Once launched, the telescope would conduct a two-year all-sky survey program for exploring transiting exoplanets around nearby and bright stars.TESS would be equipped with four wide-angle telescopes and charge-coupled device (CCD) detectors, with a total size of 67 megapixels. Science data, which are pixel subarrays around each of up to 10,000 target stars per field, are transmitted to Earth every two weeks for analysis. Full-frame images with an effective exposure time of two hours are transmitted to the ground as well, enabling astrophysicists to search the data for an unexpected, transient phenomenon, such as the optical counterpart to a gamma-ray burst.
In order to obtain imagery from both locations in both northern and southern hemispheres of the sky, TESS will utilize a lunar resonant orbit called P/2, a never-before-used orbit. This highly elliptical orbit can be stable; the mission apogee can be timed to keep the craft away from the Moon, which acts as a destabilizing agent. The majority of the orbit is spent well outside the Van Allen belts, to avoid damage to TESS. Every 13.7 days at its orbit's perigee, TESS will downlink the data it has collected during the orbit to Earth over a period of approximately 3 hours.