Spacewatch: Tess embarks on planet-hunting mission for Nasa

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will take an elliptical path around Earth to observe stars for evidence of exoplanets

Nasa’s next planet-hunting mission has launched from Cape Canaveral air force station in Florida.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) took to the skies at 23.51 BST (18.51 EDT). It was deployed into Earth orbit 49 minutes later, to start a series of manoeuvres that will get it into its operational orbit by mid-June.

These manoeuvres include a close flyby of the moon to help place Tess on a highly elliptical path that swings from 108,000 kilometres to 373,000 kilometres above Earth. The spacecraft will spend at least two years observing more than 200,000 nearby stars and looking for planets. It is expected to discover thousands of previously unknown worlds, some of them potentially habitable, by detecting the small drops in light that occur when each planet passes across the face of its parent star.

The launch was originally scheduled for Monday 16 April but delayed because of a potential issue with the rocket’s guidance system. In the event, the launch went without a hitch and Tess lifted off on a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Tess is comparatively cheap with a price tag of $200m (£140m) plus an additional $87m for launch.

Contributor

Stuart Clark

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa ends 16-year Spitzer infrared mission
Spitzer became first telescope to directly capture light from planets in orbit around other stars

Stuart Clark

06, Feb, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa planet hunter will target the rock zone
Using the TESS satellite, now at the Kennedy Space Centre, the agency is to study 200,000 stars in a quest for habitable planets

Stuart Clark

22, Feb, 2018 @9:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: successful SpaceX test a key milestone for Nasa
Crew Dragon capsule’s abort test means Nasa may return to launching astronauts from US soil as early as spring

Stuart Clark

23, Jan, 2020 @9:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa to launch new crewed craft in 2019
Capsules being developed to act as taxis between Earth and International Space Station

Stuart Clark

29, Nov, 2018 @9:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa space telescope faces cuts to reduce costs
Rising costs of a flagship telescope designed to have 100 times the field of view of Hubble are forcing Nasa to cut back to ensure the mission goes ahead at all

Stuart Clark

09, Nov, 2017 @9:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa delays James Webb space telescope to October 2021
Delay is result of coronavirus pandemic and technical challenges as troubled project is set to cost £6.8bn

Stuart Clark

23, Jul, 2020 @8:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa to produce new survey of the universe
Comprehensive mission known as SPHEREx will collect data on more than 300m galaxies

Stuart Clark

21, Feb, 2019 @9:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa asteroid mission passes key milestone
Design review stage passed for craft intended to visit iron-and-nickel mini-world in 2026

Stuart Clark

09, Jul, 2020 @8:30 PM

Article image
Spacewatch: Nasa SunRise mission to study solar storms
Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment aims to pinpoint places where giant particle storms are launched into space

Stuart Clark

02, Apr, 2020 @8:30 PM

Article image
How Maven dodged a martian moon
Spacewatch When Nasa realised its spacecraft was on a near-collision course with Phobos, it was time for its first avoidance manoeuvre

Stuart Clark

09, Mar, 2017 @9:30 PM