Welcome to KSP Weekly everyone. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled to launch on Monday, April 16 from Cape Canaveral in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This will be the first NASA science launch for Elon Musk’s company, and we’re super hyped about it.
This MIT-led mission is NASA’s newest exoplanet mission that will hopefully find thousands of exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. In a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood, TESS will monitor more than 200,000 stars for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. No ground-based survey can achieve this feat. Using four wide-field cameras, TESS will observe about 85 percent of the entire sky from quite an odd orbit split into 26 different sectors with 13 for each hemisphere.
TESS will fly in a special highly elliptical orbit that maximizes its visual field, and the amount of sky it can image. Once the spacecraft is launched, it will expand its orbit so it can get a gravitational assist from the moon to move it in a stable orbit that is tipped at about 40 degrees from the Moon’s orbital plane.
TESS orbits Earth in about half the time it takes the Moon to orbit once. This will help stabilize the spacecraft’s orbit against the pulls from the Moon’s gravity. During most of the 13.7 day orbit, TESS will be observing the sky, and as it approaches its periapsis with Earth, it will rotate and transfer all its data back to scientists on the ground. We can’t wait to see what scientists will learn with all the data that TESS will be able to compile, and certainly its peculiar orbit might be something that Kerbals could even try to replicate with a satellite of their own.
[Development news start here]
Since the launch of the Making History Expansion, the team has focused on listening to the community and based upon all the provided feedback we’ve been working on providing substantial patches for both the base game and the expansion. As a result, next week we’ll release patch 1.4.3, which will stand out as one significant patch that not only fixes issues and improves various aspects but also adds exciting new content.
For owners of the Making History Expansion, Patch 1.4.3 will add a brand new airfield and launchpad, named after Kerbal’s favorite meal. The Dessert Airfield is coincidentally located in Kerbin’s Desert, an inhospitable biome where the ruins of an ancient civilization were once found. However, the desert has a strategic value as it lies near the equator and not many buildings in the surrounding area are threatened by likely rocket explosions. Kerbals hope that with such a welcoming and pleasing name, rocket scientists will be encouraged to use these installations more often. Both the launchpad and the airfield will be available in all game modes as long as the expansion is installed.
After witnessing SpaceX’s vertical landings on floating drone ships, the team was inspired to include the necessary tools in KSP for players to attempt such feats. So, with this patch we are adding the capability to place mobile launchpads on the surface of water bodies in the expansion. We can’t wait to see what sort of missions the community will come up with once the patch is out.
Three brand new stock missions for the Making History Expansion are being included in this patch as well. These missions take inspiration from humankind’s own space history, but carry their own Kerbal twist. If you want to learn more about these new missions and the patch’s content, be sure to check out this link that contains the 1.4.3 highlights.
- The TESS Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/
- O`Callaghan, J. (2018, April 09). NASA Is About To Launch Its Next Great Planet-Hunting Telescope. Retrieved from http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-is-about-to-launch-its-next-great-planethunting-telescope/
- Brown, K. (2018, March 28). NASA Prepares to Launch Next Mission to Search Sky for New Worlds. Retrieved April 13, 2018, from https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-prepares-to-launch-next-mission-to-search-sky-for-new-worlds