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Launch of NASA's newest planet-hunter, TESS, postponed

By Brooks Hays
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Launch of NASA's newest planet-hunter, TESS, postponed
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands poised on Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Monday. Photo by Joe Marino-Bill Cantrell/UPI | License Photo

April 16 (UPI) -- NASA and SpaceX officials scrubbed Monday's planned TESS launch.

"Standing down today to conduct additional GNC analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of @NASA_TESS on Wednesday, April 18," SpaceX announced on Twitter.

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In a blog update, NASA confirmed TESS, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will launch on Wednesday.

"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," the space agency wrote.

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With the Kepler probe low on fuel and soon to drop out of space, TESS is set to become NASA's primary planet-hunter.

"Our planet-hunting @NASA_TESS spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that'll allow it to study nearly the entire sky over 2 years," NASA wrote on Twitter. "This special orbit is key in potentially finding thousands of new planets outside our solar system."

While the Kepler spacecraft focused on small fields of view for long periods of time, TESS will take a wider, more comprehensive view.

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"TESS is designed to image almost all of the night sky -- using four wide-angle cameras," Natalia Guerrero, an MIT scientist and researcher on the TESS mission, told UPI last week.

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But unlike Kepler, TESS is designed to survey the sky, not carry out in-depth investigations. Scientists will rely on other telescopes, both ground and space-based, to observe transiting objects in greater detail. Through follow-up investigations, astronomers will be able to estimate an exoplanet's mass and the composition of its atmosphere, as well as its habitability.

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