Just before dawn, was launched from Cape Verde, Florida, with a Falcon 9 rocket from Space X of Elon Mask, the new Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the successor to the Kepler telescope “In search of exoplanets.
Launching occurred with a two-day delay due to a last-minute technical problem. Just a few minutes after the launch, the main part of the Falcon rocket was separated from the top with TESS and returned intact to Earth for re-use in the future.
After the appropriate maneuvers lasting about two months, the NASA satellite telescope, which has a refrigerator size and weighs 318 kilos, will be placed in a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth, where no other boat has ever been fitted.
The telescope will make a complete revolution around the Earth every 13.7 days, moving away from Earth 108,000 km (the perigee) to 373,000 kilometers (at the peak). Whenever he approaches Earth, he will send scientists the information he has collected in the meantime.
The TESS will turn the four cameras in the sky to look for traces of planets that pass in front of at least 200,000 nearby stars to Earth, which are from our planet to 300 light years. This will open the way to the even larger American space telescope, James Webb, which will follow in 2020.
In the first year of operation, the telescope will observe the sky of the southern hemisphere, while in the second year of the northern hemisphere, so as to cover over 85% of the sky.
Kepler, which now runs out of fuel and stops operating by the end of 2018, has already found more than 5,000 candidate exoplanets, of which about half have been confirmed by other telescopes. It has also identified nearly two-thirds of the total of approximately 3,700 confirmed exoplanets to date.
TESS will search for a sky area about 350 times larger than Kepler and will focus on smaller, cold and faint stars than our Sun, the red dwarfs, which make up about 90% of the stars of our galaxy. It is expected to find within two years at least 20,000 exoplanets, some of them “earthy”.
The telescope was created by MIT University, which has the scientific responsibility for the cost of 337 million US dollars mission, in collaboration with the Space Flight Center of the NASA Goddard.