Wednesday, December 17, 2014

SpaceX to Launch NASA's Next-generation Exoplanet Hunter

Artist's rendering of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Credit: NASA

NASA has selected SpaceX to provide launch services for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission. TESS will launch aboard a Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle, with liftoff targeted for August 2017 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The total cost for NASA to launch TESS is approximately $87 million, which includes the launch service, spacecraft processing, payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry, and other launch support requirements.

TESS’s science goal is to detect transiting exoplanets orbiting nearby bright stars. During a three-year funded science mission, TESS will sample hundreds of thousands of stars in order to detect a large sample of exoplanets, with an emphasis on discovering Earth- and super-Earth-sized planets in the solar neighborhood.

TESS will monitor the brightnesses of more than 500,000 stars during a two year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet's orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than 3000 transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of about 500 Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.

The Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for management and oversight of the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch services for TESS. The TESS Mission is led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with oversight by the Explorers Program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Credit: NASA

No comments:

Post a Comment