NASA’s never-ending quest to uncover distant extraterrestrial worlds will be boosted by SpaceX tonight with the launch of the TESS telescope spacecraft.
The entire launch will be streamed live from Cape Canaveral, Florida, which you can watch in the embedded live stream above.
The live stream will kick off approximately 15 minutes prior to launch.
SpaceX has pencilled in a 30-second launch window which opens at 11.32pm BST (6.32pm EDT).
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will launch onboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In the event things go amiss tonight, a backup launch opportunity is scheduled on Tuesday April 17 at the same time.
Ahead of liftoff, NASA has sealed the TESS satellite in the Falcon 9 payload fairing before being moved to the launch pad.
A static fire test off the rocket was successfully completed last Wednesday April 11.
NASA teased: “Launching Monday, our planet-hunting NASA TESS spacecraft will fly in a unique orbit that’ll allow it to study nearly the entire sky over two years.
“This special orbit is key in potentially finding thousands of new planets outside our solar system.”
TESS will spend approximately two years in orbit in order to scan the depths of deep space for signs of exoplanets – planets outside our solar system.
The spacecraft telescope will observe some 200,000 stars for short drops in brightness which are indicative of exoplanets passing in front of them.
SpaceX said: “The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is NASA’s next planet finder, led out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research.
“TESS will discover new potential planets orbiting bright host stars relatively close to Earth.
“In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will search for tell-tale dips in the brightness of stars that indicate an orbiting planet regularly transiting across the face of its star. “
If the SpaceX launch successfully deploys the satellite tonight without any hiccups, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster will head back down to Earth to attempt a landing.
SpaceX said: “Following stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.”
The entire TESS launch is expected to last less than one hour from countdown to deployment.