SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches TESS planet-hunting telescope successfully
New Delhi : Loaded on Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX on Thursday launched TESS - NASA's new planet-hunting orbital telescope designed to track exoplanets beyond our solar system.
The Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) lifted off at 6:51 PM EDT from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was delayed by nothing less than two days due to a technical glitch.
Minutes after the launch, the upper part of the rocket went into space while the lower part landed back successfully on Earth.
NASA’s latest astrophysics satellite, meanwhile, soared on toward orbit, starting the clock on a two-year, $337 million quest to expand astronomers’ known catalogue of so-called exoplanets, worlds circling distant stars.
The launch was a landmark for SpaceX for being the first mission under a special certification.
TESS finds its roots from the successful Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.
“TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study,” TESS principal investigator George Ricker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told reporters in a pre-launch briefing on Sunday.
TESS will focus on 200,000 pre-selected stars that are relatively nearby and among the brightest as seen from Earth, making them better-suited for sensitive follow-up analysis.