NASA launched its first-of-its-kind mission to look for worlds or life "beyond our solar system".
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Wednesday.
With an aim is to find thousands of new exoplanets orbiting nearby stars, the rocket's twin solar arrays that will power the spacecraft were successfully deployed
"We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbor life," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
"With missions like the James Webb Space Telescope to help us study the details of these planets, we are ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe."
Over the course of several weeks, NASA said TESS will use six thruster burns to travel in a series of progressively elongated orbits to reach the Moon, which will provide a gravitational assist so that the satellite can transfer into its 13.7-day final science orbit around Earth. After approximately 60 days of check-out and instrument testing, NSA said the spacecraft will begin its work.
"One critical piece for the science return of TESS is the high data rate associated with its orbit," said George Ricker, TESS' principal investigator at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge. "Each time the spacecraft passes close to Earth, it will transmit full-frame images taken with the cameras. That's one of the unique things TESS brings that was not possible before."
For this two-year survey mission, scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors. TESS will use four unique wide-field cameras to map 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky during its first year of observations and 13 sectors of the northern sky during the second year, altogether covering 85 percent of the sky.
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