NASA’s New Exoplanet Hunter is Using A Clever Orbit

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The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is launching on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and some clever work by the designers has enabled it to reach an ideal orbit with almost no work by the spacecraft. Instead much of the work is carried out by the Falcon 9 upper stage with only small adjustments made by the spacecraft’s attitude control thrusters. By doing this they were able to make the spacecraft even cheaper and fit it into the small budget available.

  1. Ad Astra Per Aspera

    Now do it in KSP with a 200m/s budget.

  2. Bento Box

    All of my KSP orbits are like this.

  3. Nicholas Hull

    fantastic explanation!

  4. DenseAlloy

    IMO one of your best videos, Scott. I am a space wanna be nerd but, I am flat out too damn dumb and a lot of the time your vids, while they do a good job explaining the science or maths, I have to watch several times and do additional research simply because I don’t have the foundation. It’s good that I have to do this as I do recognize the knowledge gained. But with this one the info and graphics plus the explanation of the cost benefits just really had me nodding along in agreement. Thank you for helping to fill in the chasm in my U.S. public education.

  5. Cccel134679

    That is impressively clever. Gravity assists are just so magical. Well explained

  6. Alpha Adhito

    Because they are NASA?

  7. binaryalgorithm

    Gravity is not always your enemy.

  8. Jeff Vader

    Exoplanet hunting always gets me excited, I can’t wait to see what weird solar systems we find, maybe even a clone of our’s. That’d be freaky and cool.

  9. Marco

    Hope they put RCS for small orbit corrections. I always forget it and realize when I am on my way.

  10. fireofenergy

    Delayed but still successfully released from F9!

  11. Accumulated Sense

    Got to love the intricate details of orbital mechanics.

  12. freedomis4all

    Cool interim while waiting for the second engine second start. Thanks!

  13. Fred Derf

    Launch is April 18, 2018, The 30-second launch window opens at 6:51 p.m. EDT

  14. Harry Ganz

    I hope this mission goes well as that final orbit is a thing of beauty.

  15. Zwenk Wiel

    Lol NASA doesnt even have procedural fairings XD

  16. Shudnawz

    Wouldn’t a good word be “astrogation”? Astronomics and navigation.

  17. Anthony M

    Thanks to KSP and your great videos about ksp, I understood a lot more than I should have ;)

  18. Moto Mass

    Fascinating, thank you.

  19. Elden Crom

    Do reaction wheel induced vibrations cause any reduction in camera resolution or blurring?

  20. Scriptminer

    Very interesting!! That is a very clever way of getting everything to work well – I wonder how they come up with orbits like that!

  21. Rolf W

    Wow, that orbit is really cool. Thanks for explaining it!

  22. Dr2r Compilation

    I got a mod which gave a telescope like tess in KSP

  23. Jim Cole

    This satellite should give us some impressive imaging without getting much interference due to the orbit. I do love how you slipped into KSP talk when you first mention the apogee by using kerbal terms :-)

  24. Thendiman

    This budget means ULA will never stand a chance.I like it😂

  25. kurčina

    thanks to KSP, i actually know what youre talking about ;D

  26. PhasyX

    Tess sounds like the twin of Ticles

  27. Micah van Everdingen

    salt… 17 april 0:32 hours…. Its way past bedtime for me:(

  28. Anyoldion

    Interesting, dunno about anyone else but I find the earth gets in the way quite often, sometimes it suddenly jumps up and smacks me in the face.
    I’ve learned this means it’s time to go home.

  29. Kjetil Jensen

    I think it is delayed to wednesday. Good for me bc thats my day off. :)

  30. Brian Wyters

    Nice shirt with “The Long Dark” on it. I saw some people play it a long time ago.

  31. Peter Mogensen

    science is awesome …
    … sad they just got science denier as administrator.

  32. Mark McCulfor

    The launch didn’t go as hoped ) :

  33. MayContainJoe

    Now imagine explaining this to a general TV audience…
    Thanks to KSP we all know our orbital mechanics.

  34. Raytruth

    EFFICIENCY BRO!! *high five

  35. TechyBen

    What is this, a satellite for ants? You’re going to need one at least 3 times as big!
    PS, 200 m/dv? I think me and a couple of mates could manage that! Just let me go get my boots first!

  36. Patrick T

    Holy crap, something actually brilliant and innovative from NASA. I haven’t seen that in a while.

  37. Zaf Vlogs and gaming

    The time is changed to Wednesday April 18

  38. M. S. L.

    Seems like they would be implementing all cost saving techniques, on all missions, regardless of budget size… There’s always room to upgrade systems elsewhere.

  39. David Viehtauer

    @Scott Manley I really hoped you make a video about TESS’s orbit! And here you go! I can count on you. Fantastic! :D

  40. TMoD7007

    They are rocket scientists… they can do stuff that are literally rocket science! ;)

  41. David Owens

    Thank you Scott – great explanation !😁👍

  42. Captain Charlie

    Thanks this really cleared up the mission for me 👍🏻

  43. Ryan Voll

    Thank you for letting me know about this launch today.
    I’ll keep my eyes open for when SpaceX goes live.

  44. Eric Pigeon

    Wait wait wait ! So the way forward is not more boostersssss? HERESY!!!!

  45. Mosern1977

    I’ve done similar (unintentionally) things to my spaceship orbits in KSP.

  46. SciSky

    TESS should be an exciting step as we get ready for JWST. Hopefully TESS can find some exciting exoplanets that have the potential to harbor life! Then JWST can really hone in on the best ones.
    Great video! I didn’t know about the unique orbit until I watched this!

  47. Miki Cerise

    I’ve got four kerbals currently stranded on Tekto that I’m looking to get home on a shoestring dV budget.

  48. Mike Keller

    Would love to see a follow up video and see how they did!

  49. dork18777

    Thanks for breakdown. I had heard about the orbit being something out of the ordinary and this explained it much better. Thank you!

  50. Ben Hollis

    Awww I missed the “I’m Scott Manley, fly safe!”

  51. David Robine

    Great explanation, as always, Scott! Thanks.

  52. Pall mall

    Kepler was launched in March of 2009!!

  53. MXMach

    MRW When MechJeb does all the calculations for you. /s
    Great video as always, and facinating how they could exploit the gravitational forces to max performance.

  54. Link's Space Program

    It got scrubbed! Sadly

  55. TheFLOW1978

    I’ve been asking this myself over the last couple of days. Thank you for that.

  56. jt lu

    Thanks for the updates!I love all this “Space Activity”!!

  57. Aaron Curtis

    Scott, please never change the way you say “explorer.”

  58. Elias Gallegos

    The launch is delayed to Wednesday!!!

  59. ICantThinkOfAUsername

    >Be me
    >Broke AF
    >Do quick mafz
    >Moon finna yeet this
    >Wish me luck, anons

  60. Colin Paddock

    Nice shirt Scott! You going to post any Wintermute gameplay?

  61. PIE C

    go tess go…super excited….sience ROCK AND ROLL!

  62. dwadl

    great video. it’s remarkable how much i understand about the terminology just from playing KSP

  63. MayContainJoe

    Now imagine explaining this to a general TV audience…
    Thanks to KSP we all know our orbital mechanics.

  64. M H

    Considering NASA does not seem like it wants to give up on costly rockets, I guess this is how we are going to get any science.

  65. Christopher Doll

    Love that faring. I’d be embarrassed if I did that in Kerbal Space Program.

  66. Alex Knauth

    How exactly do they get a gravity assist that will incline the orbit? Do they aim for a spot just “north” or “south” of the moon? And then how do they shift the phase of the orbit so that it never goes near the moon again? If they end up in an orbit with a small integer ratio with the moon that also started at the moon, they’ll go near the moon again pretty soon. So do they wait a couple orbits with a different ratio before turning into that small-integer-ratio orbit?

  67. Kaos983

    I am so glad I subbed to this channel a couple years ago. As always another very informative video, thank you Scott for giving us a little bit more knowledge in our day.

  68. Raphael Brandão

    I feel so dumb watching this kind of video. Simple amazing how precise this complex systems are.
    Thank you so much for breaking this down for us.
    Kudos for the team and you!

  69. Theodor Trommler

    Very informative, thank you.
    Subscribed instantly.

  70. R.Instro

    If using the applied knowledge of scientific processes to produce a desired set of works qualifies as “engineering,” then the fitting of TESS’ orbit to its mission goals viz. the available hardware, resources & safety concerns is probably best labeled as such. No need to make up or hunt down new terms when a perfectly good one already applies. =)

  71. skyhawksp

    Really interesting! I’m excited to see how it progresses

  72. Daniel Lopez

    Are you feeling alright today?

  73. therasheck

    The best NASA projects are offen low budget.

  74. MrVipitis

    I love to know about more interesting orbits that actually get used, the cycler was really interesting. Maybe something about comets and missions to near earth astroids?
    So in 61 days TESs will reach science operation and we hope to find out, that our solar system isn’t as special as some thought due to biased in knowing more hot Jupiter though Kepler. What are the expected achievements here? Finding more and more rock lick exoplanets and learning about solar systems and planet formation? Finding system within our reach or an interstellar probe?

  75. M Hilmy Fauzi

    I’m already excited for this mission because it has “Exoplanet” in the name, now I’m even more excited because of the orbit.

  76. Troy Lov

    The $200 million budget is for the satellite alone. Launch costs are tacked on after

  77. Brett Sedi

    Looks like TESS is delayed 48 hours, launch is now 18 April.

  78. TinyFoxTom

    So they won’t have to blow up the Earth for obstructing their view of another planet. Warner Bros. must be proud.

  79. Viking Teddy

    Thank you for this. A very easy to understand explanation.
    Top be fair, you have a very soothing voice. You could read a phonebook to me.

  80. Austin Dunbar


  81. Steven Miller

    Thanks for giving me new levels of appreciation for what these launches are all about.

  82. The Exoplanets Channel

    *can’t wait for the launch!*

  83. Andros Kai

    “exploder class” that’s a ballsy name right there…

  84. DokVis

    Wait, TESS? The Elder Scrolls Skyrim? God damn it Todd Howard

  85. John Burr

    I had heard there was something special about the orbit and was curious. Thanks for the timely info.

  86. Eltaurus

    The integer period relative to the Moon is not a Kozai resonance, it is a mean motion resonance (MMR). Kozai resonance is the libration of argument of pericenter, coupled with the libration of eccentricity and inclination.
    Kozai resonance does not necessarily require MMR (it was first discovered for non mean motion resonant orbits, actually), while MMR does not always lead to Kozai resonance. And the high inclination you are talking about is required only for Kozai resonance without MMR. In case of MMR, Kozai resonances can occur for small inclinations as well.

  87. bremda miller

    Great video, didn’t know about the orbit thing.Thanks for the info.

  88. Nathanael Vetters

    TESS launch standing down for 48 hours. 🙁

  89. Nikhil Pande

    This is why I love Scott Manley. I literally learn something new every video I click. You are my favourite space Youtuber atm, right after PBS Space Time and SciShow Space

  90. qqq1701

    For more savings they could have put one of those wifi SD cards in the camera. When it swings by Earth it will hit the wifi and send the pics.

  91. Eto Hige Gamer Culture

    Nice shirt.

  92. Will BKR


  93. SeanFalloy

    Cool! I am much more excited about this mission than I was 7 minutes ago.

  94. Derek Boni

    I always want to play Kerbal Space Program when ever I watch Scott.

  95. Frode Stokseth

    Interesting fact: The F9 second stage will be going much farther than TESS. It will be disposed of on an hyperbolic escape trajectory to a heliocentric orbit. They will need to separate TESS soon-ish after reaching the transfer orbit and then do a small extra firing to accelerate the stage to escape velocity. Surprisingly little extra propellant will be needed for this, since the required delta-V for escape from this high-energy orbit is small and the stage will be light.

  96. MayContainJoe

    Now imagine explaining this to a general TV audience…
    Thanks to KSP we all know our orbital mechanics.

  97. Noel Ruppenthal

    SpaceX shoulda used the procedural fairings mod

  98. RMoribayashi

    The Lagrange points get all the hype but this is some seriously impressive orbital mechanics.

  99. RAVA Corey

    Looks like an orbit I accidentally get in Kerbal all the time.

  100. Ram Homier

    They better F5 when they get close to the moon cause these things are finicky.

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