Liftoff!

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA's TESS spacecraft.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s TESS spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Dan Casper

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s TESS spacecraft on a mission to help search for planets outside our solar system that could be capable of harboring life.

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines are generating more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust – providing the initial boost TESS needs to break the hold of Earth’s gravity.

Just over a minute from now, the rocket will fly through the area of maximum aerodynamic pressure known as “max Q.” About two and a half minutes into the flight, the first stage will complete its burn and separate from the vehicle, clearing the way for the second-stage engine to ignite. The payload fairing will deploy shortly thereafter.