NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft poised for launch

On the hunt for Earth 2.0: Watch NASA's TESS launch live

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite was set to take off at 3:32 p.m.

TESS will follow in the footsteps of NASA's epic Kepler space telescope, which has discovered 2,650 alien worlds to date - about 70 percent of all known exoplanets.

A Guidance and Navigation Control (GNC) issue scuppered last night's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9.

The launching will mark SpaceX's eighth so far this year and the 53rd of a Falcon 9 overall.

SpaceX stated that TESS will be launched into elliptical orbit approximately 48 minutes after launch. The craft is set to sweep the sky as it orbits the earth for two years.

TESS will spend two years scanning almost the entire sky - a field of view that can encompass more than 20 million stars.

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"We're expecting to find 2,000-3,000 planets that are certainly below the size of our Jupiter and a lot of them below the size of Neptune; so, the ones that have the potential for being terrestrial, for being rocky", said Jennifer Burt from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which leads the mission. Some say it's a rocky planet, such as ours.

Since NASA's Kepler spacecraft launched in 2009, the space agency has found and confirmed a whopping 2343 new planets.

"Tess will tell us where and when to point", said Cheops' Esa project scientist, Kate Isaak.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is prepared for encapsulation inside the Falcon 9 rocket's nose shroud. "These types of planets that are close to us are much more easy to study, and we can measure their masses from telescopes here on Earth".

TESS is created to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented by astronomers during the past 20 years and is about to run out of fuel.

"TESS's legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will comprise the most favorable targets for detailed investigations in the coming decades", NASA notes.

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"The most interesting thing about these TESS discoveries is gonna be how close they are and the fact that their host stars are gonna be bright relative to those Kepler stars". The spacecraft then will adjust its orientation and spend another 27 days collecting another sector.

Why has TESS mission been delayed?

Therefore, the TESS launch has been postponed until tomorrow (April 18) at the earliest, as both NASA and SpaceX are working together to prepare the rocket for liftoff. It turns out that the majority of the stars in the Milky Way are cool stars that have a temperature about half that of the sun. In addition, we can form a picture of what the inside of a star looks like.

The spacecraft is meant to be maneuvered into an unusual Earth orbit that ranges in altitude from roughly 63,000 to 200,000 miles.

TESS uses the same method as Kepler for finding potential planets, by tracking the dimming of light when a celestial body passes in front of a star.

"Once we find the planets associated with them, those are going to be the primary candidates that everyone - all astronomers for centuries to come - (are) going to focus on. This is really a mission for the ages". "It's like we're making a treasure map", Guerrero said. "So that's hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy".

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