SpaceX rocket booster lands on floating platform

At Cape Canaveral successfully launched a carrier rocket SpaceX, which will orbit TESS, a new space probe to search for worlds in other star systems.

The original schedule was set on Monday, April 16, but the launch had to be postponed to allow for additional Guidance Navigation and Control check.

Over the course of several weeks, Tess will eventually reach the moon to complete its science orbit around Earth.

NASA's planet-finder has helped to identify 2,400 alien planets orbiting faraway stars in different solar systems.

That technical capability should see TESS complete its full-sky survey of around half a million relatively local stars within two years, first short-listing 5000 transit-like signals for direct imaging, before Doppler spectroscopy determines planet masses. But TESS will be gazing at star systems that are much closer than those studied by Kepler, Ricker said.

With eight launches this year (including Musk's Tesla aboard the Falcon Heavy) SpaceX are on track to beat 2017's record. Planets orbiting these stars at a distance that's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist are going to be snuggled in quite close-orbiting near enough to their stars for scientists to find them on months-long time scales.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and managed by the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center.

The TESS is created to scout for planets of all sorts, especially those within the Goldilocks zone, an orbit of possible habitable stars where temperatures are not too hot and not too cold - not whether life exists beyond Earth. Most of Tess' targets will be cool, common red dwarf stars, thought to be rich breeding grounds for planets.

"If all goes well with the launch and calibration phases of the mission, the first haul of new planets found by TESS could be announced later this year", Nell reports. "The sheer number of stars for which Tess will provide data-10 to 100 times more than Kepler-is bound to yield some very exciting surprises".

"The sky will become more attractive, will become more awesome", NASA's top science administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said.

TESS's predecessor, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, was similarly created to find Earth-sized exoplanets in the habitable zone.

Like Kepler, TESS is created to locate exoplanets by searching for what astronomers call transits. If a Tess planet has an atmosphere, these instruments may be able to sense the way it alters the starlight that filters through it. "That's one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before".

  • Carolyn Briggs