Musk's SpaceX Launches Planet-Hunter Satellite to Orbit

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But TESS will be gazing at star systems that are much closer than those studied by Kepler, Ricker said.

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.

TESS is a scout, equipped with four high-tech cameras to systematically capture images of 200,000 of the Milky Way's stars over the next two years.

The TESS launch was called off April 16 to allow scientists to conduct more guidance navigation and control analysis of the rocket, NASA officials wrote on Twitter.

"One of the many fantastic things that Kepler told us is that planets are everywhere and there are all kinds of planets out there", said Patricia "Padi" Boyd, director of the TESS guest investigator program at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.

"It will spend the next 60 days getting to its proper orbit where it will search for unknown worlds beyond our solar system".

The mission launch can be watched live via webcast on SpaceX's website or on NASA TV.

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The engine of the Falcon 9's Merlin 1D booster had ignited at 2:30 PM (EDT) on as a hold-down clamp that firmly kept the rockets on Earth at the 40 launch pad of the Cape Canaveral.

Boiling atmospheres, roiling winds, dead shells of entities once vibrant - scientists have discovered some pretty unbelievable exoplanets in the past few years. Scientists expect to discover thousands of planets that, over time, will undergo further scrutiny by powerful telescopes in space and on Earth. For each target, TESS will create a kind of flip-book of images that will tell the story of how the star's brightness changes over time.

Once in orbit, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess, will peer at hundreds of thousands of bright neighboring stars, seeking planets that might support life.

"This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances", NASA said in a statement. Researchers would be able to use it to analyze the starlight that filters through the planets' atmospheres, looking for hints of habitability.

TESS's launch was originally scheduled for yesterday, but was rescheduled for tonight after weather concerns put the safety of the launch into question.

Meanwhile, the second stage will push TESS onward to orbit. TESS' discoveries will then be examined in greater detail by the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the wildly successful Hubble, scheduled for launch in 2020.