Next month, SpaceX is set to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is the next step in humanity’s ongoing effort to discover and characterize exoplanets, including planets that might host life. The spacecraft is currently scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 on April 16 from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral.
The TESS project has its origins in a concept study at MIT in the mid-2000’s and was submitted as an Astrophysics Explorer mission finalist in 2012, as a successor program to Kepler, which was at the time in its primary mission.
In April 2013, TESS was selected as a new Explorer mission, following in the footsteps of Explorer 1, America’s first successful orbiting satellite, the mission that discovered the Van Allen radiation belts around Earth, and missions like COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) which made groundbreaking discoveries about the Big Bang and resulted in a Nobel Prize.
The mission, led by MIT Kavli Institute and Principal Investigator Dr. George Ricker, is intended to be the first (nearly) space-based all-sky exoplanet survey, covering all parts of the sky except for small parts of the ecliptic (which may be covered in an extended mission), a survey that will discover far more ...