Astrophysics & Planet Science

Exploring the Universe

Millions of miles into deep space

What are comets made of?  The Deep Impact dual spacecraft found out when it impacted and imaged Comet Tempel 1 located 83 million miles from Earth. We designed both the Impactor and the Flyby spacecraft plus two instruments. The High Resolution Instrument (HRI) was the first of its kind and was powerful enough to resolve a car from across the state of Colorado. It used technologies we developed for the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope.  The Flyby spacecraft’s other instrument is the Medium Resolution Instrument (MRI), which provided science context, ejecta imaging and targeting.
hubble mystic mountain
Hubble's mystic mountain. Credit NASA

Hubble Space Telescope

Images that inspire 

Many of astronomy’s pioneering discoveries and most iconic space images have come from the Hubble Space Telescope. We built seven science instruments for Hubble, two star trackers, five major leave-behind equipment subsystems and more than eight custom tools to support astronauts during servicing missions. The five science instruments now operating on the telescope were all designed and built by Ball.

WISE and the James Webb Space Telescope 

Infrared data breakthroughs

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) traveling on a Ball spacecraft, scanned the entire celestial sky in near-infrared light, with 500 times more sensitivity than previous infrared missions, discovering asteroids, supermassive black holes and new classes of stars. At the end of its mission, WISE was re-purposed to discover and characterize Near Earth Objects (NEO). The NEOWISE mission has made the most accurate survey of near Earth objects to date.
The premier observatory for the next decade, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, will be stationed one million miles (1.5 million km) from Earth. Webb will be the most powerful space telescope ever built, able to detect the light from the first galaxies ever formed and explore planets around distant stars.

We’re providing the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system at the heart of Webb. The telescope is scheduled to launch in 2018. 
Webb Primary mirror segments in test
Webb primary mirror segments at NASA Marshall
Artist concept of Kepler 186f
Artist's concept Kepler 186f. Credit NASA

Searching for Earth’s Twin


In its five years on-orbit, Kepler revolutionized humankind’s understanding of extrasolar planets by finding thousands of planetary candidates, hundreds of multi-planet systems and much more. We are serving as the mission prime contractor for the K2/Kepler mission, which includes responsibility for the spacecraft and photometer, system integration, testing and on-orbit operations.  

The Solar System and Beyond


The largest telescopic instrument ever sent beyond Earth’s orbit is our Hi-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Since its 2005 launch, HiRISE has been returning images of the surface of the red planet at a higher resolution and contrast than ever before. 
Mars victoria crater
Victoria Crater Mars. Credit NASA, JPL, University of Arizona, Cornell, Ohio State University
Plutos blue haze
Pluto's blue haze atmosphere. Credit NASA

Revealing Pluto’s Mysteries

The Ralph imager

The amazing photos returned by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft were taken by our instrument Ralph. It traveled more than 3 billion miles over nearly 10 years to reach the distant planet and operated perfectly once it got there.  The images revealing Pluto’s exotic geology and atmosphere that Ralph sends back are astounding scientists and rewriting text books. 

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