SpaceX equipped its Falcon 9 rocket for future takeoff to launch an effective planet-hunting satellite to monitor the light from stars. Its aim is to find habitable planets that are worthy for further studies by more space-based or ground observatories.
Falcon 9 carries the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) that is worth $337 million. As scheduled, it will be launched from pad 40 as soon as possible wherein forecasters predicted favorable weather during the launch day.
It is going to be the eight launch of SpaceX for this year. Overall, it will be the 53rd of the Falcon 9 rocket. The company is confident to recover the first stage of the rocket. If the mission is successful, SpaceX record will stand at 12 on land, 12 on the deck of a particular ship, and 24 booster landings.
Its second stage was anticipated to fire twice before releasing the satellite into an orbit. If everything goes according to plans, it will fly past the moon in May. The gravity-assist flyby will put the spacecraft in a unique orbit. It will take advantage of the lunar gravity for a stable and solid trajectory.
The time it reaches the desired station, its 16.8-megapixel cameras will be functional for two years. They are equipped with the most innovative CCD detectors that will monitor the starlight around the southern as well as northern skies. They will always look out the tell-tale dimming that takes place when a certain planet moves in front of the star where it hosts.
The satellite will serve as a tool to help astronomers scrutinize how the light dims and brightens. These people will study all the data that TESS will gather to detect some signs of life around different stars, ranging from Earth-size planets, super-Earths, to gas giants.
However, the primary objective is to find out stars hosting small, Earth-like planets that orbit in a habitable zone with water and other requirements for life.
The prime candidates from the survey will be studied deeper by James Webb Space Telescope of NASA, follow-on spacecraft, ground-based observatories (under construction), and space telescope from the European Space Agency that is going to happen in 2020.
Padi Boyd, astrophysicist and deputy project scientist, said that TESS would serve as the finder scope for the NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. He also added that the satellite would be the discoverer to find some exciting planets in the future.