NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft poised for launch

NASA satellite to search for habitable planets - | WBTV Charlotte

NASA estimates that its exoplanet-seeking satellite will track down around 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, Phys.org reports.

But unlike Kepler, which fixed its gaze on a range of stars within a tiny fraction of the sky, TESS will scan a broader swath of the heavens to focus on 200,000 pre-selected stars that are closer and thus among the brightest as seen from Earth.

According to SpaceX, the launch was delayed due to unspecified problems in the rocket's guidance control system and the Falcon 9 rocket along with the NASA telescope is now set for a launch on Wednesday.

These planets could be potential "Earth 2.0" candidates, meaning they could have life on them.

TESS was originally scheduled to launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Monday from the Kennedy Space Station in Florida, but SpaceX announced Monday afternoon that the launch time is being pushed back for additional tests. Repeated dips would indicate a planet passing in front of its star. This will lead to it using very little fuel to manage operations, enabling the mission to keep on working for a couple of decades, or for as long as Nasa finds value in its science.

The satellite known as Tess will survey 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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"If you look at what Kepler found, nobody assumed there'd be a planet that might be made all of diamond, or all that there could be worlds that are all covered in water, or things like that", said Volosin. Scientists at the space agency expect TESS to add hundreds of Earth-sized and super-Earth-sized planets into the existing catalog of exoplanets and bolster our search for life beyond Earth.

"TESS is the initial step", said Stephen Rinehart, TESS venture researcher at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center. "If planets are everywhere, then it is time for us to find the planets that are closest to us orbiting bright nearby stars, because these will be the touchstone system".

TESS and Kepler utilize a similar arrangement of identifying planetary travels, or shadows give a role as they go before their star. Future missions (like NASA's James Webb Space Telescope) could probe their atmospheres for signs of molecules that are necessary for life as we know it.

"TESS is going to significantly build the number of planets that we need to consider", said Ricker.

NASA scientists are also hosting a Reddit AMA over on r/science.

With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth, NASA said in an earlier statement.

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