SpaceX Falcon 9 Ready To Launch NASA's TESS Satellite From Cape Canaveral

Solar panels are deployed on NASA's TESS satellite in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center

Using balloons to salvage the upper stage would allow the aerospace firm to re-use the module on future missions.

Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of mission assurance, participated in a NASA briefing on Sunday ahead of the launch of the space agency's new exoplanet-hunting mission TESS, which is scheduled to go into orbit on Monday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The TESS mission has opportunities to launch through April 26 (except April 22) before NASA's Launch Services Program, based at Kennedy Space Center, would shift its focus to a planned May 5 launch of the InSight Mars lander from California on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Representatives of SpaceX believe that rocket is going to launch on the droneship "Of Course I Still Love You".

Last month, Musk said the spaceship is already under construction and should be on track to start test flights next year.

The launch was retargeted for Wednesday, with an anticipated liftoff time of 6:51 p.m. ET (3:51 p.m. PT).


Two SpaceX Falcon Heavy boosters make a simultaneous landing after launching the first Falcon Heavy rocket into orbit on February 6, 2018.

SpaceX has perfected reuse of the booster stage many times, but the upper stage proved more complicated. The satellite is the next step in NASA's search for exoplanets.

The observatory will detect transits, or blips in starlight, as planets pass between TESS and their host stars. These ground-based telescopes will collaborate with other ground-based telescopes to measure the masses of the planets. TESS will record the nearest and brightest main sequence stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which are the most favorable targets for detailed investigations.

Vehicles re-entering the planet's atmosphere from low-Earth orbit are moving several thousand miles per hour. And follow on Twitter at @flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FlameTrench.

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