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NASA to launch its TESS Exoplanet Mission in a SpaceX Falcon 9

17 April 2018

NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft is poised for a Monday evening launch.

This image made available by NASA shows an illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

According to reports, the satellite, which is aimed at finding far-away planets that could potentially support life, will be launched at 6:32 pm US Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Its main goal over the next two years is to scan more than 200,000 of the brightest stars for signs of planets circling them and causing a dip in brightness known as a transit.

As SpaceX attempts to do with most of its Falcon 9 rockets, eight minutes after the launch, it will attempt to land the rocket's first stage on a ship offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket will carry NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which will discover thousands of exoplanets in orbit around the brightest stars in the sky.

"Humans have wondered forever whether we were alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago the only planets we knew about were the eight in our own solar system", he told reporters on the eve of the TESS launch. "The power of imagery with science really makes the connection with people".

This rocket is also the final block 4 version before SpaceX starts using block 5 versions with upgraded engines and improvements to increase the reusability of the rocket.

That said, it is worth noting TESS won't find life on any of these worlds. This, as NASA said, will be 400 times larger than what Kepler observed.

NASA to launch its TESS Exoplanet Mission in a SpaceX Falcon 9