NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft is poised for a Monday evening launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA stated that spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that will allow it to study almost the entire sky over two years.
In spite of an aborted attempt Monday, NASA hopes to launch a new satellite soon that will search for planets outside of our solar system that could support life. 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.
NASA considers its TESS space mission to be a successor to the Kepler Space Telescope, which was launched in 2009. Sixty days after launch, and following tests of its instruments, the satellite will begin its initial two-year 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.
This meant a hard time for the astronomers studying the identified planet.
SpaceX will feel vindicated following a recent investigation finding it devoid of blame in the loss of the secret Zuma satellite in January, but NASA scientists will still be feeling slightly anxious with the launch of TESS.
The Tess satellite will scan nearly the entire sky, staring at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them.
TESS is a scientific exploration to find exoplanets - worlds which orbit other stars - amongst 200,000 stars.
With Kepler running low on fuel and nearing the end of its life, TESS aims to pick up the search while focusing closer, on planets dozens to hundreds of light years away. "TESS is basically the discoverer, it's going to find the really exciting planets that we can then follow up with powerful telescopes". The teeny telescope will replace the Kepler/K2 mission, which has already discovered thousands of exoplanets. Repeated dips would indicate a planet passing in front of its star. More than 3,700 exoplanets have been confirmed to date using a variety of techniques.
"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.