Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Is On Its Way to Orbit

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. Image credit NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

A SpaceX rocket blasted off from Florida on Wednesday evening with NASA's planet-hunting orbital telescope created to detect worlds beyond our solar system that might be capable of harbouring life.

TESS flew into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon rocket and will orbit Earth for two years, scanning stars in an effort to find and identify any planets in orbit around them.

TESS will survey far more cosmic terrain than its predecessor, Nasa's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009.

The first stage of the reusable Falcon 9 has landed on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship and the second-stage engine has been cut off, making the satellite in coast phase, NASA said.

If TESS is able to find small planets that are not exposed to extreme temperatures due to their orbits, then NASA's powerful observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, would be able to conduct a closer examination, scouring the planets for signs of life, like water vapor, oxygen, methane and carbon dioxide.

After the liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket sent the spacecraft on its way to orbit. (TESS' cameras won't be on during this flyby, so don't expect any photos.) Approximately two months after launch, in mid-June, the spacecraft will finally reach its operating orbit.

After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work, the USA space agency added. Unlike Tess, Kepler could only scour a sliver of the sky.

However, Mr Zurbuchen noted TESS's discoveries are expected to bring us closer to answering that lingering question.

Stay tuned with us to know more about this entire space mission of NASA.

"TESS forms kind of a bridge between what we've learned about exoplanets to date and where we're headed in the future", said Jeff Volosin, TESS project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, at the pre-launch press conference. NASA's director of astrophysics, Paul Hertz, said until 25 years ago the only known planets were in our solar system.

To find these hidden planets, TESS will use the same transit method that was used in the Kepler mission.

"TESS will tell us where to look at and when to look", Mr Ricker said.

NASA TESS is carrying wide-angle cameras in its mission of two years.

Tess will survey a huge number of stars, on the watch for dips in brightness that occur when orbiting planets cross past them.

"The sky will become more handsome, will become more awesome", NASA's top science administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said.

But the Tess strategy is different as it is a wide-field survey with its cameras scanning big strips of the sky over 27-day periods.

TESS will as well be gunning for the stars that are 30 to 100 times brighter than the targets of Kepler.

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