The TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey) satellite is hours from launching, and everyone is excited to watch the exoplanet hunter blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida later today (April 16).
The much-anticipated launch is scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT (22:32 GMT), Space.com reports, and will be covered on NASA TV as early as 6 p.m. The media outlet is also broadcasting live coverage of the TESS launch, courtesy of the U.S. space agency.
NASA’s new planet-seeking satellite will be launched aboard a brand-new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at CCAFS.
Although the launch team has expressed concerns about the possibility of strong winds interfering with the liftoff, everything is expected to go smoothly for the TESS launch weather-wise.
According to U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing meteorologists, there is “an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff,” the NASA TESS Mission announced on April 14.
After the launch, SpaceX intends to land the first stage of its two-stage rocket on a robotic ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. In the past, the company has successfully performed this procedure on 23 occasions and has later re-flown half of the landed boosters, notes Space.com.
However, the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the TESS satellite is not equipped with recycled boosters. In fact, the rocket is entirely new, SpaceX’s Flight Reliability Team leader Hans Koenigsmann disclosed yesterday (April 15) during a pre-launch briefing.
SpaceX also plans to recover the nose cone (also known as payload fairing) put up to shield the TESS satellite during liftoff, Koenigsmann added at the briefing. The company has attempted this twice in the past and failed both times.
SpaceX hopes that this time the recovery strategy will not end in failure. (Third time’s a charm, as they say.) After all, the payload fairing for the TESS launch set the company back some $6 million, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, shows Space.com.
The launch costs for the TESS satellite amount to $87 million, NASA officials have revealed prior to the launch. This brings up the total cost of the TESS Mission to $287 million.
Earlier today, the NASA_TESS Twitter account published a photo of the satellite atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it patiently awaits the launch time.
Once launched, the planet-seeking satellite will spend two years in space, surveying around 200,000 stars in hopes of spotting alien planets that might be hiding in their shadow. TESS is tasked with collecting 27 gigabytes of data on a daily basis, or “the equivalent of about 6,500 song files beaming down to Earth every two weeks,” NASA stated in an April 11 press release.
To accomplish this impressive feat in such a short amount of time, TESS will be flying in a special, highly elliptical orbit that will allow the satellite to image up to 85 percent of the sky, NASA tweeted yesterday.