Watch NASA launch next planet-hunting satellite aboard SpaceX Falcon 9

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The telescope was due to go up from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 18:32 local time on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

In a statement tonight, NASA said: "The TESS spacecraft is in excellent health, and remains ready for launch". Of those, around 500 are expected to be Earth-sized or super-Earth planets (planets with a greater mass than Earth), and some should sit in the habitual, or Goldilocks, zone around their respective star.

The Tess mission will go up on a Falcon rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida and survey almost the entire sky over the course of the next two years.

The new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite could give us the best chance yet at finding them. According to NASA, the cameras will be observing around 200,000 bright stars within Earth's 300 light-year radius.

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Even if TESS does not immediately find possible homes for alien life, it will essentially conduct a census of our galactic neighborhood, offering other insights into planets and solar systems.

It is created to look stars of all ages and sizes within a few hundred light-years of Earth, and it will be able to canvass the entire sky in just two years.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, will look for dips in brightness coming from distant stars, a sign that planets are crossing the stars in orbit. NASA says it will be able to detect them when they periodically block part of the light from their host stars. It's expected to locate more planets until the James Webb Space Telescope officially launches in 2020, which has already had two delays. "Looking at how long it takes a planet to orbit its star, scientists are able to determine the shape of the planet's orbit and how long it takes the planet to circle its sun". Then, on regular intervals, the data on the identified planets will be transmitted back to Earth, which astronomers can use for follow-up studies. These ground-based telescopes will collaborate with other ground-based telescopes to measure the masses of the planets. Kepler might have stumbled on a fair number of rocky planets during its two missions, but astronomers expect TESS will find more than a thousand - and fill a huge gap on our list. It will send TESS into a high-elliptical orbit around our planet, like that of the Moon.

While you wait for launch you can also watch my interview with one of the lead scientists from the TESS team, Sara Seager of MIT, in the video below.

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