Launch of exoplanet-hunting TESS satellite delayed to Wednesday
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The launch of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Spacecraft (TESS) has been postponed by at least 48 hours, according to SpaceX. The satellite had been scheduled to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 6:32 p.m. EDT (22:23 GMT) April 16, 2018.
“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 tweeted in a statement.
GNC stands for guidance, navigation and control and SpaceX did not say whether this postponement stems from a potential hardware failure, or if the company is just being extra vigilant. In a statement from NASA, the space agency said the TESS spacecraft is: “in excellent health, and remains ready for launch.”
Should SpaceX and NASA attempt to launch TESS on Wednesday, April 18, the targeted time for liftoff is expected to be 6:51 p.m. EDT (22:51 GMT). The Falcon 9 will fly out of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40.
When the mission does get underway, TESS will survey 85 percent of the sky for two years to hunt for exoplanets within about 300 light-years from Earth. After the Falcon 9’s second stage delivers the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit around Earth, the spacecraft will use onboard thrusters, and a gravity assist from the Moon, to position itself into a special 2:1 lunar resonance orbit high above Earth. This means the observatory will orbit the planet twice for every time the Moon orbits once.
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.