The launch of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) stands postponed, with the space administration and SpaceX now working towards a targeted launch on April 18, 2018.

NASA made the announcement hours before the scheduled launch at 6:32 pm CDT on Monday (April 16).

Meteorologists with the US Air Force 45th Space Wing had predicted an “80 per cent chance” of favourable weather for the April 16 launch. The primary weather concern at that moment was strong winds, according to a NASA statement.

While no reason for the change in schedule was mentioned, the agency said, “Launch teams are standing down today to conduct additional Guidance Navigation and Control analysis, and teams are now working towards a targeted launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on Wednesday, April 18.”

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TESS exoplanet
An artist’s concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. (Photo: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/www.nasa.gov)

The statement said the TESS spacecraft was in “excellent health”, and “ready for launch”. TESS will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

TESS aims to detect exoplanets including those that could support life. Exoplanets are planets outside the solar system.

According to a statement issued by NASA earlier, the spacecraft, with the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth. Once there, TESS will spend about two years surveying 200,000 of the brightest stars near the Sun to search for planets outside the solar system.

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According to NASA, TESS is its Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Dr George Ricker of MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research serves as principal investigator for the mission.

Additional partners include Orbital ATK, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Space Telescope Science Institute. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission. NASA’s Launch Services Program is responsible for launch management.