How to watch SpaceX launch NASA's new planet-hunting satellite today

SpaceX who recently carried out a launch using a Falcon Heavy rocket will carry the instrument

SpaceX who recently carried out a launch using a Falcon Heavy rocket will carry the instrument

Aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, the Monday (16 April) launch of TESS was aborted in the final hours as the company looked to make absolutely sure it avoids any costly catastrophe.

The next opportunity to blast off the $337 million satellite - which aims to advance the search for extraterrestrial life by scanning the skies for nearby, Earth-like planets - will be Wednesday.

NASA's newest telescope TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) is the agency's latest planet hunter, which will greatly expand on the work already done by the Kepler telescope.

Space Exploration Technologies, as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's private launch service is formally known, said on Twitter that the blast-off was scrubbed due to unspecified problems in the rocket's guidance control system. It will monitor the light of these stars, looking out for small dips in brightness. "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. This will alert scientists of new planets ranging from those the size of Earth to massive gas giants.

The satellite, TESS, is the USA space agency's newest planet-hunting spacecraft that will search for undiscovered planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets. Four wide-field cameras will give Tess a field-of-view that covers 85 per cent of our entire sky. Using this method, Kepler has helped identify 2,600 confirmed exoplanets. "So TESS takes the next step".

But the needle in the haystack, the Holy Grail, will be finding planets in what's called the Goldilocks zone, orbiting just far enough from their parent stars where it's not too hot or too cold but just right to possibly sustain life.

The BBC understands that scientists on the mission also want a delay so they can run some extra checks on the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite itself. Scientists expect to discover thousands of planets that, over time, will undergo further scrutiny by powerful telescopes in space and on Earth.

It will hopefully happen just in time; NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which has been searching for exoplanets for the last nine years is running on fumes, and it's expected to run out in the next few months, Nadia Drake reports for National Geographic.

"This is the reason we're all so excited", said Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at Caltech and NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute who sits on the steering committee for TESS's follow-up working group.

NASA will then follow up with the US$8.8 billion James Webb Space Telescope to determine whether or not these planets could be habitable.

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