Kepler Mirror Arrives at Ball Aerospace for Test and Integration
August 08, 2006
The largest optical mirror ever built for a mission beyond Earth's orbit has arrived at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. for environmental testing and spacecraft integration.
NASA's Kepler mission, with a field of view 70,000 times greater than the Hubble Space Telescope, will attempt to detect Earth-like planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system. By continuously monitoring the brightness of more than 100,000 stars, Kepler will search for planets that transit in front of stars. As a planet passes in front of its parent star, Kepler will detect the star's brightness change to determine the planet's size and orbit. The possible discovery of Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of other stars will be the first step in determining the extent of life in our galaxy.
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for the Kepler mission, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the NASA Ames Research Center. In addition to the 0.95-meter photometer, Ball Aerospace is building the spacecraft, and will perform system integration and testing. The 1.4-meter primary mirror was produced by subcontractor L-3 Communications Brashear.
"Arrival of the technologically advanced Kepler mirror is an important milestone," said David L. Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Ball Aerospace. "By leveraging our spacecraft design from the successful Deep Impact mission and our instrument expertise from the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, we will further contribute to NASA's search for extrasolar planets."
Kepler, which is scheduled to launch in 2008, was one of two NASA Discovery-class missions selected in 2001.
Ball Aerospace is celebrating its 50th year in business in 2006. The company began building pointing controls for military rockets in 1956, and later won a contract to build one of NASA's first spacecraft, the Orbiting Solar Observatory. Over the years, the company has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific 'firsts' and now acts as a technology innovator in important national missions.
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