The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has arrived safely at Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) in Florida. TESS arrived at Kennedy Space Center on February 12 by freight truck from an Orbital ATK manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia. The satellite will undergo a range of tests and prep in anticipation of its launch on April 16.
TESS had originally been scheduled to be launched on March 20. The launch was, however, pushed back to April 16 to allow launch provider, SpaceX additional time for testing. In a statement obtained by industry stalwart Jeff Foust, NASA officials explained that “SpaceX requested additional time for hardware readiness and to meet NASA launch service mission requirements.”
TESS will Hunt for Exoplanets
Once TESS is launched, the satellite’s main objective will be to hunt for exoplanets (planets outside our own solar system). To do this, the satellite will monitor over 200,000 of the brightest stars searching for transit events (regular dips in a star’s brightness). These events are caused by exoplanets passing in front of their stars and is the most effective way to hunt for planets millions of kilometres from Earth.
Once TESS has identified an exoplanet, it will be indexed, categorised and marked for follow up. The James Webb Space Telescope which is expected to be launched in 2019 will perform many of these exoplanets follow up examinations. However, with researchers expecting the exoplanet hunter to identify thousands of exoplanets, the data gathered by the satellite could take decades to fully examine.
Image Credit: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center