Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
Money | By Armando Alvarado

Launch of NASA's TESS planet-hunter postponed to April 18

Launch of NASA's TESS planet-hunter postponed to April 18

In a major landmark for the space agency, this is the first of its missions to be launched by a SpaceX rocket.

NASA TV is broadcasting TESS-related content up until the launch, and you can watch it all via the embedded video below.

TESS will launch on one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets-the same class of rocket that has sent several Dragon capsules to the International Space Station with supplies. "Now TESS is taking Kepler's results, that planets are everywhere, and TESS will find the nearest transiting exoplanet systems to Earth". With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth.

There should be no issues with SpaceX being able to broadcast video from space as TESS is considered a public rather than commercial mission.

According to Martin Still, the program scientist working on the TESS mission, the launch comes "with certainty" that TESS will find many nearby exoplanets.

The Tess mission will go up on a Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida and survey almost the entire sky over the course of the next two years. Meanwhile, SpaceX will stay busy with some important launches like the debut of its "Block 5" Falcon 9 rocket.

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The BBC understands that scientists on the mission also want a delay so they can run some extra checks on the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite itself.

The spacecraft is meant to be maneuvered into an unusual Earth orbit that ranges in altitude from roughly 63,000 to 200,000 miles.

While that will take instruments not yet built, "the TESS planets should be really great candidates for us to start to peer into the atmospheres of these planets with spectroscopy, what allows us to put together the atoms and molecules making up that atmosphere", Boyd said.

The main aim of the TESS is to hunt the alien planets that are believed to be circling close to the sun.

NASA calls TESS its "next step" in discovering exoplanets - a planet that orbits a star in any solar system other than the one Earth calls home - "including those that could support life". "It's going to be a game-changer in our ability to study planets".

Astronomers in the future, including those working with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, are then expected to be able to study the atmospheres of numerous planets. More than 3,700 exoplanets have been confirmed to date using a variety of techniques. The mission will focus on planets circling bright stars that are less than 300 light-years from Earth.

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