Live Stream Launch of NASA' TESS Planet Hunter Today

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They're now working towards a launch window the evening of Wednesday, 18 April.

Kepler, the first planet-hunting mission of its kind, "was launched to answer one single question: How common is a planet like Earth around a star like the Sun?" said Patricia "Padi" Boyd, director of the TESS guest investigator program at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

That launch will finally happen today with liftoff set for 6:32 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

But later that day, SpaceX announced it was delaying the launch for extra testing.

Aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, the Monday (16 April) launch of TESS was aborted in the final hours as the company looked to make absolutely sure it avoids any costly catastrophe.

TESS is expected to reveal 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, NASA said.

NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or "super-Earth"-sized - no larger than twice as big as our home planet".

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TESS is created to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented by astronomers during the past 20 years and is about to run out of fuel. After its two-year mission, TESS will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope, a space telescope scheduled to launch in May 2020.

The $200m piece of hardware was given the go-ahead to launch aboard the Falcon 9 rocket by NASA's administrators only as recently as February. "Also, they're cooler, so they emit less light, therefore the habitable zone is very close in, and the probability that you're going to have a transit is greatly increased". No satellites have been put into this orbit thus far.

TESS uses the same method as Kepler for finding potential planets, by tracking the dimming of light when a celestial body passes in front of a star. The teeny telescope will replace the Kepler/K2 mission, which has already discovered thousands of exoplanets. The mission will focus on planets circling bright stars that are less than 300 light-years from Earth.

Astronomers in the future, including those working with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, are then expected to be able to study the atmospheres of numerous planets.

There are many definitions of an Earth-like exoplanet.

"One of the numerous stunning things that Kepler let us know is that planets are all over the place and there is a wide range of planets out there".

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