Editor’s note: This story has been updated April 18 with new launch plans for TESS.
SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rocket is set to carry TESS into space, had scrubbed the satellite’s planned April 16 just hours before liftoff, saying it needed to do more analysis of the rocket’s guidance, navigation and control systems. Such delays aren’t unusual, and Space X had reason to be cautious: The company has had a Falcon 9 blow up on the launchpad before.
TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will be the first NASA science mission launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX plans for the rocket booster to return after launch and land on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
Once TESS is off the ground, it will take two months for the spacecraft to maneuver into an unusual, elongated orbit that slides between Earth and the moon. For every single orbit made by the moon, the spacecraft will orbit twice. That will create a gravitational balance that will stabilize TESS so it doesn’t need to use much fuel.
TESS’ mission is to find planets around some of the nearest and brightest stars, and other telescopes on Earth will then study those planets to understand them better.
STRANGE NEW WORLDS NASA’s new exoplanet satellite is poised to launch its search for far off worlds. TESS, or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will look at 85 percent of the sky in the next two years and could find thousands of exoplanets.