SpaceX launching NASA's planet hunting satellite from Cape Canaveral

SpaceX launching NASA's planet hunting satellite from Cape Canaveral

TESS will survey far more cosmic terrain than its predecessor, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009.

But while Kepler could only look at a small patch of the night sky at one time, TESS will be able to cover 24-degree segments of the sky at once - which means it would be able to hunt for alien planets in 85 percent of the visible night sky.

NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft is scheduled for launch on one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets Wednesday from the Florida coast.

NASA's TESS spacecraft will remain in an elongated orbit of the Earth, 67,000 miles away at the very least to keep it well outside of the Van Allen radiation belts.

NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or "super-Earth" sized - no larger than twice as big as our home planet. These will likely include the James Webb Space Telescope, which is slated to launch in 2020. It will take two months for Tess to reach its final scientific orbit, which will stretch all the way to the moon.

SpaceX plans to use the recovered booster for NASA's next grocery run to the International Space Station.

The Tess satellite will scan nearly the entire sky, starting at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them. SpaceX halted Monday's countdown for extra rocket checks.

Once in orbit, the spacecraft will peer at hundreds of thousands of bright neighboring stars, seeking planets that might support life.

Kepler's trove of more than 2,300 confirmed planets outside our solar was impressive, but most were too distant and dim to be examined further.

A SpaceX Falcon rocket is set to blast off with the Tess satellite Wednesday evening from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

"Following stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9's first stage on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean", SpaceX says.

TESS will target 200,000 of the brightest stars in our celestial neighborhood, looking for the faint dimming of starlight as an exoplanet passes over a given star's disk.

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