NASA's TESS satellite expands search for exoplanets

Rosemary Collier
April 19, 2018

Live NASA TV launch coverage begins at 6:30 p.m., and will be broadcast on NASA Television and the agency's website.

But TESS, the short name for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will be taking intelligence into orbit with it, in the form of new equipment, navigational computers, cameras and artificial intelligence that can parse the data it collects.

SpaceX planned to attempt recovery of the booster's first stage with a rocket-powered descent to touchdown on an offshore droneship, the "Of Course I Still Love You".

The launch had been scheduled for Monday, but was postponed to conduct additional guidance, navigation and control systems analysis.

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Once in orbit, the spacecraft will peer at hundreds of thousands of bright neighboring stars, seeking planets that might support life.

Thousands of exoplanets have already been discovered. "We know that planets in principle exist there", says Ricker, "but there's really not much more we can say other than that they exist'". "TESS will cast a wider net than ever before for enigmatic worlds whose properties can be probed by NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and other missions".

"The planets discovered by TESS will be different, as TESS will search for planets around closer, brighter stars".

NASA also confirmed that at 7:53 pm (2353 GMT), the spacecraft's twin solar arrays successfully deployed.

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"The ultimate goal is to find small, probably rocky planets orbiting in a sweet spot around stars that's not too hot, and not too cold". The spacecraft aims to add thousands of exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system, to the galactic map for future study.

Weather is excellent with less than a 10 percent chance of causing a delay, according to forecasters with the Air Force 45th Weather Squadron.

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

"This mission TESS is super important for us", Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of mission assurance, said during a press briefing ahead of the event. In addition, they hope to explore the atmospheres of these planets through spectroscopy, and search for evidence of life. Missions like this have to be timed to the minute-the rocket has to be activated within a thirty-second window to get into the right orbit-and if the mission crew isn't sure that the payload will make it safely to space, things have to be called off until conditions improve.

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