Celebrating TESS: Six Years of Exoplanet Discovery and Mission Success

Six years ago, on May 30th 2018, the TESS spacecraft executed a Period Adjust Maneuver (PAM) to insert the spacecraft into its final 2:1 Lunar Resonant mission orbit. This concluded a series of maneuvers after launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 that targeted a Lunar flyby to swing the orbit plane out of the ecliptic plane and avoid long duration eclipses for more than 18 years.

Missions like TESS have the potential to return valuable science for decades, as long as the spacecraft can survive. Careful mission design can greatly increase the chances of mission survival beyond primary mission completion. The 2:1 resonance of the TESS orbit removed any need for orbit station keeping, allowing for long-term prediction of eclipse durations. Monte Carlo analysis during operations then enabled the flight dynamics team to actively target PAM to avoid any that could be mission-ending.

TESS is now in its second extended mission after 6 highly-productive years of exoplanet discovery! SEE’s Ryan Lebois and Craig Nickel supported NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) during the mission design and operations of TESS through successful mission orbit insertion.

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Read Ryan Lebois and Craig Nickel’s conference paper to learn more.