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NASA successfully launches planet-hunter satellite 'Tess' on SpaceX rocket

TESS Mission - NASA Blogs

NASA said the countdown was uneventful "highlighted by excellent weather and healthy hardware".

SpaceX's Falcon 9 left the launch pad at 22:51 UTC after a delay to deal with unspecified issues with the rocket's guidance systems.

TESS is expected to spend the first 2 months after launch performing tests and calibrations before beginning its planet hunt in June and releasing its data to the public soon thereafter.

Scientists have found an exoplanet covered in lava across the entire half that faces its sun, one hurtling toward Earth, one nearly large enough to be a star, another with an upper atmosphere full of carbon monoxide, and one with winds that blow the wrong way.

Much like the Kepler telescope, says Sky News, Tess scans for "Earth-like" planets that are close enough to our own for scientists to study, particularly worlds that are the flawless distance from their central star to contain life. A couple of solar arrays to power the spacecraft were deployed at 7.53 pm EDT.

"Humans have wondered forever whether we're alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago, the only planets we knew about were the eight in our solar system".

"TESS will tell us where to look at and when to look", Mr Ricker said. "The Falcon 9 continues to demonstrate what a reliable vehicle it has become", Dunn said.

TESS will now use elongated orbits and six thruster burns to get to the Moon.

"Our planet-hunting Nasa Tess spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that'll allow it to study the entire sky for over two years", Nasa said on Twitter. The phenomenon is called "transit" by the scientists, and over 78% of about 3,700 exoplanets were found by the help of transits. Numerous leaders of the TESS mission and the field of exoplanet studies in general were trained in an era when we truly didn't know if our sun was uniquely well endowed. It can accomplish this lofty goal by dividing the sky into 13 sections and looking at each one for 27 days before moving on to the next. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets. "We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers".

Scientists have divided the sky into 26 sectors.

According to NASA TESS will be conducting a sky survey in its two-years time, in which it will cover almost 85 percent of the sky. Powerful telescopes such as Hubble and NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2020, will also study the planetary atmospheres in detail. TESS is headed for an orbit around Earth that no spacecraft has ever occupied - a highly elliptical path in which the satellite will circle the planet twice for every orbit the moon completes.