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SpaceX to launch NASA’s new planet-hunting spacecraft Monday

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is expected to launch Monday to begin its two-year exoplanet-hunting mission outside of our solar system.

According to the agency, the spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida no earlier than 6:32 p.m. EST Monday.

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“This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances,” according to NASA’s TESS webpage. “No ground-based survey can achieve this feat.”

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Similar to the successful Kepler Space Telescope, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 stars and any drops in brightness that may indicate potential planetary transits.

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But unlike the Kepler Space Telescope, which was only able to examine stars in a limited area of space, the smaller TESS instrument was designed to observe the entire sky and find even brighter stars than Kepler could.

TESS comes equipped with four cameras with the ability to find approximately 500 Earth-sized and “Super Earth” exoplanets, astronomers predict.

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According to ArsTechnica, while the spacecraft is outbound from Earth, it will be able to transmit data from more than 66,486 miles above the planet’s surface at its closest approach.

But it will take about 60 days after Monday’s launch for TESS to get to its intended orbit.

NASA plans to stream launch coverage beginning at 6 p.m. on NASA TV.

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