SpaceX is about to launch NASA's revolutionary planet-hunting telescope — here's how and when to watch it live

tess transiting exoplanet survey satellite telescope illustration nasaAn illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite in space.NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

  • NASA’s new planet-hunting telescope is scheduled to launch Monday aboard a SpaceX rocket.
  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) may find thousands of worlds relatively close to Earth.
  • Scientists hope to discover about 50 small, rocky planets that may be habitable to alien life.
  • SpaceX and NASA TV will broadcast live video during TESS’s launch at 6:32 p.m. EDT.


NASA’s newest planet-hunting telescope is set to launch into orbit on Monday aboard a rocket built by Elon Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX.

The new spacecraft is called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS.

Scientists at MIT who planned the mission say they could discover thousands of new worlds within 24 months — including 50 Earth-size planets that might be habitable to aliens.

TESS is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6:32 p.m. EDT aboard a 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX will try to recover the rocket’s 16-story booster in a bid to save millions of dollars.

“TESS will discover new potential planets orbiting bright host stars relatively close to Earth,” SpaceX said in a press release. “In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will search for tell-tale dips in the brightness of stars that indicate an orbiting planet regularly transiting across the face of its star.”

If there are any technical glitches, SpaceX may delay the launch to 6:13 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.

There are two ways to watch the telescope launch into space, so bookmark this page — and don’t miss our in-depth coverage of TESS and how the mission could discover dozens of habitable rocky planets near Earth.

SpaceX on YouTube

A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.SpaceX/Flickr (public domain)
SpaceX will broadcast live footage of TESS’s launch, likely starting around 6:15 p.m. EDT, and you can watch that YouTube stream below.

After years of webcasting rocket launches, SpaceX recently earned the government’s scrutiny for the practice — likely due to the jaw-dropping views (and incredible popularity) of its “Starman” video feed in February.

That footage showed Musk’s red Tesla Roadster flying around Earth with a spacesuit-clad dummy in the driver seat. (The vehicle was launched by Falcon Heavy, which is the world’s most powerful operational rocket.)

“There need to be things that inspire you, that make you glad to wake up in the morning and be part of humanity,” Musk said in March. “That is why we did it. We did it for you.”

But soon afterward, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told SpaceX there’s a government restriction that requires a license to show views of Earth from space. SpaceX is applying for a full license — but there shouldn’t be any issues with watching TESS online, since it’s a NASA-funded spacecraft.

“There is no such restriction on government missions,” a SpaceX representative told Business Insider in an email.

SpaceX should go live with the YouTube video embedded below some 15 to 20 minutes before TESS’s 6:32 p.m. EDT launch target on Monday.

NASA on Ustream

NASA TV and NASA Live will begin showing extensive coverage of the launch starting at 6 p.m. EDT.

You can tune in on the space agency’s Ustream channel or simply watch the embedded player below.

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