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Kind: Space observatory

State: Operational

Place: Other

Operator: NASA / MIT



Duration: Planned: 2 years Elapsed: 2 years, 6 months, 21 days

Mission Ending

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending." - Jim Henson


Rocket: Falcon 9 Block 4 (B1045.1)

Kind: NASA / MIT

Manufacturer: Orbital ATK

Mass: 362 kg (798 lb)

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral SLC-40


"Requesting permission for flyby." Maverick - Top Gun


Reference System: Highly elliptical


"The journey, not the arrival, matters; the voyage, not the landing." - Paul Theroux

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a space telescope for NASA's Explorers program, designed to search for exoplanets using the transit method in an area 400 times larger than that covered by the Kepler mission. It was launched on April 18, 2018, atop a Falcon 9 rocket and was placed into a highly elliptical 13.7-day orbit around the Earth. The first light image from TESS was taken on August 7, 2018, and released publicly on September 17, 2018. Over the course of the two-year primary mission, TESS is expected to ultimately detect about 1250 transiting exoplanets orbiting the targeted stars, and an additional 13,000 transiting planets orbiting additional stars in the fields that TESS observed. As of 10 May 2020, TESS has identified 1835 candidate exoplanets, of which 46 have been confirmed so far. After the end of the primary mission around July 4, 2020, data from the prime mission will continue to be searched for planets, while the extended mission will continue to acquire additional data. The primary mission objective for TESS is to survey the brightest stars near the Earth for transiting exoplanets over a two-year period. The TESS satellite uses an array of wide-field cameras to perform a survey of 85% of the sky. With TESS, it is possible to study the mass, size, density and orbit of a large cohort of small planets, including a sample of rocky planets in the habitable zones of their host stars. TESS will provide prime targets for further characterization by the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes of the future. While previous sky surveys with ground-based telescopes have mainly detected giant exoplanets and the Kepler space telescope has mostly found planets around distant stars that are too faint for characterisation, TESS will find many small planets around the nearest stars in the sky. TESS records the nearest and brightest main sequence stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which are the most favorable targets for detailed investigations. TESS uses a novel highly elliptical orbit around the Earth with an apogee approximately at the distance of the Moon and a perigee of 108,000 km. TESS orbits Earth twice during the time the Moon orbits once, a 2:1 resonance with the Moon. The orbit is expected to remain stable for a minimum of ten years. Led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with seed funding from Google, on April 5, 2013, it was announced that TESS, along with the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), had been selected by NASA for launch.