Launch Date Set for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)!

Launch Date set for TESS: April 16, 2018, 6:32pm ET. TESS is designed to scan the entire sky over two years to find as many exoplanets as it can among the closest and brightest stars to Earth.

2303 Views | Published on 4th Apr, 2018

In this episode, there’s an update on the NASA TESS mission. A date has finally been set! TESS is a followup mission to Kepler and K2 and is designed to scan the entire sky over two years to find as many exoplanets as it can among the closest and brightest stars to Earth. This is coming at a perfect time as the venerable K2 mission winds down forever.

Well folks, the date is set: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, has a launch date! On April 16th at 6:32 pm ET, SpaceX will launch the mission that will find lots of new, nearby worlds aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

Back on March 15, the spacecraft passed a review that confirmed it was ready for launch. For final launch preparations, the spacecraft will be fueled and encapsulated within the payload fairing of its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

For those who don’t know, the mission is being led out of MIT, and it's going to find thousands of new planets orbiting bright nearby stars. It's going to build upon the legacy of the Kepler mission, only it's going focus on nearby bright stars that are sprinkled across the whole sky, and it's going to help us answer a really important question. Which of our nearest stellar neighbors has planets?

Like the mission name suggests, it’s going to use the transit method to find these exoplanets, just like Kepler does. It will look for signs of planets, ranging from Earth size, to giants larger than Jupiter by measuring tiny dips in brightness as the planet passes between us and the host star.

For two years, TESS will scan the entire sky using four cameras, and each camera has a 16.8-megapixel sensor, covering a 24-degree square-- that’s large enough to contain an entire constellation. They are arranged to view a vertical strip of the sky, called an observation sector.

TESS will watch each observation sector for about 27 days before rotating to next one, covering first the south, and then the north to eventually build a map of 85 percent of the sky. This coverage--about 350 times what Kepler first observed--will make TESS the first exoplanet mission to survey almost the entire sky. TESS will fly in a highly elliptical orbit that maximizes the amount of sky the spacecraft can image and is carefully timed with the orbit of the moon. It will spend most of each 13.7 day orbit collecting data, and then, as it passes closer to Earth, it will transmit that data to the ground.

Please watch our video on TESS that we made a while back for more details on the spacecraft and the mission, it’s up in the little thingy up here.

So this is great news after the disappointing news about the delay in the launch of JWST, and it’s coming at a time when the Kepler mission, which has since been renamed K2 after it’s initial science mission ended, is coming to a close.

We are in exciting times with respect to exoplanet discoveries. With the magnificent Kepler/K2 sailing into the sunset, we have the upcoming TESS launch to look forward to and I’m sure the discoveries coming out of that mission will be every bit as exciting as Kepler’s.

Don’t forget to get a cool TESS T-shirt to show your support for Deep Astronomy and the TESS Mission. The link is in the description box.

That’s it for this episode Space Fans. Thanks to all Deep Astronomy Patreon Patrons, and especially these guys, for your generous support of our content, don’t forget to watch the Patreon only Q&A I held last week if you missed it live.

Thanks to all of you for watching and as always, Keep Looking Up!

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