Orbital ATK-built planet-hunting satellite successfully deployed for NASA
(18 April 2018 - Orbital ATK) Orbital ATK announced that the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), built by the company for NASA, was successfully launched today aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
As the first-ever exoplanet satellite to perform a survey of the entire sky, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to Jupiter-sized, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and in various orbital regimes. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to use four wide-field cameras to detect small planets around bright host stars in the solar neighborhood so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was built at Orbital ATK's Dulles, Virginia, facility. It is the company's 31st science spacecraft delivered to NASA. (courtesy: Orbital ATK)
Liftoff occurred at 6:51 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite separated successfully from the launch vehicle 49 minutes into the mission. Orbital ATK completed the satellite’s post-launch health checks and configuration activities in preparation for a series of in-space maneuvers, including a lunar gravitational assist, to reach its targeted highly-elliptical orbit. Once in-orbit testing has been completed, TESS will begin its initial two-year mission approximately 60 days after launch.
“The data from our first tests show TESS is in good health and performing as expected early in its mission,” said Steve Krein, Vice President of Science and Environmental Satellite Programs at Orbital ATK. “TESS adds to our growing list of successful scientific space missions that have helped us study the Earth and Sun, explore the solar system, and probe the mysteries of the universe. This successful launch marks the 31st science spacecraft we have developed and built for NASA over the last 35 years, and continues to demonstrate Orbital ATK’s expertise in delivering the high-quality satellites our customers expect.”
Orbital ATK has a rich history of designing and manufacturing small space science satellites. From a small, low-cost astrophysics mission like GALEX, used to explore the origin and evolution of galaxies and stars, to Earth-imaging satellites such as the Landsat series, which have been monitoring surface changes for over 45 years, to the Dawn spacecraft, the first deep-space mission to orbit two interplanetary bodies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, the company’s robust spacecraft platforms and comprehensive engineering know-how have enabled many of these satellites to far exceed their design lifetimes.
TESS was built at Orbital ATK’s Satellite Manufacturing Facility in Dulles, Virginia and is based on the company’s LEOStar-2 bus, a flight-proven and flexible satellite platform that accommodates a wide variety of missions. Continuing the company’s legacy for delivering high-performance science and environmental spacecraft, several similar satellites are now in production for upcoming NASA missions that include the ICON heliophysics explorer, also built on a LEOStar-2 platform, as well as the Earth science ICESAT-2 and Landsat-9 satellites and the JPSS-2 weather spacecraft which use the larger LEOStar-3 bus.
TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and managed by the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.
About Orbital ATK
Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 14,000 people across the U.S. and in several international locations.