NASA's TESS satellite took off from Cape Canaveral just before midnight

NASA has launched a new mission it hopes will discover thousands of new worlds beyond our solar system.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched from Cape Canaveral just before midnight last night.

The satellite will use four cameras to hunt for planets around some of the closest and brightest stars in the sky.

The spacecraft will build upon the success of the Kepler space telescope, which has found more than 2600 exoplanets.

Exoplanets - or Extrasolar Planets - are worlds orbiting stars outside our solar system.

TESS was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aiming for a highly irregular orbit that will stretch all the way to the moon.

It is expected to scan almost the entire night sky over its two year mission, investigating hundreds of thousands of stars between three and 30 million light years away from Earth.

“We are thrilled TESS is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbour life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

TESS launch from Cape Canaveral, 18-04-2018. Image: SpaceX

The satellite will aim to locate planets that will be studied further by upcoming missions, including the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope - due to launch in May 2020.

Mr Zurbuchen said the mission will "help us study the details of these planets" adding that he believes we are "ever the closer to discovering whether we are alone in the universe.” 

TESS launch from Cape Canaveral, 18-04-2018. Image: SpaceX

Nearly 4,000 exoplanets - planets orbiting stars outside the solar system - have been discovered since 1988.

After nine years in orbit, the Kepler planet-hunting satellite is running extremely low on fuel is likely to stop operating within months.