NASA's Exoplanet Hunter Launched Atop Falcon 9

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The world's first exoplanet satellite, TESS just successfully launched into the sky, riding a Falcon 9, and is on its way to settle into orbit to expand our knowledge and, just maybe, find a new home for us. Tess will spend about two years surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the Sun to search for planets outside our solar system.

"This method, called asteroseismology, helps us understand newly discovered planet systems, and gives us a way to study detailed physics inside stars under extreme conditions we can not reproduce here on Earth", he says.

The spent first stage barreled back through the atmosphere to make a landing on the barge Of Course I Still Love You, which is stationed in the Atlantic.

NASA's exoplanet hunter, similarly like Kepler, is going to hunt planets with the potential for supporting life with the "transit method", which means scientists will spot when those planets cross the face of their parent stars. SpaceX has reused 11 of the first stages already, although this particular Falcon 9 rocket was new. Once in-orbit testing has been completed, TESS will begin its initial two-year mission approximately 60 days after launch. Exoplanets are planets that orbit a star in any solar system other than the one Earth calls home. Instead, the data will be used by future space missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to launch in 2020, and ARIEL by the European Space Agency in 2028.

It has been designed as a successor to the Kepler space observatory. "By taking high-resolution images of thousands of stars observed by Tess, we can confirm whether the planets indeed orbit these stars". TESS is budgeted for one year of ground work and two years in space, though its mission life can be extended up to almost two decades, which would greatly increase the amount of data gained from the mission. TESS is equipped with four highly sensitive cameras which will help in monitoring the entire sky.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said it was a remarkable feat for USQ researchers to be contributing to such a significant space mission.

TESS was built at Orbital ATK's Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Dulles, Virginia and is based on the company's LEOStar-2™ bus, a flight-proven and flexible satellite platform that accommodates a wide variety of missions.

There are already 3,700 exoplanets that we know of, with another 4,500 on the not-yet-verified list. "We've been working hand-in-hand with SpaceX to get to the certification to be able to fly the type of mission that TESS is", said Omar Baez, launch director for NASA's Launch Services Program, at the pre-launch briefing. NASA's satellite will look for stars 30 to 100 times brighter than those observed by the Kepler satellite launched in 2009.

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