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Launch delay for NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft

Launch delay for NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft

The planned liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, remains scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT Monday night from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

TESS's prime mission is to survey up to 200,000 stars for a period of two years, with the goal of finding potential exoplanets that might be orbiting them.

"We're expecting to find 2,000-3,000 planets that are certainly below the size of our Jupiter and majority below the size of Neptune; so, the ones that have the potential for being terrestrial, for being rocky", said Jennifer Burt from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which leads the mission.

Over the next two years, TESS will survey the sky, breaking it into 26 sections, each 24 degrees by 96 degrees across, specficially looking for exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars.

At a total cost of $337 million, the washing-machine-size spacecraft is built to search the nearest, brightest stars for signs of periodic dimming.




The $337 million (roughly Rs. 2,200 crores) 2-year TESS mission is created to build on the work of the Kepler space telescope which discovered the bulk of the documented 3,700 exoplanets in the past 20 years. But Kepler, for its primary mission at least, only looked at a very small patch of sky, and many of its discoveries were simply too far away or too dim for other telescopes to pursue with further analysis. The frequency of each faint flicker will indicate the planet's size and its distance from the star.

NASA TV is broadcasting TESS-related content up until the launch, even SpaceX also broadcasting the launch.

Tess is NASA's next step in the search for exoplanets, including those that could support life.

"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", said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator. It is created to look stars of all ages and sizes within a few hundred light-years of Earth, and it will be able to canvass the entire sky in just two years. In addition, we can form a picture of what the inside of a star looks like. TESS is expected to reach a highly elliptical, first-of-a-kind orbit between Earth and the Moon in around 60 days.

Why has TESS mission been delayed?