Last-minute glitch de­lays launch of space ex­plorer

The Northern Star - - WORLD -

AN 11th-hour tech­ni­cal glitch has prompted SpaceX to post­pone its planned launch of a new NASA space te­le­scope de­signed to de­tect worlds be­yond our so­lar sys­tem, de­lay­ing for at least 48 hours a quest to ex­pand as­tronomers’ known in­ven­tory of so-called ex­o­plan­ets.

The Tran­sit Ex­o­planet Sur­vey Satel­lite, or TESS (pic­tured), had been due for lift-off aboard a Fal­con 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Sta­tion in Florida at 8.32am AEST, but SpaceX halted the count­down a lit­tle more than two hours be­fore launch time.

Space Ex­plo­ration Tech­nolo­gies, as bil­lion­aire en­tre­pre­neur Elon Musk’s pri­vate launch ser­vice is for­mally known, said on Twit­ter that the blast-off was scrubbed for the day due to un­spec­i­fied prob­lems in the rocket’s guid- ance con­trol sys­tem. The launch was resched­uled for to­day.

The two-year, $US337 mil­lion ($A434 mil­lion) TESS mis­sion is de­signed to build on the work of its pre­de­ces­sor, the Ke­pler space te­le­scope, which dis­cov­ered the bulk of the 3700 ex­o­plan­ets doc­u­mented by as­tronomers in the past 20 years and is about to run out of fuel.

NASA ex­pects to pin­point thou­sands more pre­vi­ously un­known worlds, per­haps hun­dreds of them Earth-sized or “su­per-Earth”-sized – no larger than twice as big as our home planet.

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