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I Want to Believe: NASA Prepares New Alien-Hunting TESS Satellite for Lift-Off

© NASAThis illustration shows one possible scenario for the hot, rocky exoplanet called 55 Cancri e, which is nearly two times as wide as Earth
This illustration shows one possible scenario for the hot, rocky exoplanet called 55 Cancri e, which is nearly two times as wide as Earth - Sputnik International
NASA plans to add an advanced satellite to the orbital hunt for exoplanets this April in a launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US, promising huge discoveries.

The space agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in the Sunshine State to undergo final preparations ahead of the upcoming launch.

A picture taken on July 18, 2016 shows US astronaut Jeanette Epps taking part in a water landing simulation during her preflight training outside Moscow - Sputnik International
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According to a NASA spokesperson, once TESS is in orbit, it will use four wide-field cameras to constantly monitor over 200,000 of the brightest observable stars, focusing on temporary dips in brightness caused by planetary transits, as the method is useful in identifying relatively tiny exoplanets.

During its two-year mission to survey the visible galactic neighborhood, NASA expects to identify thousands of exoplanets. Once identified, those exoplanets will be scanned for extraterrestrial life by the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

"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. No ground-based survey can achieve this feat," NASA said in a statement.

"TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars," the statement said.

​Initially, the TESS launch was due to take place March 20, 2018, but was postponed at the request of SpaceX, as the satellite will be launched into orbit on one of the aerospace company's reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

On February 6, SpaceX made history worldwide after it successfully launched the world's most powerful rocket — the Falcon Heavy — inspired and designed by the tech company's founder Elon Musk.

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