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Artykuły o Kepler Space Telescope
« dnia: Październik 31, 2018, 10:54 »
Despite Problems, Kepler on Track for June 2008 Launch
SpaceNews Editor January 23, 2006 [SN]

Delays fabricating precision optics for the Kepler space telescope, problems developing the planet-hunting satellite’s avionics system and budget constraints beyond the control of program managers all dogged the program in 2005. But NASA officials say the Kepler team appears to have made it through the rough patches without busting its budget and should have no problem making its June 2008 launch date.

Kepler Team Cuts Costs, Avoids Cancellation
Brian Berger July 25, 2007 [SN]

Caption: Kepler observatory in space Credit: NASA ARTIST’S CONCEPT

WASHINGTON — Threatened with cancellation, the team building NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting telescope found a way get the spacecraft to the launch pad by early 2009 without a new infusion of cash.

Scientists Think Kepler Could Locate Habitable Exomoons
SpaceNews Staff September 14, 2009 [SN]

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope, which astronomers hope will find Earth-like planets orbiting other stars, might also find habitable moons in other solar systems, new research suggests.

Kepler’s Search for Small Worlds Hampered by Noisy Electronics
Debra Werner November 6, 2009 [SN]

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — In spite of electronic components that are creating extraneous noise on board the Kepler space telescope, NASA officials are confident the mission will be able by 2011 to either detect Earth-size planets or reveal that those planets are uncommon, said James Fanson, Kepler project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

NASA Kepler Discovers Five Planets Beyond Solar System
SpaceNews Staff January 11, 2010 [SN]

NASA’s Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five exoplanets, the U.S. space agency announced Jan. 4 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington.

Why Scientists Are Sure Planet Kepler-10b Is Rocky
Mike Wall January 17, 2011 [SN]

SEATTLE — When astronomers announced Jan. 10 the discovery of Kepler-10b, they described the alien world as “unquestionably rocky.”

Scientists have announced other rocky exoplanets in the past, but Kepler-10b earns its title, researchers said, because they are sure of its composition. And that is because they know its host star so well. In fact, the Kepler-10 star is one of the most well-characterized planet-hosting stars in the universe.

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Discovers ‘Unquestionably Rocky’ Exoplanet
Mike Wall January 17, 2011 [SN]

SEATTLE —NASA has discovered the smallest planet ever seen beyond our solar system — a rocky world just 1.4 times larger than Earth — using its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

Despite Early Success, Kepler Far from Finding Another Earth
Mike Wall February 7, 2011 [SN]

SAN FRANCISCO — NASA’s Kepler mission already has found more than 1,200 potential alien planets, but it will likely be a few years before it hauls in the exoplanet “holy grail” — an alien Earth.

New Ground Instrument To Join Kepler’s Planet Hunt
SpaceNews Staff February 21, 2011 [SN]

A new instrument being built by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for use in the Canary Islands will help NASA’s planet-scouting Kepler spacecraft confirm and characterize potential alien planets.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, Mass., is involved in an international collaboration to produce a new precision spectrograph instrument, called HARPS-North. HARPS stands for High-Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher. This spectrograph is designed to detect the tiny radial velocity signal induced by planets as small as Earth if they orbit close to their star.

Kepler Points to 50 Billion Planets in the Milky Way
SpaceNews Staff March 7, 2011 [SN]

The Milky Way galaxy could be home to 50 billion planets, according to scientists working on NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting space telescope.

While Kepler has not found nearly that many planets — to date it has counted 1,235 candidate planets — that cosmic tally is researchers’ best guess, extrapolated from preliminary data. The Kepler spacecraft, which launched in March 2009, is the world’s most sophisticated observatory dedicated to studying alien planets.

NASA’s Kepler Telescope Back After 6-Day Glitch
SpaceNews Staff March 28, 2011 [SN]

NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting space telescope resumed science operations March 20 after spending six days stuck in a protective safe mode while engineers studied the computer glitch.

An anomaly response team will continue to evaluate the spacecraft data to determine the cause of the safe mode event, Kepler mission managers explained in a March 21 written update.

Kepler Team Readies Its Mission Extension Proposal
Mike Wall November 7, 2011 [SN]

SEATTLE — NASA’s prolific Kepler Space Telescope may get to extend its search for exoplanets by a few years.

Funding for Kepler — which has identified more than 1,200 candidate alien planets to date and recently discovered the first exoplanet with two suns in its sky — is due to run out in November 2012. But mission managers are writing a proposal for a mission extension, and they should know by next spring whether it is approved.

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Confirms Alien Planet in Habitable Zone
Mike Wall December 12, 2011 [SN]

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star’s habitable zone — that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist — and found more than 1,000 new exoplanet candidates, researchers here announced Dec. 5.

Kepler Space Telescope Begins Extended Mission
SpaceNews Editor November 21, 2012 [SN]

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has begun its extended mission, which should keep the prolific instrument searching for alien worlds for another four years, agency officials announced Nov. 14.

Kepler Telescope Idled by Balky Reaction Wheel
SpaceNews Editor January 21, 2013 [SN]

Science operations for NASA’s exoplanet-hunting Kepler telescope were suspended Jan. 17 when the spacecraft was placed into a 10-day safe mode to evaluate a balky reaction wheel, mission manager Roger Hunter wrote in an online post.

“This is similar to a normal safe mode configuration, but with thrusters maintaining attitude instead of reaction wheels,” Hunter wrote. “Resting the wheels provides an opportunity to redistribute internal lubricant, potentially returning the friction to normal levels.”

Kepler Space Telescope Reaction Wheel Remains a Concern
Jeff Foust April 4, 2013 [SN]

WASHINGTON — A reaction wheel on NASA’s Kepler spacecraft continues to experience elevated levels of friction after a brief rest period, but project officials say that does not necessarily imply an imminent failure that could jeopardize the spacecraft’s planet-hunting mission.

Spacecraft engineers in early January noticed increased levels of friction in one of four reaction wheels on the spacecraft used for attitude control. To address the problem, NASA suspended science operations of the spacecraft for 10 days in January, hoping that this “wheel rest” period would resolve the issue. However, the high levels of friction continued in wheel No. 4 after normal spacecraft operations resumed in late January.

VIDEO | NASA’s Kepler Discovers Its Smallest ‘Habitable Zone’ Planets to Date
SpaceNews Editor April 18, 2013 [SN]

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovered three Earth-size planets within their star’s habitable zone. Credit: NASA
NASA's Kepler Discovers Its Smallest 'Habitable Zone' Planets to Date

Kepler Reaction Wheel Problem Seen as Unsolvable
SpaceNews Editor May 6, 2013 [SN]

One of the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope’s reaction wheels — devices that maintain the observatory’s position in space — remains balky despite mitigation attempts, NASA said April 29. The mission team now regards the problem as unsolvable and is considering what the telescope can do after the wheel fails.

“While the wheel may still continue to operate for some time yet, the engineering team has now turned its attention to the development of contingency actions should the wheel fail sooner, rather than later,” Kepler mission manager Roger Hunter of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., wrote in an April 29 update.

LISTEN LIVE AT 4 PM EDT: NASA Discusses Kepler Status
Brian Berger May 15, 2013 [SN]

Planet-Hunting Kepler Spacecraft Suffers Major Failure
Mike Wall, May 15, 2013 [SN]

SEATTLE — The planet-hunting days of NASA’s prolific Kepler space telescope, which has discovered more than 2,700 potential alien worlds to date, may be over.

The second of Kepler’s four reaction wheels — devices that allow the observatory to maintain its position in space — has failed, NASA officials announced May 15.

Kepler’s Legacy Secure; Extended Mission in Doubt
SpaceNews Editor May 27, 2013 [SN]

Caption: Kepler observatory in space Credit: NASA ARTIST’S CONCEPT

Whether or not NASA’s Kepler spacecraft can bounce back from the malfunction that has stalled its search for alien planets, the mission’s place in history is assured, scientists say.

Kepler has spotted more than 2,700 potential exoplanets to date, with many more waiting to be plucked from the mission’s huge data set. Its discoveries have opened the eyes of scientists and the public alike, revealing that the Milky Way galaxy abounds with an incredible diversity of alien worlds.

NASA To Attempt To Revive Stricken Kepler Telescope in July
Irene Klotz July 4, 2013 [SN]

Caption: Kepler observatory in space Credit: NASA ARTIST’S CONCEPT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA engineers are preparing a plan to return the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope to service following a reaction wheel failure that shut down the four-year-old observatory in May.

“I think the general feeling is that the odds are not good. We might see a wheel spin, but I suspect that it will not spin freely, that there will  be noise on it — vibrations — which would not make the science happy,” Charlie Sobeck, deputy project manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center, told SpaceNews.

Kepler Should Achieve Goal Despite Glitch, Researchers Say
Mike Wall July 22, 2013

Caption: Kepler observatory in space Credit: NASA ARTIST’S CONCEPT

SEATTLE — NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft should be able to achieve its primary goal regardless of whether or not it can bounce back from a recent malfunction, researchers say.

NASA Solicits New Mission Ideas for Ailing Kepler Spacecraft
Mike Wall, August 12, 2013

SEATTLE — NASA is asking scientists for ideas about new ways to use its Kepler space telescope, whose planet-hunting mission was stalled by a malfunction three months ago.

Hobbled Kepler Needs New Mission Before 2014 Review
Dan Leone August 16, 2013

WASHINGTON — Although insurmountable technical problems have now ended the Kepler Space Telescope’s primary mission to seek out faraway Earth-like planets, NASA is looking for a new mission that could keep the observatory, and the team at the Ames Research Center that operates it, busy.

Hobbled Kepler May Resume Alien World Search
Mike Wall November 11, 2013 [SN]

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. — NASA’s prolific Kepler spacecraft could get a new mission that allows it to continue searching for alien planets, albeit in a modified fashion.

Telescope Could Follow Kepler, Astronomer Tells Lawmakers
Dan Leone December 10, 2013 [SN]

WASHINGTON — An astronomy professor quizzed by the House Science Committee about how NASA should probe the universe for signs of life said the agency could collaborate on an international telescope to perform detailed observations of faraway, Earth-like planets discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope.

Kepler Scientist Pushes Extended Mission for Crippled Space Telescope ahead of NASA Senior Review Dan Leone January 7, 2014 [SN]

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope offered more details here about a plan to resurrect the crippled spacecraft for an extended mission that could last through 2016.

Kepler Finds First Earth-sized Planet in Habitable Zone
SpaceNews Editor April 21, 2014 [SN]

For the first time, scientists have discovered an Earth-sized alien planet in the habitable zone of its host star, an “Earth cousin” that just might have liquid water and the right conditions for life.

NASA’s Kepler Craft Begins New Search for Alien Worlds
SpaceNews Editor June 9, 2014 [SN]

NASA’s hobbled Kepler spacecraft is once again seeking out strange new worlds under a new 80-day mission to hunt for alien planets.

NASA officials recently approved the new Kepler spacecraft mission, called K2, after the exoplanet-hunting space probe suffered a major malfunction last year. Two of Kepler’s reaction wheels, which are used to keep the spacecraft precisely pointed in its orbit, failed, effectively ending the telescope’s mission. Now, scientists are still using the spacecraft to search for distant worlds, albeit in a different way.

Kepler’s Shaw Prize Winner Once in NASA’s Dog House
Brian Berger June 3, 2015 [SN]

William Borucki, Kepler Science Principal Investigator from NASA's Ames Research Center, speaks during a news conference, Feb. 2, 2010, at NASA Headquarters. Credit: NASA/Paul E. Alers

What’s cooler than discovering thousands of exoplanets?

Winning a prestigious $1 million astronomy prize for discovering thousands exoplanets.

Cooler, still, considering that the prize winner, Kepler Science Principal Investigator William Borucki, was in NASA’s dog house two years before his planet-hunting telescope finally launched in 2009.
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Odp: [JPL] NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope
« Odpowiedź #1 dnia: Listopad 03, 2018, 10:46 »
Kepler mission declares spacecraft emergency
Jeff Foust April 9, 2016 [SN]

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has been on an extended mission called K2 after two of its four reaction wheels failed in 2013. Credit: NASA

PHOENIX — Spacecraft controllers are working to restore control of NASA’s Kepler astronomy spacecraft after it entered an “emergency mode,” disrupting science observations, the mission’s manager said April 8.

Kepler resumes science operations
Jeff Foust April 22, 2016 [SN]

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after going into an emergency mode that jeopardized the mission, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has recovered and resumed normal science operations, the agency announced April 22.

In a statement, Charlie Sobeck, the Kepler mission manager, said that the spacecraft had resumed science operations as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern April 22. The spacecraft is now beginning the latest observing campaign for its extended mission, known as K2.

No long-term effects from Kepler spacecraft anomaly
Jeff Foust May 11, 2016 [SN]

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has suffered no long-term effects from an anomaly last month that threatened the mission, and the spacecraft should be able to operate for at least two more years, the mission’s manager said May 10.

At a press conference to announce new exoplanet discoveries in data collected by the spacecraft, mission manager Charlie Sobeck said the spacecraft had fully recovered from an “emergency mode” in April that disrupted science observations for more than two weeks.

NASA astronomy missions pass senior review
Jeff Foust June 13, 2016

WASHINGTON — NASA has accepted the recommendation of a review panel that it continue operations of a half-dozen astrophysics missions, including infrared and x-ray observatories and a retooled extrasolar planet mission.

In a June 9 letter, Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, announced that NASA would extend six missions considered under the so-called “senior review” of missions that had already completed their primary missions, although some would face reduced funding.

Kepler’s first satellite hitched ride on last week’s Long March 11 launch
Caleb Henry January 22, 2018 [SN]

Canada’s Kepler Communications is one of 11 companies that has filed for FCC licenses for Ku- or Ka-band spectrum for non-geostationary orbit satellite services.

Kepler's first satellite, Kipp, launched Jan. 19 on a Long March 11 as a precursor to a constellation of up to 140 cubesats. Credit: Kepler Communications

WASHINGTON — Kepler Communications, a Canadian startup designing a low-Earth-orbit constellation for satellite connectivity, says its first satellite is performing as expected following last week’s launch on China’s Long March 11 rocket.

Kepler’s triple-cubesat satellite was one of six satellites that China Great Wall Industry Corp. launched Jan. 19 from China’s oldest spaceport, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

Kepler in safe mode amid concerns spacecraft is running out of fuel
Jeff Foust July 6, 2018 [SN]

NASA's Kepler spacecraft, launched in 2009 on a mission to search for exoplanets, is in a safe mode amid concerns the spacecraft may be finally running out of fuel. Credit: NASA

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has paused science observations upon receiving indications that the spacecraft may be finally running out of fuel after more than nine years of operations.

In a status update distributed July 6, NASA said mission managers halted a current set of observations known as Campaign 18 and placed the spacecraft into a “no-fuel-use safe mode” July 2 after receiving indications of what the agency called an “anomalous” drop in fuel pressure in the spacecraft.

That safe mode, mission officials said, will preserve the 51 days of “flawless” observations collected during Campaign 18. The spacecraft will remain in that safe mode until Aug. 2, when it will resume operations for a previously scheduled downlink of data through the Deep Space Network.

Kepler to co-develop third satellite with UK’s Satellite Applications Catapult
Caleb Henry July 10, 2018 Updated at 9:52 a.m. Eastern.   [SN]

Artist's rendition of a Kepler cubesat. Credit: Kepler Communications

WASHINGTON — Kepler Communications, a Canadian startup designing a network of 140 telecom cubesats, has teamed up with the Satellite Applications Catapult in the U.K. to build a third and final prototype before pressing on with the full constellation.

The Harwell, Oxfordshire-based Catapult will partially fund the satellite, and help Kepler establish roots in the U.K., where the company intends to place its first office outside of Canada.

Kepler spacecraft back in safe mode as fuel runs low
Jeff Foust August 25, 2018 [SN]

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which went into a safe mode in July amid concerns the exoplanet observatory was running out of propellant, has again gone into safe mode as astronomers fear its mission may be nearing an end.

In a brief statement Aug. 24, NASA said the spacecraft went into a fuel-conserving “sleep mode” after transmitting the data it collected from its previous observing campaign earlier in the month. The observing campaign was interrupted by the safe mode triggered by the low-fuel warning July 2.

Kepler resumes operations despite malfunctioning thruster
Jeff Foust September 6, 2018 [SN]

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is back in operation despite a problem with one of its thrusters and low fuel levels that may soon bring the mission to an end.

In a brief statement Sept. 5, NASA said Kepler resumed observations Aug. 29. The spacecraft was set to begin what the project calls Campaign 19, the latest in a series of observations spanning nearly three months at a time, in early August, but the spacecraft went into a “sleep mode” after transmitting data collected during the previous campaign.

NASA’s Dawn and Kepler missions near their ends
Jeff Foust October 4, 2018 [SN]

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, seen here in orbit around Ceres, will remain there through the rest of its mission, likely to end in the second half of 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

BREMEN, Germany — Two NASA science missions, one studying the largest objects in the asteroid belt and the other searching for planets around other stars, are expected to come to an end in the coming weeks when each exhausts their remaining hydrazine fuel.

In a talk Oct. 4 during the 69th International Astronautical Congress here, Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for the Dawn mission at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said current estimates had the spacecraft exhausting its remaining hydrazine, and thus ending the mission, in the middle of this month.

Kepler planet hunter ends operations after exhausting fuel
Jeff Foust October 30, 2018 [SN]

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which helped astronomers discover thousands of exoplanets since its launch nearly a decade ago, has ended operations after running out of fuel, the agency announced Oct. 30.

In a briefing with reporters, agency officials said that Kepler ended operations after exhausting the last of its hydrazine fuel used for attitude control. The spacecraft had been in what NASA called a “no-fuel-use” safe mode since it was contacted by controllers Oct. 19.
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Odp: [JPL] NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope
« Odpowiedź #2 dnia: Listopad 19, 2018, 00:00 »
NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope
OCTOBER 30, 2018 [NASA]

After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets - more planets even than stars - NASA's Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.

"As NASA's first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars."

Kepler has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy. The most recent analysis of Kepler's discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they're located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water - a vital ingredient to life as we know it - might pool on the planet surface.

The most common size of planet Kepler found doesn't exist in our solar system - a world between the size of Earth and Neptune - and we have much to learn about these planets. Kepler also found nature often produces jam-packed planetary systems, in some cases with so many planets orbiting close to their parent stars that our own inner solar system looks sparse by comparison.

"When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago, we didn't know of a single planet outside our solar system," said the Kepler mission's founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired from NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy."

Launched on March 6, 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time. Originally positioned to stare continuously at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became the agency's first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars.

"The Kepler mission was based on a very innovative design. It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science," said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them."

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. The mission team was able to devise a fix, switching the spacecraft's field of view roughly every three months. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler's count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000.

The observation of so many stars has allowed scientists to better understand stellar behaviors and properties, which is critical information in studying the planets that orbit them. New research into stars with Kepler data also is furthering other areas of astronomy, such as the history of our Milky Way galaxy and the beginning stages of exploding stars called supernovae that are used to study how fast the universe is expanding. The data from the extended mission were also made available to the public and science community immediately, allowing discoveries to be made at an incredible pace and setting a high bar for other missions. Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries," said Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "I'm excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler's results."

Before retiring the spacecraft, scientists pushed Kepler to its full potential, successfully completing multiple observation campaigns and downloading valuable science data even after initial warnings of low fuel. The latest data, from Campaign 19, will complement the data from NASA's newest planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April. TESS builds on Kepler's foundation with fresh batches of data in its search of planets orbiting some 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars to the Earth, worlds that can later be explored for signs of life by missions such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

NASA's Ames Research Center manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

For the Kepler press kit, which includes multimedia, timelines and top science results, visit:

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

Source: NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope

NASA’s trailblazing Kepler telescope ends planet hunt
October 30, 2018 Stephen Clark [SFN]

This illustration depicts NASA’s exoplanet hunter, the Kepler space telescope. Credits: NASA/Wendy Stenzel/Daniel Rutter

NASA’s Kepler telescope has run out of fuel and ended science operations, closing out a pioneering decade-long mission that showed planets are commonplace across our galaxy, agency officials said Tuesday.

The observatory’s supply of hydrazine has run low for months, but controllers noticed a dramatic drop in fuel pressure earlier this month, indicating Kepler no longer has enough propellant to maintain the precise pointing required to search for planets around other stars, or exoplanets.

Kepler’s observations since its launch in March 2009 have led astronomers to confirm the existence of 2,681 planets orbiting other stars, with another 2,899 planet candidates in the pipeline that could be confirmed with follow-up observations.

“In 2009, the Kepler mission launched, and immediately our team began detecting a wide variety of planets,” said Bill Borucki, a retired astronomer who led Kepler’s science team through development and its early years of science observations. “In its nine-and-a-half years of operation, the Kepler mission has been an enormous success.

“We’ve shown that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy, that many of these planets are roughly the size of the Earth, and some, like the Earth, are at the right distance from their star so there could be liquid water on their surface, a situation conducive to the existence of life,” Borucki said.

Astronomers discovered a variety of planet types with Kepler, ranging from so-called “hot Jupiters” to “super Earths,” and a handful of rocky planets believed to reside at the right distance from their parent star to maintain liquid water.

“Hot Jupiters” are gas giants that orbit hellishly close to their stars, often completing one lap in a matter of days with surface temperatures above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius).

NASA’s Kepler space telescope at the Astrotech spacecraft processing facility in Florida before its launch on a Delta 2 rocket in 2009. Credit: NASA

Kepler also found numerous planets between the size of Earth and Neptune. Such planets that orbit the right distance from their star could be water-rich and habitable, astronomers say.

“We’ve also discovered planets completely unlike those in our solar system,” Borucki said Tuesday. “Some of those, in fact, might be worlds of water — actual water worlds. We’ve also found planets that were formed at the beginning of our galaxy, six-and-a-half billion years before the formation of our own star and the before the formation of the Earth. Imagine what life might be like on such planets.”

Scientists said Kepler’s observations yielded the discovery of between 2 and 12 near-Earth size planets in the habitable zone of their stars, according to NASA.

“Because of Kepler, we know that planets are an incredibly diverse set of objects, much more diverse than we observe in our own solar system,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division. “And because of Kepler, we know that solar systems come in a variety of configurations unlike our own.”

Borucki summed it up: “In a sense, our planetary system is quite atypical.”

Kepler was NASA’s first space mission dedicated to the search for planets around other stars.

Borucki, who retired from NASA in 2015 after 53-year career, started working on a planet-hunting telescope mission in 1983, nine years before astronomers even confirmed the discovery of the first exoplanet with ground-based observatories. His concept focused on using an ultra-sensitive instrument — using an array of light-detecting sensors called photometers coupled with a telescope — to monitor the brightness of stars and register faint dips in light when planets pass in front of their stars.

The technique is called the “transit method” for finding exoplanets, and it tells scientists about the size of each world, which can lead astronomers to infer whether the planet is a gaseous object or a rocky one.

Based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, Borucki and his team worked on the photometer technology in labs and on ground-based telescopes until NASA selected his Kepler proposal for full development in 2001.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Borucki likened Kepler’s technological achievement to “trying to detect a fly crawling across a car headlight when the car was 100 miles away. And the instrument must do it for 150,000 stars simultaneously.”

President Barack Obama congratulates William Borucki on receiving the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, or Sammie, in the East Room of the White House. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Built by Ball Aerospace, the Kepler spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral on March 6, 2009, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket. The launcher deployed Kepler into an Earth-trailing orbit around the sun, and the spacecraft has distanced itself from its home planet over its nearly decade-long mission, now located around 94 million miles (151 million kilometers) from Earth, according to Charlie Sobeck, Kepler’s project system engineer at Ames.

During Kepler’s four-year primary mission — from the observatory’s launch in March 2009 until early 2013 — the craft aimed its telescope at the same field of more than 150,000 stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra.

The 2013 failure of a second of four reaction wheels used to keep Kepler’s 3.1-foot (95-centimeter) telescope pointed prompted engineers to re-plan the mission. An extended observations campaign dubbed K2 began in 2014, using a combination of the two remaining reaction wheels, hydrazine fuel and solar pressure to maintain the telescope’s aim at a new star field every few months.

Kepler launched with 12 kilograms, or a little over 3 gallons, of hydrazine fuel feeding rocket thrusters to occasionally unload momentum from the observatory’s spinning gyro-like reaction wheels and offset solar pressure that could influence the spacecraft’s orientation.

“We knew when we launched that the spacecraft would ultimately be limited by its fuel load,” Sobeck said.

Sobeck said Kepler operated more than twice its original design life, and ground controllers first noticed signs of Kepler’s waning fuel supply in June as telemetry measurements showed pressures dropping in the spacecraft’s propulsion system.

“Because of fuel exhaustion, the Kepler spacecraft has reached the end of its service life,” Sobeck said. “While this may be a sad event, we are by no means unhappy with the performance of this marvelous machine.”

Sobeck said controllers will send the final command to Kepler in the coming weeks, ordering the spacecraft to disable its on-board fault protection software and turn off its transmitters.

Kepler collected its last science observations in September, ending a run that observed more than 530,000 stars and returned 678 gigabytes of data. Kepler’s discoveries also helped astronomers write nearly 3,000 scientific papers, a number that will continue to climb.

Artist’s concept of Kepler-16b, first planet around a double-star system Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

“We found small potentially rocky planets around some of these bright stars, and those are now prime targets of current and future telescopes so we can move on to see what these planets are made of, how they are formed, and what their atmospheres be like,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler project scientist at Ames.

“While we have ceased spacecraft operations, the science results from the Kepler data will continue for years to come,” she said.

A NASA spokesperson said the Kepler mission cost $692 million, including its development, launch and operations.

“I always felt like it was the little spacecraft that could,” Dotson said. “It always did what we asked of it, and sometimes more, and that’s a great thing to have from a spacecraft.”

“This marks the formal end of data collection, but not the end of data analysis thanks to NASA’s public archives,” tweeted Natalie Batalha, an astrophysicist and former Kepler project scientist. “I’m not sad.  We did everything we wanted and more. Onward!”

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite launched in April to extend Kepler’s search across nearly the entire sky over a two-year prime mission. TESS will use the same “transit” search method as Kepler, but will focus on bright, nearby stars.

“NASA is handing off the mantle of planet-hunter from the Kepler space telescope to TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — which is already in orbit and is discovering new exoplanets even as we speak,” Hertz said.

The long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, now set for launch in 2021, will have the power to probe many of the planets discovered by Kepler and TESS and study the make-up of their atmospheres.

“The planets that TESS can find, we are hoping to put the next layer of information on those and determine what those planets are like as places,” said Padi Boyd, TESS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “It’s easy to measure the size of a planet — comparatively easy — but it’s much, much harder to be able to tell if that planet has an atmosphere, which is so important to life here on Earth. And if it does have an atmosphere, what does it contain? Does it contain water, which we believe is an essential building block for life?”

Source: NASA’s trailblazing Kepler telescope ends planet hunt
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Odp: Artykuły o Kepler Space Telescope
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Dawn mission to asteroid belt ends
Jeff Foust November 1, 2018 [SN]

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, seen here in orbit around Ceres, will remain there through the rest of its mission, likely to end in the second half of 2018. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — A NASA spacecraft that visited two of the largest objects in the solar system’s main asteroid belt has run out of fuel, ending its mission, NASA announced Nov. 1.

NASA announced that the Dawn spacecraft was silent during two communications sessions on the Deep Space Network Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. After eliminating other possible causes for the lack of transmissions, managers concluded that the spacecraft had run out of hydrazine fuel for its attitude control thrusters, preventing it from maneuvering to orient its main antenna towards the Earth or its solar panels towards the sun.

That lack of maneuverability ends the spacecraft’s mission, as expected. Project officials had warned for months that the mission would likely end this fall based on estimates of the remaining hydrazine on the spacecraft.

“To within our current uncertainty, there’s zero usable hydrazine remaining,” said Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for Dawn at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, during a presentation Oct. 4 at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany. At the time he said the spacecraft would likely run out of fuel in the middle of October.

Dawn, built by Orbital Sciences Corp. (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems), launched in 2007 as part of NASA’s Discovery program of lower-cost planetary science missions. The spacecraft, propelled by electric thrusters, entered orbit around the large main belt asteroid Vesta in July 2011. After leaving Vesta in September 2012, Dawn entered orbit around Ceres, the dwarf planet that is the largest object in the main asteroid belt, in March 2015.

Dawn remained in orbit around Ceres for the rest of its mission, although mission managers proposed at one point leaving orbit to fly by another asteroid. NASA elected to keep Dawn at Ceres and fly in different orbits around it, including its final orbit that brought the spacecraft to within 35 kilometers of the planet’s surface.

The data collected by Dawn helped scientists better understand the two worlds, as well as broader questions about the formation and evolution of the solar system. Observations of Ceres in particular indicated that it might once had, and could still have today, a subsurface ocean of liquid water.

“Dawn’s data sets will be deeply mined by scientists working on how planets grow and differentiate, and when and where life could have formed in our solar system,” said Carol Raymond, principal investigator for Dawn at JPL, in a statement. “Ceres and Vesta are important to the study of distant planetary systems, too, as they provide a glimpse of the conditions that may exist around young stars.”

With its hydrazine depleted, Dawn will remain in orbit for decades before eventually crashing to the surface of Ceres. NASA said that there is a more than 99 percent chance the spacecraft will remain in orbit for at least 50 years.

“The demands we put on Dawn were tremendous, but it met the challenge every time,” Rayman said in the statement. “It’s hard to say goodbye to this amazing spaceship, but it’s time.”

The end of the Dawn mission comes two days after NASA announced the end of another mission, Kepler. Both spacecraft ended their missions because they ran out of hydrazine fuel needed for attitude control, and both had suffered failures of reaction control wheels earlier in their missions that made them rely on their thrusters more than originally planned.

Despite the similarities, there was little in the way of interaction between the two missions as their spacecraft used up their last of their hydrazine. “Our needs for fuel were different than theirs,” said Charlie Sobeck, project system engineer for Kepler at NASA’s Ames Research Center, during an Oct. 30 briefing about the end of that mission. “We had more communication with Dawn about reaction wheels than we did about fuel.”


Kepler Telescope Bids 'Goodnight' with Final Commands
NOVEMBER 16, 2018 [JPL]

NASA's Kepler space telescope discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system, and revealed that our galaxy contains more planets than stars. Credit: CNASAredit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

On the evening of Thursday, Nov. 15, NASA's Kepler space telescope received its final set of commands to disconnect communications with Earth. The "goodnight" commands finalize the spacecraft's transition into retirement, which began on Oct. 30 with NASA's announcement that Kepler had run out of fuel and could no longer conduct science.

Coincidentally, Kepler's "goodnight" falls on the same date as the 388-year anniversary of the death of its namesake, German astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion and passed away on Nov. 15, 1630.

The Kepler space telescope has had a profound impact on our understanding of the number of worlds that exist beyond our solar system. Through its survey, we've discovered there are more planets than stars in our galaxy. As a farewell to the spacecraft, we asked some of people closest to Kepler to reflect on what Kepler has meant to them and its finding of "more planets than stars."

The final commands were sent over NASA's Deep Space Network from Kepler's operations center at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, or LASP, at the University of Colorado in Boulder. LASP runs the spacecraft's operations on behalf of NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado.

Kepler's team disabled the safety modes that could inadvertently turn systems back on, and severed communications by shutting down the transmitters. Because the spacecraft is slowly spinning, the Kepler team had to carefully time the commands so that instructions would reach the spacecraft during periods of viable communication. The team will monitor the spacecraft to ensure that the commands were successful. The spacecraft is now drifting in a safe orbit around the Sun, 94 million miles away from Earth.

The data Kepler collected over the course of more than nine years in operation will be mined for exciting discoveries for many years to come.

NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from LASP.

For the Kepler press kit, which includes multimedia, timelines and top science results, visit:

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

Source: Kepler Telescope Bids 'Goodnight' with Final Commands
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Odp: Artykuły o Kepler Space Telescope
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