SpaceX launches NASA's planet-finding spacecraft TESS

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In terms of exoplanets, NASA's Kepler space telescope has observed more than 300,000 stars and found more than 4,000 exoplanet candidates since it launched in 2009. "With TESS, we're going to be able to get the masses for most of the planets and go the next step and study the composition of the atmospheres".

NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launches from Cape Canaveral Wednesday aboard one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets after getting hit with a 48-hour delay.

NASA's TESS spacecraft will remain in an elongated orbit of the Earth, 67,000 miles away at the very least to keep it well outside of the Van Allen radiation belts. "The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits", NASA says in a Wednesday news release.

LIVE: SpaceX launching NASA's planet hunting satellite from Cape Canaveral.

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Roughly the size of a refrigerator with solar-panel wings and four special cameras, TESS will take about 60 days to reach a highly elliptical orbit between Earth and the moon to begin its observations.

NASA's Tess spacecraft has embarked on a quest to find new worlds around nearby stars that could support life.

The TESS mission, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, is created to find potential planets orbiting stars close to Earth.

The planets discovered by Kepler are too distant and too faint for practical study.

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SpaceX halted Monday's countdown to make extra rocket checks.

But the rocket marks the first under a special certification SpaceX has obtained to carry one of NASA's highest-priority science instruments. The satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Continuing its efforts to cut the cost of space missions by recovering rockets, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a barge - named "Of Course I Still Love You" - in the Atlantic Ocean.

TESS will target 200,000 of the brightest stars in our celestial neighborhood, looking for the faint dimming of starlight as an exoplanet passes over a given star's disk.

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