Two Ball Aerospace Instruments Launch Aboard Shuttle Atlantis for Historic Hubble Mission
May 11, 2009
The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Monday on a mission to the Hubble Space Telescope where astronauts are scheduled to install two instruments built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. and restore two previously installed Ball instruments to peak performance. The successful launch of NASA's STS-125 mission occurred at 2:01:56 p.m. EDT, on May 11, 2009.
During the eleven-day mission, astronauts will install the Ball Aerospace-built Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3); and upgrade two critical Ball instruments: the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), installed in 1997; and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), installed during the 2002 servicing mission. The celebrated mission will extend the operating life of the telescope and greatly enhance its scientific capability.
"Ball Aerospace is extremely proud to be part of NASA's historic return to the Hubble Space Telescope," said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. "Hubble has provided us with the most amazing images in the universe and will expand those offerings following installation of the two new instruments provided by Ball Aerospace."
Ball has made significant contributions to the Hubble program for more than 30 years and became a key player after our engineers designed and built the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement that compensated for the original primary mirror flaw and enabled optimum performance of several science instruments.
Ball also built and assembled more than a thousand new tool parts that comprise the Crew Aids and Tools (CAT), to be used by STS-125 astronauts when they arrive at Hubble to repair STIS and ACS.
"The NASA contractor teams including the Ball team have built great tools in a very short time frame to allow us to do this task," said astronaut John Grunsfeld when the STS-125 crew visited Ball Aerospace in November 2008. Mission specialist Grunsfeld has likened the repair of STIS and ACS to "brain surgery" in space, because neither instrument was designed to be repaired on orbit.
Following NASA's servicing mission, all five major instruments in operation on the orbiting observatory will have been built by Ball.
The COS and WFC3 instruments contain advanced technology sensors, which far surpass what has been available on Hubble to-date, and improvement factors of 10X-70X are expected in certain key performance areas. COS will be 30 times more sensitive in the far-ultraviolet than earlier Hubble ultraviolet spectrographs, and will be able to observe distant quasars too faint for detection by previous spectrographs.
WFC3 will be sensitive to wavelengths from the near-ultraviolet to the near-infrared spectrum. This broad range expands our ability to make new discoveries and to understand existing data about the universe and galaxies. Using a 4,000 x 4,000 pixel charged couple device detector with a large field of view, WFC3 provides images with less "background noise" than previous instruments.
In addition to WFC3, COS, ACS and STIS, Hubble instruments built by Ball aerospace include: the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph, one of the original science instruments launched aboard HST; the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement, installed in 1993; and the Near-infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer, installed in 1997.
NASA's successor to Hubble, the James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled to join Hubble on orbit in 2013. Ball is the principal subcontractor for the Webb, providing the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system.
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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