After scrubbing Tuesday’s launch, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket holding NASA’s TESS spacecraft is vertical and ready for takeoff this morning.
We’re all pretty excited about the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. The teeny satellite will serve as the Kepler/K2 mission’s replacement and will survey hundreds of thousands of stars in the 300 closest light-years to Earth. Weather conditions at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center are 90 per cent favourable for today’s launch.
Countdown clocks were stopped and buses full of spectators were turned around after Monday’s launch was scrapped. SpaceX reported that they’d chosen to perform more guidance navigation and control analysis on their rocket,
Today’s 30-second launch window begins at 8:51 am AEST. You’ll be able to watch takeoff live below, with coverage beginning at 8:30 am AEST.
We’ve written a lot about TESS and the quest to find Earth 2.0. TESS will scan for interesting candidates for follow-up studies by future telescopes, like the powerful James Webb Space Telescope that is scheduled for launch in 2020. TESS will particularly look at stars that are brighter and/or closer than the ones Kepler spotted. One kind of exoplanet of special interest is the sort that orbits red dwarfs, like TRAPPIST-1 and Proxima Centauri. These exoplanets seem both abundant and frequently located in places where liquid water could exist on their surface.
We’ve got our fingers crossed for a successful launch today. The TESS mission will be especially crucial once the beloved Kepler spacecraft runs out of fuel and goes silent, which is expected to happen in the next few months.