TESS, NASA’s new planet-hunting Kepler successor is now on its way to orbit. After scrubbing its first attempt on Monday to analyze and review guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) system, SpaceX successfully launched the spacecraft on Wednesday night.
The Falcon 9 rocket, which was carrying TESS took off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Carnival. After the first stage operated a successful landing on a drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You,” the second stage of Falcon 9 conducted its second engine burn and the TESS spacecraft was successfully deployed in the orbit. TESS then deployed its solar arrays and will spend the next 60 days getting to its proper orbit where it will start searching for the world beyond the solar system.
TESS or the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is basically a photometric survey telescope. It comes with four wide-field cameras, which will assess the brightness of thousands of nearby stars within about 300 light-years. NASA hopes during its initial two years TESS will discover thousands of exoplanets in Goldilocks zones. In the future, NASA may use bigger telescopes to study those planets discovered by TESS in search for chemical signs of life, such as methane or oxygen.