Ball Aerospace-Built Kepler Spacecraft Launches From Cape Canaveral
March 07, 2009
The Ball Aerospace-built Kepler spacecraft carrying the largest camera ever sent by NASA beyond Earth's orbit, successfully launched aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 10:49 pm EST, on Friday, March 6, 2009.
Ball Aerospace designed and built Kepler's photometer and spacecraft, employing expertise from its previous NASA missions including instruments for the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, and the Deep Impact mission. Kepler is the first NASA mission capable of finding Earth-size planets in the habitable zone.
The Kepler photometer has a wide field of view 0.95-meter aperture, Schmidt telescope, with a 1.4-meter primary mirror. The integration and test of the Kepler photometer, utilized Ball Aerospace's new 1.5-meter optical test capability for the first time. The photometer features a focal plane array of 42 charge-coupled devices (CCDs) at the center, with more than 95 million pixels. Kepler's CCD array is the most complex assembly ever undertaken by Ball Aerospace.
"The pioneering Kepler mission advanced Ball's large optics and focal plane technologies in support of NASA's space science missions," said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace. "The extraordinary interest in extrasolar planets will make this the 'mission to watch' for several years."
The Kepler planet-hunting mission will search for Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of solar-like stars to provide valuable insight about Earth's origin while also acting as a pathfinder mission for future missions such as the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2013. Ball Aerospace is the principal subcontractor for the Webb telescope, contributing advanced optical technology and the lightweight mirror system.
NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is home to Kepler's science principal investigator, and is also responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Kepler mission development is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Operation of the spacecraft after launch will be performed by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, with Ball providing system engineering and mission planning.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions of important national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. Since 1956, Ball Aerospace has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific 'firsts' and is a technology innovator in aerospace.
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