SpaceX was originally poised to ignite the engines of one of its flagship Falcon 9 rockets Monday evening, but it now seems that some unexpected delays have scrubbed those plans.
The commercial space company’s Falcon 9 rocket stands tall at a launch pad located in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Sitting quietly inside the rocket’s storage bay is NASA’s Transitioning Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
Image Credit: NASA
While delays like the one experienced on Monday are never ideal, it was necessary so that SpaceX could obtain additional time for reviewing the Falcon 9 rocket’s navigation system, among other things.
"Launch teams are standing down today to conduct additional GNC (guidance, navigation, and control) analysis," SpaceX explained in a public statement on Twitter.
Fortunately, the review process shouldn’t take too long; SpaceX will reportedly attempt the launch once again during the evening of Wednesday, April 18th.
The launch of TESS is significant given the timing. As NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope copes with limited fuel resources, TESS can pick up where it leaves off. Furthermore, TESS’ superior observation equipment should help astronomers discover and study a bevy of new exoplanets.
"TESS is equipped with four very sensitive cameras that will be able to monitor nearly the entire sky," said George Ricker, TESS’ principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). "That is about 20 times what the Kepler mission was able to detect."
Assuming TESS reaches outer space on the newly-planned date, it will then undergo a 60-day probationary period in which NASA engineers will test the spacecraft’s equipment to ensure proper function.
If all goes well, TESS will begin scanning the sky for dips in starlight, which indicate the presence of an exoplanet orbiting its host star many light years away from Earth.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see whether SpaceX moves forward with its newfangled launch date.