At 6:51pm EDT, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and climbed off the pad at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rocket soared into the clear Florida skies and accelerated TESS further into space to peer deep into the solar system.
After first stage shutdown, the first and second stage separated. The second stage continued to push TESS to its desired orbit as the first stage flipped around to slow down for a picture-perfect landing on the East Coast droneship, "Of Course I Still Love You". This first stage will most likely be reused one more time.
The second stage coasted with TESS on top before performing one last burn approximately 42 minutes after launch. This final burn brought TESS's orbit into its highly eccentric orbit and it separated from the second stage successfully, completing the work for the Falcon 9. TESS will continue to bring itself into the required orbit for its mission.
TESS is NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and will be the next planet finder. It's led out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and will discover new potential exoplanets orbiting stars close to Earth. TESS will search for dips in the brightness of stars that are an indication of an orbiting planet regularly transiting its parent star. It's expected to discover thousands of exoplanet candidates on a two-year survey of the solar neighborhood. TESS is expected to find planets ranging from small, rocky plants to gas giants.