The newest planet-hunter of NASA, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, flew into space Wednesday evening over a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. 

The TESS took the skies at 23.51 BST. It was deployed into the orbit of the Earth 49 minutes later, to begin a series of maneuvers, which will get into its operational orbit by the middle of June. 

Those maneuvers include a close flyby to the moon to assist put TESS on an extremely elliptical path, which swings from 108,000 km to 373,000 km above the Earth. The space vehicle will spend two years observing over 200,000 nearby stars and searching for planets. It is anticipated to explore thousands of previously unknown worlds, a few of them possibly habitable, thru detecting the small signs in light, which happen when every planet passes across the face of the parent star. 

The takeoff was originally planned for Monday, April 16 but postponed because of a possible problem with the guidance system of the rocket. In the event, the takeoff went without delay, and TESS lifted off on a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is comparatively affordable with a cost of $200 million plus another $87 million for takeoff. 

The mission is a descendant of the Kepler spacecraft of NASA that is run by Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics of CU Boulder. During almost ten years in space, Kepler discovered over 2,300 confirmed exoplanets but is today running out of fuel. 

However, TESS isn’t only a replacement for the older mission. The satellite is made to look for planets that are closer to our planet than those, which Kepler was able to discover – 100 light years or less from the sun of the Earth, right next door in astronomical standings. Closer planets are simpler for astronomers to detect. 

Scientists predict that TESS could discover thousands of such exoplanets by taking a 360-degree movie of the sky. However, the importance of the mission goes beyond only putting pins on a map, according to Berta-Thompson, one of the researchers from CU Boulder. As TESS finds new planets, astronomers will answer countless of questions regarding far-flung words, what makes up its atmosphere, or whether if they are icy like Neptune or rocky like Earth. 

Berta-Thompson claimed that on top of all the amazing science that the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite will make possible, he still got caught up in the excitement.