Looking Ahead at Countdown, Ascent

The payload fairing atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket contains NASA's TESS spacecraft. The rocket is poised for liftoff at Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The payload fairing atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket contains NASA’s TESS spacecraft. The rocket is poised for liftoff at Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: NASA

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s TESS spacecraft remains scheduled for 6:51 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Follow the countdown here and on www.nasa.gov/live starting at 6:30 p.m.

TESS is sealed inside the protective payload fairing atop its ride into space: the two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. On the rocket’s first stage are nine Merlin engines; its second stage, which takes over the launch effort about two and a half minutes into the flight, is powered by a single Merlin engine. Both stages run on a combination of liquid oxygen and RP-1, a rocket-grade kerosene.

Here’s a look at the timeline for the final minutes of the count and the climb to orbit (times are approximate):

-00:07:00 — Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
-00:01:00 — Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks
-00:01:00 — Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
-00:00:45 — SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:00:03 — Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00:00 — Liftoff
00:01:18 — Max Q (peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:30 — First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:30 — First stage jettison
00:02:36 — Second stage engine starts
00:08:18 — Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
00:43:06 — Second stage ignition 2
00:44:00 — Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 2)
00:49:30 — Spacecraft separation
00:57:11 — Begin solar array deployment (8 minutes, 28 seconds after separation)

Viewing Options for TESS Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch NASA's TESS spacecraft stands at Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket set to launch NASA’s TESS spacecraft stands at Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: NASA

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s TESS spacecraft remains scheduled for 6:51 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

If you’re in the Space Coast area – that’s the east coast of central Florida, about 45 minutes from Orlando – and you’re interested in seeing the launch in person, here is a list of area viewing locations. Keep in mind, though, that many of these locations fill up early. But no matter where you are, you can follow the countdown here on the blog and on NASA TV starting at 6:30 p.m.

NASA, SpaceX Targeting Launch Today

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star.
Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. Image 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 here at 6:30 p.m. 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.

TESS’s Ride to Orbit: the SpaceX Falcon 9

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians assist as the SpaceX payload fairing containing the agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is moved by crane to a transporter.
Technicians assist as the SpaceX payload fairing containing the agency’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is moved by crane to a transporter April 11, 2018, inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The launch vehicle poised to give TESS its boost into space later today is the SpaceX Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket with nine Merlin engines powering the first stage and a single Merlin engine powering the second. Both stages run on a combination of liquid oxygen and RP-1, a refined kerosene. Propellant loading operations begin later this afternoon.

Topping the Falcon 9 is a composite payload fairing that will protect the TESS spacecraft during the first three minutes of flight.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 carrying NASA’s TESS satellite remains scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on the Falcon 9, visit http://www.spacex.com/falcon9.

TESS Builds on Success of the ‘Transit Method’ of Planet Detection

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

As the first space-based, all-sky surveyor in search of exoplanets, TESS is poised to provide tantalizing new clues in the search for planets outside our solar system that could harbor life. Like the successful Kepler mission before it, TESS will watch for signs of planets passing in front of the stars they orbit.

TESS: Anatomy of the Spacecraft - infographic with spacecraft hardware and instrumentation
TESS: Anatomy of the Spacecraft. See the infographic in detail

When a planet crosses in front of its star, that’s called a transit – and it results in a short-lived flicker in the starlight seen by an observer. (Check out NASA’s TESS Mission Overview for more about the transit method of detecting planets.)

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. TESS also will scan a far larger area: it will spend about a month at a time focusing on one swath of sky, eventually covering the entire sky, as it searches for terrestrial planets outside of our solar system — yet close enough for follow-up study using ground-based telescopes.

TESS is designed for the stability it will need in order to focus its cameras on the stars it will monitor. The spacecraft is based on Orbital ATK’s LEOStar-2 platform, previously used on several NASA observatory missions, including NuSTAR and Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2.

Partners on the TESS mission team include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

For additional details about the TESS mission, the search for exoplanets and more, visit https://www.nasa.gov/tess.

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.

Join us here at 6 p.m. for frequent updates from the countdown.

TESS Televised Events Today and Monday

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

The planned liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, remains scheduled for 6:32 p.m. EDT Monday from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff.

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is hosting several events to be broadcast live on NASA TV. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.

The schedule is:
11 a.m. – NASA Social Mission Overview
1:30 p.m. – Prelaunch news conference
3 p.m. – Science news conference

Join us here or at NASA TV from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday for live coverage from the countdown. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 is scheduled for 6:32 p.m.

TESS Briefings and Events Scheduled for Sunday, April 15

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

NASA’s TESS satellite is scheduled to launch Monday, April 16, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on an ambitious mission to search for planets outside our solar system. Tune in Sunday for a series of briefings and events broadcast live on NASA TV.

Catch the NASA Social Mission Overview at 11 a.m., a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. and a news conference focusing on the science of the mission beginning at 3 p.m. All times are Eastern. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.

Join us here or at NASA TV from 6 to 8 p.m. on Monday for live coverage from the countdown. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 is scheduled for 6:32 p.m.

NASA, 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.