The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) recently arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it is now ready for its launch. NASA scientists hope to have it launched no earlier than April 16, pending official approval and after work at the Payload Hazardous Serving Facility is completed. If approval is granted, TESS is expected to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The craft was assembled and tested throughout 2017 in Dulles, Virginia. Researchers are set to spend the next month working with the craft at the center’s Payload Hazardous Serving Facility. This facility tests components and systems in a variety of environments, including conditions similar to those in space. It also serves as a hazardous processing facility, helping to integrate rocket motors with payloads in a safe way. Additionally, it aids in the servicing of hazardous fuels.
TESS was developed to aid NASA locate exoplanets, or planets that exist beyond the solar system. The mission’s objective is to have the satellite scan and monitor over 200,000 near and bright stars, looking for transit events. A transit event is a minor dip in the brightness of the star. These events are caused by planets passing before them. Searching for transit events is the best way to locate planets beyond our own solar system. NASA researchers expect TESS to locate thousands of such planets throughout the duration of its mission.
Another exciting and advanced piece of technology, the James Webb Space Telescope, is to assist with the mission, providing additional observations relating to any promising TESS discovery. This additional data can help scientists learn more about the make-up of the planets, their atmospheres, and even if they can support life. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for launch in 2019.