Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Falcon 9 Second Stage Recovery Requires 'Giant Party Balloon'

Falcon 9 Second Stage Recovery Requires 'Giant Party Balloon'

TESS - short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - will search the sky to examine thousands of stars, sending vital information back to scientists on Earth to help them find planets that may be like our own.

SpaceX, which was awarded "Category 2" certification for the "Full Thrust" Falcon 9 by NASA in January (PDF) despite a notable boom on the way to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015, has to hit a 30-second launch window, which opens at 22:32 UTC tonight from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral.

In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits.

The Tess Satellite could mean leaps and bounds for space exploration.

That transit detection technique was pioneered by earlier probes such as NASA's Kepler telescope, which was launched in 2009.

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TESS' four wide-field telescopic cameras will survey an area hundreds of times as wide, adding up to 85 percent of the entire sky.

Since stars that will be surveyed by TESS will be closer and brighter than those surveyed by Kepler, the planets should be easier to characterise.

Speaking to his 21 million fans on Twitter, Musk said the balloon will be used to slow down the rocket's upper stage, which propels the payload once in space, when it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere after completing its mission.

Ultimately, this is part of a broad effort by NASA, MIT and scientists around the world to scout out planets that may suitable for human-or other-life.

This is an updated version of a report first published at 8 a.m. PT April 16.

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