SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches NASA’s TESS Spacecraft

TESS exoplanet satellite (Credit: NASA)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday evening. The spacecraft successfully separated from the booster’s second stage about 50 minutes after it was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

TESS will use four cameras to search 85 percent of the sky for exoplanets orbiting other stars. The mission is a follow-on to the Kepler Space Telescope, which is completing a 9-year mission to survey the other 15 percent of the sky.

The on time launch occurred at 6:51 p.m. EDT. NASA reports the spacecraft’s solar arrays deployed on schedule, providing the satellite with power.

Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Congrats to the SpaceX, NASA and OATK teams.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Looks like these kinds of astronomy missions will become a constant background with one always operating. Should make for a very productive method over the next few decades. As a fun exercise I’m going to look up number of known asteroids by date, then consider the number of knows exo-planets as equaling the number of known asteroids by what point in the 20th Cen. I don’t know if central data service exists now, but if not, soon there will be a computer room who’s job it will be to integrate and refine the known orbits and keep track of any observations taken of all the new worlds. Very very cool.

  • Eric R.

    Did anyone notice the fire above the rocket nozzles? At one point it looked like the fire almost reached up the landing legs. I have never seen this happen before. From T+00:58-01:36

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, another flawless launch by SpaceX. Congratulations on a job well done.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The distance the exhaust is going up the rocket on a landing return varies because of a number of factors, which is why you make sure that part of the vehicle is able to take it.

  • JS Initials

    Now if NASA can only launch JWST without additional delays.

  • duheagle

    Looked the same as always to me. You should go back and re-watch ascent video from previous missions. The tracking cams at the Cape capture some impressive footage.

    Given that the Merlin engine is a gas generator design, you would expect to see exhaust from the pump drive turbos above the level of the nozzles. This exhaust is probably at least a bit fuel-rich so it would continue to burn once hitting the outside air. The air flow at the ass end of a rocket tends to be complicated so some minor flames poking out here and there is not a big surprise.

    There was obviously no damage. The stage did three more burns before its successful intact landing, two of these being into the wind. Just another typical day in SpaceX-land.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Oh, it could be LAUNCHED right now by the Europeans if we wanted to. As to it working or not ??? I don’t mean to sound glib, but if it fails the next 6m class space telescope can be much simpler and heaver. Vulcan, New Glenn, and BFR should have the fairing size and throw weight to replace it with a less risky approach.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Looks like the Block 5’s are coming on line. Should reduce costs even more, and increase reliability.

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