SpaceX will launch NASA's planet-hunting satellite today, stream it live here

SpaceX will launch NASA's planet-hunting satellite today, stream it live here

The launch was originally scheduled for Monday, but was scrubbed two hours before because SpaceX announced it needed more time to check its rocket, which will carry the satellite to orbit. These events are called transits, hence TESS' name. TESS is expected to identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation.

Minutes after launch, SpaceX plans to land the Falcon 9's first-stage booster on an autonomous drone ship named "Of Course I Still Love You", hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

"NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - TESS - will fly in an orbit that completes two circuits around Earth every time the Moon orbits once", the space agency explains.

NASA predicts that TESS will discover 20,000 exoplanets -or planets outside the solar system -including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of Earth. NASA's Kennedy Space Center also confirmed on Twitter that the launch would proceed April 18.

"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars", said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters.

The goal of this project is to answer the question, are we really alone? Zooming in on the new worlds and other objects of interest that TESS finds will occupy astronomers-and probably imaginations-for many years to come.

"TESS itself will not be able to find life beyond Earth", he said, "but TESS will help us figure out where to point our larger telescopes in that search". It will build on the work of the Kepler space telescope, which found exoplanets in a similar way but circled the sun, rather than Earth, and focused on one small patch of the sky for its first mission.

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