TESS Spacecraft Embarks on Planet-hunting Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Liftoff was at 6:51 p.m. EDT.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Liftoff was at 6:51 p.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA will have a new tool in the search for habitable planets.

The agency’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite was delivered to space this evening aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch occurred right on time at 6:51 p.m. EDT following an uneventful countdown highlighted by excellent weather and healthy hardware.

“Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying TESS, a planet-hunting spacecraft that will search for new worlds beyond our solar system,” NASA Launch Commentator Josh Finch said as the rocket thundered away from the launch complex.

TESS will be the first space-based, all-sky surveyor to search for exoplanets – planets outside of our own solar system. However, the spacecraft isn’t looking for just any planets. It’s specifically searching for those that are Earth-like, and close enough to our own celestial neighborhood that scientists can study them further.

“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

this view from a camera mounted on the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage, NASA's TESS spacecraft separates from the vehicle, beginning its mission. Image credit: NASA TV
In this view from a camera mounted on the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, NASA’s TESS spacecraft separates from the vehicle, beginning its mission. Image credit: NASA TV

How will it find these planets? Like the Kepler mission before it, TESS will use the transit method – that is, it will stare intently at the stars in a given section of the sky, watching for the telltale flicker of a passing (transiting) planet. (Learn more about TESS and the transit method on the TESS Overview.) Kepler, which launched in 2009, focused on one portion of the sky and sought to find Earth-like planets. TESS, on the other hand, will look for stars 30 to 100 times brighter than those observed by Kepler. It also will scan a far larger area.

But first, TESS had to get off the ground. After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket performed well, sending the spacecraft on its way to orbit. At 7:53 p.m., the twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft successfully deployed.

“Wow, are we excited. We just had a perfect countdown and perfect launch of the TESS mission,” said Tim Dunn of NASA’s Launch Services Program. “The Falcon 9 continues to demonstrate what a reliable vehicle it has become,” Dunn said.

Over the course of several weeks, TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that TESS can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, the spacecraft will begin its work.

NASA, SpaceX Targeting Launch Today

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.
Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA and SpaceX are targeting the launch of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for no earlier than 6:51 p.m. EDT.

Frequent updates from the countdown will begin at 6:30 p.m. on the TESS blog. You can also watch at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

TESS is the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system. The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits. TESS will survey the nearest and brightest stars for two years to search for transiting exoplanets.

TESS Launch Now Targeted for Wednesday

Launch teams are standing down today to conduct additional Guidance Navigation and Control analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday, April 18. The TESS spacecraft is in excellent health, and remains ready for launch. TESS will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Launch Day Arrives for NASA’s TESS Satellite

NASA’s newest planet-hunter, TESS, will look around the brightest stars closest to our solar system for new worlds.
NASA’s newest planet-hunter, TESS, will look around the brightest stars closest to our solar system for new worlds. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

In just a few hours, a NASA spacecraft is expected to launch on a mission to search the skies for the nearest terrestrial planets outside our solar system. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to lift off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 6:32 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Follow NASA’s TESS Blog beginning at 6 p.m. for frequent updates from the countdown.

NASA and SpaceX Prepare to Launch Planet-hunting Spacecraft

The payload fairing for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is being moved to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the facility, TESS will be encapsulated in the payload fairing.
The payload fairing for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is being moved to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Inside the facility, TESS will be encapsulated in the payload fairing. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is making strides toward its upcoming liftoff. The planet-hunting spacecraft is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 on Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.  Inside Kennedy Space Center’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, the TESS spacecraft was sealed within the Falcon 9 payload fairing in preparation for its move to the launch pad.

The satellite is the next step in NASA’s search for planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr. George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission. 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. NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launch management.

Successful Liftoff for SpaceX Falcon 9

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft lifts off on the company's 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft launches on the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 4:30 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Follow NASA’s Launch Blog and NASA Television during the early portions of flight.

SpaceX CRS-14 Countdown in Progress

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Complex 40
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft await liftoff on the company’s 14th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA TV

A Dragon spacecraft is poised for liftoff atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40. The launch vehicle will boost the resupply capsule on its 14th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Dragon will deliver supplies and equipment supporting numerous science investigations for the crew working aboard the orbiting laboratory. Liftoff is scheduled for today at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

Be sure to follow NASA’s Launch Blog during the last stages of the countdown and early portions of flight. You also may follow the countdown on NASA Television.

Spaceport Employees Participate in Annual Run

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, center, is joined by a large group of center employees and guests as they participate in the KSC Walk Run on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway.
Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, center, is joined by a large group of center employees and guests as they participate in the KSC Walk Run on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway. Photo credit: NASA/Fred Benavidez

Led by Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, spaceport employees took part in an annual tradition Tuesday, March 13: the KSC Walk Run. It’s NASA’s version of the community fun run, but the race course – the Shuttle Landing Facility – is one of a kind.

Runners may choose between 10K, 5K and 2-mile options and take off down the runway alongside their colleagues in the spirit of friendly competition.

Open only to badged spaceport employees and their guests, the KSC Walk Run is a part of Safety and Health Days, a week-long event dedicated to fostering a culture of safety and wellness both at work and at home. A safe workplace and healthy workforce are key ingredients to successful missions.

Aircraft Mishap Exercise Validates Procedures for Kennedy’s First Responders

An Aircraft Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan is underway at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The center's Flight Operations rehearsed a helicopter crash-landing to test new and updated emergency procedures. The operation was designed to validate several updated techniques the center's first responders would follow, should they ever need to rescue a crew in case of a real accident. The mishap exercise took place at the center's Shuttle Landing Facility.
An Aircraft Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan is underway at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The center’s Flight Operations rehearsed a helicopter crash-landing to test new and updated emergency procedures. The operation was designed to validate several updated techniques the center’s first responders would follow, should they ever need to rescue a crew in case of a real accident. The mishap exercise took place at the center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s Flight Operations rehearsed a helicopter crash-landing to test new and updated emergency procedures on February 14.

Called the Aircraft Mishap Preparedness and Contingency Plan, the operation was designed to validate several updated techniques the center’s first responders would follow should they need to rescue a crew in case of a real accident.

Personnel from NASA’s fire, security and emergency management were joined by team members from center Safety and Mission Assurance departments and Space Florida, the state agency that operates the Shuttle Landing Facility for NASA, to participate in the simulation and communication tests.

The drill began with a distress call from the helicopter “crash site,” near the northwest end of the Shuttle Landing Facility runway to the facility’s control tower. The pilot, still inside the aircraft, was injured and his colleague unconscious.

The exercise was performed to gauge reaction times and identify and correct possible deficiencies in coordination and communications.

The operation concluded with the successful recovery of both pilots from the crash simulation area. The helicopter was left at the site to allow additional training for mishap investigators.

NOAA’s GOES-S Satellite Awaits Launch

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NOAA’s GOES-S satellite waits for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying NOAA’s GOES-S satellite waits for liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

NOAA’s GOES-S satellite is scheduled to launch today at 5:02 p.m. EST. aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Live launch coverage will begin at 4:30 p.m. on NASA TV and NASA’s GOES-S Launch Blog.