SpaceX set for second TESS launch attempt Wednesday evening

SpaceX set for second TESS launch attempt Wednesday evening

NASA's latest astrophysics instrument will be carried aloft by a Falcon 9 rocket from the fleet of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's private launch service, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX. SpaceX will not attempt to recover Falcon 9's first stage after launch.

NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or "super-Earth"-sized - no larger than twice as big as our home planet".

SpaceX engineers pressed ahead Wednesday with preparations to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a $337 million planet-hunting satellite that NASA hopes will take the search for planets beyond Earth's solar system to another level. TESS is basically a continuation of the same work that the Kepler Space Telescope is famous for.

Those are believed the most likely to feature rocky surfaces or oceans and are thus considered the best candidates for life to evolve. These events are called transits, hence TESS' name.

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With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth.

The stars being studied by TESS are between 30 to 100 times brighter than those surveyed by the Kepler and K2 missions and TESS will cover a sky area 400 times larger than that monitored by Kepler.

But the primary goal of the flight was to launch NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, a relatively modest spacecraft equipped with four state-of-the-art digital cameras created to measure the light from millions of stars in search of the tell-tale dimming that occurs when an exoplanet moves in front, or "transits". Following in the footsteps of its planetary census predecessor, TESS will be on the lookout for red dwarf stars.

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