SpaceX delayed the launch of NASA's TESS exoplanet-hunter spacecraft

17 April, 2018, 21:15 | Author: Regina Silva
  • SpaceX delayed the launch of NASA's TESS exoplanet-hunter spacecraft

The launch window is narrow, so if it closes before SpaceX can get its cargo off the ground, a 30-second backup window is set for Tuesday, April 17 at 6:13pm ET.

The company hopes to land this first stage on a floating ocean platform following liftoff, and reuse it on a space station supply run for NASA this summer.

On April 16, NASA is planning to launch its Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

"Launch teams are standing down today to conduct additional Guidance Navigation and Control analysis".

TESS will survey the entire sky over the course of two years by breaking it up into 26 different sectors, each 24 degrees by 96 degrees across.

TESS is expected to reveal 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, NASA said.

This highly-elliptical orbit will help maximize TESS's field of vision, making it possible for the satellite's four cameras to image up to 85 percent of the sky.

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TESS will take the baton from NASA's other planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, which is running out of fuel after nearly a decade in space. After the launch of the satellite, there will be a two-month testing before the real data starts flowing back to Earth from TESS. Satellite maker Orbital ATK's Robert Lockwood said he expects Tess to take exoplanet discovery to a whole new level. "Also, they're cooler, so they emit less light, therefore the habitable zone is very close in, and the probability that you're going to have a transit is greatly increased".

Thus, TESS is able to locate the exoplanets, remote enough from the parent star that they could have liquid water and, consequently, living organisms.

Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star other than the sun. TESS is an Earth-orbiting instrument meant to spot faraway planets circling some 200,000 stars within 300 light-years of Earth.

It promises an ability to resolve the atmospheres of some of the new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life.

There are many definitions of an Earth-like exoplanet. We can say how massive they are and how old they are. This dimming could signal a planet is moving in front of the star.

"One of the many wonderful things that Kepler told us is that planets are everywhere and there are all kinds of planets out there", Patricia Boyd, TESS guest investigator program lead at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center, told reporters in advance of the scheduled launch.

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