June 9, 2016 – The flight Master Avionics Unit (MAU) developed by SEAKR Engineering, Inc. for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission has been shipped to Orbital ATK. The MAU provides spacecraft and payload control, telemetry monitoring, power distribution high-speed payload data collection and storage.
TESS is an Explorer-class planet finder. In the first-ever space-borne all-sky transit survey, TESS will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, orbiting a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances. The principal goal of the TESS mission is to detect small planets with bright host stars in the solar neighborhood, so that detailed characterizations of the planets and their atmospheres can be performed.
TESS will monitor more than 500,000 stars during a two year mission, searching for temporary drops in brightness caused by planetary transits. Transits occur when a planet’s orbit carries it directly in front of its parent star as viewed from Earth. TESS is expected to catalog more than 3,000 transiting exoplanet candidates, including a sample of approximately 500 Earth-sized and ‘Super Earth’ planets, with radii less than twice that of the Earth. TESS will detect small rock-and-ice planets orbiting a diverse range of stellar types and covering a wide span of orbital periods, including rocky worlds in the habitable zones of their host stars.
TESS stars will be 30-100 times brighter than those surveyed by the Kepler satellite; thus,TESS planets should be far easier to characterize with follow-up observations. These follow-up observations will provide refined measurements of the planet masses, sizes, densities, and atmospheric properties.
TESS will provide prime targets for further, more detailed characterization with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), as well as other large ground- based and space-based telescopes of the future. TESS’s legacy will be a catalog of the nearest and brightest stars hosting transiting exoplanets, which will comprise the most favorable targets for detailed investigations in the coming decades.
From its planned high-Earth orbit, TESS will approach close enough to the Earth for high data-downlink rates, while remaining above the planet’s harmful radiation belts.
TESS is expected to launch in August 2017.
The lead institution for TESS is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which hosts the Principal Investigator, Dr. George Ricker. The MIT Lincoln Laboratory is responsible for the cameras, including the lens assemblies, detector assemblies, lens hoods, and camera mount. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides project management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Orbital ATK (OA) builds and operates the spacecraft. The mission is operated from the OA Mission Operations Center.
SEAKR Engineering, Inc. (SEAKR) was founded in the early 1980s and was incorporated in 1983 specifically to revolutionize spacecraft memory systems by replacing tape recorders with emerging solid‑state technologies for data storage. SEAKR has grown their product lines to support a variety of satellite subsystems including: processors, command and data handling systems, advanced communications payloads, and manned space hardware. SEAKR’s campus is located in the Denver Technology Center in Centennial, Colorado.