NASA TESS Exoplanet Hunter Poised for Launch to Discover New Habitable Worlds: Watch Live April 16



Up close
view of
NASA
TESS exoplanet hunter encapsulated inside the nose cone atop SpaceX Falcon 9
rocket poised for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station, FL, on April 16 at 6:32 pm EDT.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


Ken Kremer     SpaceUpClose.com     16 April 2018

KENNEDY SPACE
CENTER, FL – NASA’s TESS exoplanet hunter is poised for launch from the Florida
Space Coast today, Monday April 16 on an inspiring mission to discover new Earth
like habitable worlds beyond our Solar System.

TESS
will help answer the biggest question of them all – ‘Are We Alone in the
Universe?’

TESS
is scheduled to blast off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:32 p.m. EDT Monday,
April 16 from seaside Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station.

Today’s
launch window lasts only a very short 30 seconds. 

The goal of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is to search
for new Earth’s that could potentially support life.



The TESS
spacecraft and SpaceX Falcon 9 carrier rocket passed the Launch Readiness Review
(LRR) yesterday, Sunday, April 15, and are on target for a sunset liftoff that
is sure to offer spectacular views.


TESS
is encapsulated inside the payload fairing.
The integrated rocket and payload were
rolled out to pad 41 early today.

SpaceX
Falcon 9 rocket and NASA TESS exoplanet hunter poised for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, FL, on
April
16 at 6:32 pm EDT.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Check out our gallery of up close images
taken today during the media remote camera setup.

SpaceX
Falcon 9 rocket and NASA TESS exoplanet hunter poised for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, FL,
on
April
16 at 6:32 pm EDT.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

If you can’t personally be here to witness
the launch in Florida, you can always watch NASA’s live coverage on NASA
Television and the agency’s website.

The NASA TESS launch coverage will
be broadcast on NASA TV beginning  at 6
p.m. Apr. 16 with additional commentary on the NASA launch blog.

SpaceX will also offer their own
live webcast beginning approximately 15
minutes before launch at about 6:15 p.m. EDT.

You can
watch the launch live at NASA TV at –
 http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

You can also
watch the launch live at SpaceX hosted Webcast at – spacex.com/webcast


TESS is charged with searching for
and discovering new Earth and Super Earth sized planets beyond our Solar System
that orbit their host stars inside the habitable zones that offer conditions
conducive to the origin and evolution of life.

During an initial 2 year long
mission, TESS will gradually sweep across the entire sky and conduct a full sky
survey by monitoring and investigating over 200,000 of the nearest and
brightest stars to search for planets outside our
solar system.

“One of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an
astronomer finds a planet in a star’s
habitable
zone
, will it be interesting from a
biologist’s point of view?” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for
Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge, which is leading the mission.

“We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose
atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life,
could be precisely measured by future observers.”

TESS is NASA’s second exoplanet
mission and a follow up to the hugely successful Kepler probe which discovered
over 2300 exoplanets of all sizes.

To carry out its daunting task, the
spacecraft is equipped with 4 identical wide-field science cameras.  Their combined field of view will enable the
spacecraft to image some 85% of the entire sky during the full sky survey over
the first two years.

Scientists plumbing the data
gathered by TESS hope to discover on the order of 300 to 500 Earths and Super
Earths alone, orbiting in their habitable zones compared to a dozen or so by
Kepler.

TESS observations will yield the
orbits and sizes of these exoplanets. 
They will also provide the specific targets for follow up high
resolution investigations by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and other
telescopes to determine the exoplanets masses, compositions and atmospheric
constituents.

In turn researchers will use these observations
to determine if any of the newly discovered Earths and Super earths and
actually Earth like possessing water, oxygen and carbon based molecules for
example that can potentially support life.

How will TESS conduct the full sky
survey? The sky has been subdivided into 26 observing sectors that basically
equate to tileing the sky piece by piece – much like covering your kitchen
floor with tiles.

 

TESS will map the sky one tile at a
time by pointing the four cameras to discrete sectors of the sky and then
combining them into an overarching panorama of the Universe encircling Earth.

The sky has been divided into 2
hemispheres – southern and northern.

Each hemisphere has been divided
into 13 sectors that will be observed one by one.  The southern sky of 13 sectors will be imaged
initially over the first year, followed by the northern sky of 13 sectors over
the second year.  

Each of the cameras is equipped with
four 16.8 megapixel CCD’s and a seven element optical system.

The cameras are located on the top
of the spacecraft inside a protective sunshade to shield the instruments.

TESS will observe each sky sector
tile for approximately 28 days of continuous observations. 

Each sky tile from a single camera
measures 24 degrees by 24 degrees. The 4 cameras combine to simultaneously
cover a sector of 24 x 96 degrees.

TESS is the first space science
mission launched by SpaceX for NASA. 

The SpaceX Falcon 9 will deliver
TESS to a highly elliptical Earth orbit never used before by a science mission,
Ricker
said at the media briefing.

TESS will orbit Earth in 13.7 days
in a 2:1 resonance orbit with the moon. The moon orbits earth every 28 days.

The TESS science orbit is extremely
stable as a result, thus requiring minimal fuel to maintain.  The spacecraft is loaded with enough
propellants to continue its observations for 20 years if all goes well with the
spacecraft systems.  

“TESS is opening a door for a whole new kind of study,” said
Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
in Greenbelt, Maryland, which manages the mission. “We’re going to be able
study individual planets and start talking about the differences between
planets. The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research
for decades to come. It’s the beginning of a new era of exoplanet research.”

The $337 million spacecraft was
built by prime contractor Orbital ATK.

The kitchen table sized probe weighs
770 pounds (350 g) and measures 12 x 4 x 5 ft (3.7 x 1.2 x 1.5 m).

Up close
view of
NASA
TESS exoplanet hunter encapsulated inside the nose cone atop SpaceX Falcon 9
rocket poised for liftoff from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station, FL, on April 16 at 6:32 pm EDT.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT and managed by Goddard.
George Ricker, of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research,
serves as principal investigator for the mission. TESS’s four wide-field
cameras were developed by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Additional partners include
Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen
universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are
participants in the mission.

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA’s TESS,
SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more
space and mission
reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing
Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com –
twitter @ken_kremer –
ken
at kenkremer.com


Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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