SpaceX is about to launch NASA's revolutionary planet-hunting telescope

SpaceX is about to launch NASA's revolutionary planet-hunting telescope

NASA and SpaceX say they'll take more time to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey System, or TESS, just to make sure the $337 million mission will be on the right track to hunt for planets beyond our solar system.

The Tess satellite will scan nearly the entire sky, staring at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them.

Barely 2 hours before the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Monday carrying NASA's new space telescope created to detect worlds beyond our solar system, the planned launch had to be delayed for at least 48 hours due to a technical glitch.

TESS was originally scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Monday from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida, but SpaceX announced Monday afternoon that the launch time is being pushed back for additional tests.

"Launch teams are standing down today to conduct additional guidance navigation and control analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday, 18 April", Nasa said.

Illustration of what TESS might look like in orbit.

You'll want to hang on after the launch and landing to see TESS officially get sent on its way when it is deployed about 48 minutes after launch.

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Perhaps the key actor in this future study will be the successor to Hubble - the James Webb space observatory, due in orbit from 2020.

"Tess will tell us where and when to point", said Cheops' Esa project scientist, Kate Isaak.

The interest will be in whether they are orbiting at a distance from their host star that allows for liquid water - a prerequisite for life. Kepler stared at 250,000 distant stars in a cross-shaped area equal to 0.25 percent of the sky, and identified the signatures of more than 5,000 confirmed planets and candidates. Scientists at MIT and NASA will take the raw data and convert it into light curves that indicate the changing brightness of a star over time.

"So we've optimized the field in such a way, because these are the types of stars that were really not possible to explore very well with Kepler". "How regular is a planet like Earth around a star like the Sun?" said Patricia "Padi" Boyd, chief of the TESS visitor specialist program at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

"Once we find the planets associated with them, those are going to be the primary candidates that everyone - all astronomers for centuries to come - (are) going to focus on". "By looking at such a large section of the sky, this kind of stellar real estate, we open up the ability to cherry-pick the best stars for doing follow-up science", said Burt.

"One of the numerous stunning things that Kepler let us know is that planets are all over the place and there is a wide range of planets out there".

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