Postponed SpaceX launch set for tonight

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star

Barring any unforeseen setbacks, SpaceX will launch NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) at 6:51 p.m Eastern on Wednesday.

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launch is the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system that will study and document 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for any transiting exoplanets.

"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.

SpaceX said all systems and weather were "go" for blast-off on Wednesday of its first high-priority science mission for NASA, a planet-hunting space telescope whose launch was delayed for two days by a rocket-guidance glitch. These are periodic dips in starlight that occur when a planet's orbit takes it in front of its host star.

Still on the lookout from on high, Kepler alone has discovered more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets.

The TESS mission is created to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which has discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.

Scientists estimate TESS will discover more than 50 Earth-sized planets, and hundreds that are less than twice Earth's size.

Like Kepler, TESS is created to locate exoplanets by searching for what astronomers call transits.

"With Kepler, we now know the planets exist, we have the size of the planets and in some cases, we have the masses", said Dr. Stephen Rinehart, a project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to expanding the search for other forms of life in the great beyond, TESS also underscores how recent advances in technology aid that search.

A new voyage is hopefully setting sail tonight; one that could lead to the discovery of many new worlds, some of which may even harbor life.

Associate Administrator for NASA Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said: "The NASA TESS spacecraft is now safely in space after a lovely launch".

Weather is looking good for today's launch, with the Air Force's 45th Space Wing weather squadron forecasting that conditions will be more than 90 percent favorable for the launch.

Meanwhile, the second stage will push TESS onward to orbit. TESS will be deployed into a highly elliptical orbit approximately 48 minutes after launch.

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