunting space telescope whose launch was delayed for two days by a rocket-guidance glitch.

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