Last-minute glitch delays launch of space explorer
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.