Tech

Watch SpaceX launch NASA's planet hunting satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket

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SpaceX is set to launch Wednesday evening from Florida in its latest mission for NASA, launching a new planet-hunting satellite into orbit around the Earth.

Elon Musk's rocket company will livestream the 6:51 p.m. ET launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Delayed multiple times from March, the company's mission to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (or TESS) for NASA is now ready.

The mission will launch using a Falcon 9 rocket, which will return to land on the SpaceX autonomous ship in the Atlantic Ocean about 8 minutes after liftoff.

Nicknamed "the planet hunter," the $337 million TESS will deploy into its first orbit just under an hour after launch, when SpaceX's part of the mission will be complete. TESS will then use a series of complex maneuvers to head into a never-before-used orbit, reaching about 232,000 miles beyond the Earth, to photograph the skies.

At only 800 pounds, TESS is a fraction of the weight Falcon 9 can lift into orbit. NASA gave SpaceX the contract to launch TESS into orbit above the Earth at a cost of $87 million.

While the Falcon 9's lower stage is expected to land, SpaceX will likely not be attempting to recover the rocket's upper stage on this mission, as that part of the rocket is not expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. Musk floated an idea for upper stage recovery in a series of tweets recently, saying his company would bring Falcon 9's upper stage "back from orbital velocity using a giant party balloon."

Musk wants to slow the upper stage down during reentry and target a landing aboard a "catcher ship" like the boat, known as Mr. Steven, that SpaceX is using to attempt fairing recoveries in the Pacific.

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