The new planet haunting satellite TESS by NASA completes its first post-launch firing on Saturday after the launch on Wednesday 19th April. According to reports, the spacecraft will be sent to the moon for a flyby by next month, and the final operation to the science orbit will take place in mid-June.
The first thruster was fired on Saturday by TESS after it reached apogee. It is the only distant point in the earth’s orbit with an altitude of 170,000 miles.
The launch of TESS was on the top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The shape of Falcon 9 is quite intriguing like the upper stage has two engines for firing before positioning the 798-pound observatory after 50 minutes of lift-off.
TESS is placed into an oval-shaped orbit from where it will operate for the next two months. According to Robert Lockwood, the TESS program manager the first step was planned for early Wednesday when TESS swings back to earth at its first perigee.
The five thrusters mounted at the base of the spacecraft are used especially for the orbital adjustment, and the four spinning wheels to keep it properly pointed.
Lockwood in an interview said that the two extra perigee burns are planned at the end of the second and third orbit of TESS for proper tuning.
After the launch on Wednesday, the ground controllers at ATK’s headquarters in Virginia completed the entire communication system test, important computer checkouts, and other tests to see that the spacecraft is ready for the big journey
TESS is carrying four high-quality megapixel cameras, and each of them has a red- sensitive CCD detectors. The use of detectors is to hunt for planets passing through in front of their own stars. The software algorithms will also help astronomers to scan the entire sky after the images are being sent by satellite.
The cameras built by a team from MIT will be doing a proper survey which will cover more than 85 % of the sky, and it will include all the far away and nearby stars.
According to a statement from Lockwood the first major thruster firing of TESS will reduce its apogee altitude by June, and by 17th of that month, it will reach the final science obit to begin the actual hunt of the planets.
The final statement from Lockwood reads “The launch was absolutely perfect with proper timing and we can only hope that TESS will fulfil its purpose.