The much-anticipated launch of NASA’s newest exoplanet hunter has been rescheduled, the U.S. space agency announced in a brief news release.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey (TESS) satellite was supposed to lift off from the NASA launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday (April 16) evening at 6:32 p.m. EDT (22:32 GMT).
However, an issue with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which will blast off from Space Launch Complex 40 carrying NASA’s planet-seeking spacecraft, has forced the company to scrub the first attempt to launch the TESS satellite.
The reason for the delay seems to be a problem with the rocket’s side, Space.com reports.
To fix the Falcon 9 issue, the SpaceX launch crew need additional time to conduct an analysis of the rocket’s Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) system, NASA explained in the news release.
Therefore, the TESS launch has been postponed until tomorrow (April 18) at the earliest, as both NASA and SpaceX are working together to prepare the rocket for liftoff.
NASA representatives wrote on Twitter that the TESS spacecraft, operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is “in excellent health” and awaits patiently for the rescheduled launch time.
Shortly before NASA’s social media announcement, the SpaceX launch team tweeted that they were standing down and that the TESS launch had been put off until tomorrow.
People waiting to see the live coverage of the big launch will have to wait at least 48 hours. The broadcast, originally set to air yesterday at 6 p.m., has been scrubbed until the Falcon 9 problem is addressed and the TESS launch is back on schedule.
According to Spaceflight Now, the rescheduled TESS launch will probably take place tomorrow at 6:51 p.m. EDT (22:51 GMT), depending on the spacecraft’s orbital target and the position of the moon.
The moon’s position is relevant in the novel type of orbit NASA has chosen for the TESS satellite. The planet-hunting spacecraft will use a special, highly-elliptical orbit, with a 2:1 lunar resonance, shows Spaceflight 101.
This will ensure that TESS reaches apogee with the moon at a phasing of 90 degrees, allowing its orbit to remain stable for at least 10 years.
This highly-elliptical orbit will help maximize TESS’s field of vision, making it possible for the satellite’s four cameras to image up to 85 percent of the sky.
“That is about 20 times what the Kepler mission was able to detect,” George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at MIT, said in a statement.
TESS’s prime mission is to survey up to 200,000 stars for a period of two years, with the goal of finding potential exoplanets that might be orbiting them.
NASA estimates that its exoplanet-seeking satellite will track down around 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, Phys.org reports.