3D Print your own Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Model


TESS Spacecraft Cone showing the TESS cameras. TESS Spacecraft Cone showing the TESS cameras at an angle. TESS Spacecraft Cone showing where it attaches to the body.
The TESS instrument is comprised of four identical cameras. Each camera has seven lenses, a package of detectors and electronics to detect transits of exoplanets around distant stars. The cameras each have a lens hood to help prevent stray light from other sources from entering lenses and distorting the light from distant stars that TESS will focus on. The four cameras are placed on a camera plate. The camera plate is enclosed by a sun shade to further protect the cameras from stay light. To learn more about the instrument visit: https://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/instrument.html


TESS spacecraft model body viewing hollow inside. TESS spacecraft model body side view. TESS spacecraft model body showing thrusters.
The spacecraft includes the structure and components to support the TESS science instrument. Within the spacecraft, batteries, propulsion (fuel, and thrusters), reaction wheels computers for commanding the spacecraft and transmitting data all allow the TESS science instrument to complete the mission for finding ne exoplanets. To learn more about the spacecraft visit: https://tess.gsfc.nasa.gov/spacecraft.html


View of the top side of the large Antenna. Side view of all three Antennas. Bottom view of large Antenna and showing small Antennas.
The antennas on TESS allow for the transmission of commands to the spacecraft and instrument. Also, the antennas allow the TESS spacecraft to transmit data collected by the TESS instrument back to Earth for analysis. The large circular dish is the High Gain Antenna; the two smaller antennas are S-Band antennas.


Top view of Solar Arrays. Side view of Solar Arrays. Bottom view of Solar Arrays.

Spacecraft operating in the inner Solar System usually rely on the use of solar panels to derive electricity from sunlight. Solar panels on spacecraft supply power for the instrument and spacecraft systems.

Solar panels need to have a lot of surface area that can be pointed towards the Sun as the spacecraft moves. More exposed surface area means more electricity can be converted from light energy from the Sun.


TESS model parts as a demo to put together After downloading all of the .stl files [Antennas.stl, Body.stl, Cone.stl, and SolarPanel.stl] separately or all at once as a zip file [TESS_3D_Model_Files.zip] you will need to print them on your 3D printer or online at one of the many places that provide 3D printing services. You will need to print one of each file except for the solar arrays. You will need to print two of the arrays (see the image to the left). Note: The Antennas.obj file come out as 3 pieces. All other files are one piece.

Once you have all your parts printed, you will need glue to assemble the parts to complete the model. We recommend researching which type of adhesive/glue to use based on the materials that your 3D printer utilizes. The image to the left is color coded to help with putting the parts in the correct place.
  • Placing the Cameras and Sun Shade (RED) on the Body first would be the easiest. Note on the exterior of the Sun Shade are four small sun sensors. Three of the sensors are located on one side of the Sun Shade and a single sensor is located on the opposite side. Position the Cameras and Sun Shade so that the single sun sensor (the one that is by itself) is aligned on the spacecraft between the two cone-like boxes (star trackers) that protrude from the spacecraft. Hold each part for a bit before setting down to let dry before going to the next part.
  • Then place the small antennas (GREEN). There are small holes that the one side of the antennas can be placed into. The antennas are placed flat like the bottom of the body but jetting out over the side of the body. The best examples are in the photos 5 and 9 below. Then place the larger antenna (BLUE) but only after you place the small antennas.
  • The solar arrays (PURPLE) are fragile and thin so install them last. Place one solar array on each side of the body. There is a hole that the arrays will slide into.
Once the spacecraft is dry and the glue has set you have your completed 3D TESS model. You can leave it how it is or if you would like you could paint it like the one below has been painted.


Completed TESS 3D Model 1 Completed TESS 3D Model 2 Completed TESS 3D Model 3
Completed TESS 3D Model 4 Completed TESS 3D Model 5 Completed Color TESS 3D Model 6
Completed Color TESS 3D Model 7 Completed Color TESS 3D Model 8 Completed Color TESS 3D Model 9
Completed Color TESS 3D Model 10    

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