Published: Thu, April 19, 2018
Science | By Dan Gutierrez

Musk's SpaceX Launches Planet-Hunter Satellite to Orbit

Musk's SpaceX Launches Planet-Hunter Satellite to Orbit

The TESS mission, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, is created to find potential planets orbiting stars close to Earth. Hawthorne-based SpaceX will begin a live stream before the launch, which is scheduled for 3:51 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. A tweet from SpaceX, which operates the Falcon 9 rocket set to take the satellite to space, indicated that delays were required to conduct analysis of the rocket's guidance, navigation and control system. Continuing its efforts to cut the cost of space missions by recovering rockets, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a barge - named "Of Course I Still Love You" - in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tess rode a SpaceX Falcon rocket through the evening sky, aiming for an orbit stretching all the way to the moon.

ORBIT: Tess will aim for a unique elongated orbit that passes within 45,000 miles of Earth on one end and as far away as the orbit of the moon on the other end.

"Tess will tell us where to look at and when to look", said the mission's chief scientist, George Ricker of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

To find the planets, Tess will use the same transit method employed by Kepler, watching for regular, fleeting dips in stellar brightness that would indicate a planet passing in front of its star.

The size of the football field Asteroid skimmed past Earth
Now recently NASA had released a chart of NEOs that are in a position to pass the earth in future using the CNEOs software. This first sighting occurred just 21 hours before the asteroid's closest approach to Earth.

The same approach has been used by NASA's Kepler spacecraft, launched in 2009.

NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports that TESS will scan almost the entire sky for alien worlds.

TESS's predecessor, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, was similarly created to find Earth-sized exoplanets in the habitable zone. "That's a big part of our mission: to enable future exploration by providing a giant dataset all over the sky of where these exoplanets are". While the company is a major provider of International Space Station cargo services for the agency, the only other NASA science missions launched by SpaceX are the Deep Space Climate Observatory in 2015 and Jason-3 in 2016, both missions carried out in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NASA plans to operate TESS until at least 2020.

Just minutes after launching NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, the SpaceX rocket booster is back on Earth. The first launch of a Block 5 Falcon 9, carrying the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite for Bangladesh, is planned for early May. It was slated for launch on Monday April 16, but was delayed for two days due to an issue with the rocket - but eventually it lifted off without a hitch.

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