Today SpaceX is launching NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The TESS will be deployed into an elliptical orbit about 48 minutes after the launch. You can watch a live stream of the launch below. The launch window begins at 6:51 p.m. Eastern and lasts for 30 seconds.
After the stage separation, SpaceX is going to attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage on the droneship called “Of Course I Still Love You.” The ship is stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Elon Musk tweeted on April 15 that SpaceX was going to try to bring a rocket upper stage back using a “giant party balloon” and then land it on a bouncy house.
Most people guess that Musk was joking, but you never quite know with him. When he talked about boring a tunnel in California, everyone thought he was joking about that too. Someone asked Musk how he would pick where it deorbits, and he responded on Twitter:
And then he talked about it some more, like it’s really going to happen:
So this might be a very interesting launch today. But more than likely, these plans are for a future launch, since the second stage today is expected to not return to Earth.
The TESS is NASA’s next planet finder. It will be used to discover new potential planets orbiting bright stars close to Earth. TESS will conduct a two year survey looking for dips in star brightness that might indicate an orbiting planet. The satellite will catalogue thousands of exoplanet candidates, including planets that are twice the size of Earth.
According to the press kit, here is the timeline for today’s launch:
COUNTDOWN Hour/Min/Sec Events Before Launch
- 01:13:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
- 01:10:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
- 00:35:00 LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
- 00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
- 00:01:00 Flight computer commanded to begin final prelaunch checks – 00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
- 00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
- 00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
- 00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff
TIMELINE Hour/Min/Sec Events After Launch
- 00:01:16 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
- 00:02:29 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
- 00:02:32 1st and 2nd stages separate
- 00:02:39 2nd stage engine starts
- 00:03:01 Fairing deployment 00:06:29
- 1st stage entry burn 00:07:56 1st stage landing
- 00:08:20 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
- 00:43:10 2nd stage engine restarts 00:44:03
- 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)
- 00:49:35 TESS deployment