SpaceX to Launch NASA's Exoplanet-Hunting Spacecraft Today


The TESS launch was called off April 16 to allow scientists to conduct more guidance navigation and control analysis of the rocket, NASA officials wrote on Twitter. The name Tess is short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

TESS' liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is now due at 6:51 p.m. ET (3:51 p.m. PT) today.

- SpaceX is planning to launch a planet-hunting spacecraft for NASA on Wednesday evening.

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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 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.

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The spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star's brightness.

"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars", said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters.

Further information about the planets will be gleaned by other telescopes during follow-up observations.

For example, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, now due for launch in 2020, should be able to analyze the chemical composition of alien atmospheres. The Transitioning Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is created to search the stars for other planets outside our solar system, and it's equipped with new tech in order for it to be able to detect relatively small planets orbiting other suns.

For more about TESS, check out our earlier story and the mission website.