NASA has selected a planet-tracking satellite for funding, according to a press release that the administration released on Friday. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), proposed by researchers at MIT, will use four telescopes to conduct a survey of the sky, looking specifically for terrestrial planets in the habitable zones surrounding the nearest and brightest stars. Its method of spotting the planets will be similar to that of the Kepler telescope currently in orbit.
MIT’s TESS proposal, along with 11 others, was originally selected for evaluation in October 2011. The project is now set to receive up to $200 million in funding to complete the mission under NASA’s Astrophysics Explorer Program.
While the Kepler telescope is able to resolve distant planets in one specific area of space, Kepler is limited to looking at only 0.28 percent of the entire sky. TESS will be able to survey the entire sky but will be limited to resolving details of nearby stars. It will be able to spot planets ranging in size from Earth equivalents to gas giants.