SpaceX is set to launch NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, after a 2-day delay. The launch would take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on its launch vehicle; SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
The launch is set to last for 30 seconds and will take place at 22:51 GMT.
SpaceX will send the refrigerator-sized satellite to hunt for distant worlds existing outside the solar system. After TESS reaches space, it will move into an oblong orbit around the earth. It will also circle twice for each orbit of the moon.
TESS will monitor over 200,000 stars searching signs of exo-planets. The targets range from Earth-sized rocky planets to giant planets.
In a statement, the leader of the mission, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) stated that “TESS anticipates the discovery of thousands of exoplanets of all sizes around a variety of star types.”
Background of Mission
According to NASA, TESS was proposed in the year 2006. It was a mission that was intended to be privately funded and have received financial backing from many private institutions including Google, the Kavlin Foundation, and donors from MIT.
TESS will occupy an orbit that has never been used before. The orbit that is situated high above the earth is an elliptical orbit called P/2. P/2 is half of the moon’s orbital period indicating that TESS will orbit the earth every 13.7 days. When TESS reaches the closest point (67,000 miles or 108,000 kilometers) to the earth, it will send data to the earth’s stations. This process will last for about three hours.
After which TESS will pass through the Van Alien Radiation to the highest point (232,000 miles or 373,000 km) of its orbit.
TESS carries four 100-millimeter-wide cameras that provide a wider view, NASA revealed. These cameras have been designed to look at one region of the sky for between 27 to 351 days each. The duration is dependent on the region the camera is looking at, MIT revealed.
It is expected that TESS will map the Southern Hemisphere in its first year and proceed to the Northern Hemisphere in its second year.
The launch of TESS will be a follower up the successful Kepler Space Telescope launched by NASA in 2009. Kepler found thousands of exo-planets since its launch. TESS will, however, focus on exo-planets that are 30 to 100 times larger than those monitored by Kepler, NASA stated.