NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Ready to Ship to Florida

December 18, 2008
The Kepler spacecraft at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ball

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineers are getting ready to pack NASA's Kepler spacecraft into a container and ship it off to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The mission, scheduled to launch on March 5, will seek to answer an age-old question -- are there other Earths in space?

"Kepler is ready to begin its journey to its launch site, and ultimately to space, where it will answer a question that has been pondered by humankind at least as long ago as the ancient Greeks," said James Fanson, the project manager for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Kepler will monitor more than 100,000 stars for signatures of planets of various sizes and orbital distances. It has the ability to locate rocky planets like Earth, including those that lie in a star's "habitable zone," a region where liquid water, and perhaps life, could exist. If these Earth-size worlds do exist around stars like our sun, Kepler is expected to be the first to find them, and the first to measure their frequency.

"Kepler's mission is to determine whether Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of other stars are frequent or rare; whether life in our Milky Way galaxy is likely to be frequent or rare," said William Borucki, the Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Kepler is currently at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. in Boulder, Colo. It passed all its environmental tests ensuring that it is prepared for the harsh trip to space. It also passed what's called the "pre-ship review," meaning that it is ready to be shipped via convoy to Florida in early January. Its first stop will be Astrotech in Titusville, Fla., where the spacecraft will be processed before being carried to its launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Kepler will launch atop a Delta II rocket.

"An outstanding team of engineers overcame some difficult hurdles to achieve this considerable milestone," said Ball Aerospace Program Manager John Troeltzsch. "The culmination of this effort will put a spectacular mission in orbit designed to increase our understanding of the cosmos."

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. In addition to being the home organization of the science principal investigator, NASA Ames Research Center is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Kepler mission development is managed by JPL. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations.

Provided by Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Explore further: The gas giant Jupiter

Related Stories

The gas giant Jupiter

August 26, 2015

Ever since the invention of the telescope four hundred years ago, astronomers have been fascinated by the gas giant known as Jupiter. Between it's constant, swirling clouds, its many, many moons, and its red spot, there are ...

The planet Mercury

August 6, 2015

Mercury is the closest planet to our sun, the smallest of the eight planets, and one of the most extreme worlds in our solar systems. Named after the Roman messenger of the gods, the planet is one of a handful that can be ...

Will SETI's unprecedented new program finally find E.T.?

August 4, 2015

Stephen Hawking, Frank Drake and dozens of journalists gathered at the Royal Society in London last week to hear astronomers announce a ground-breaking new project to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life called "Breakthrough ...

Exoplanets 20/20: Looking back to the future

July 31, 2015

Geoff Marcy remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck. Paul Butler remembers being dead tired. The two men had just made history: the first confirmation of a planet orbiting another star.

Recommended for you

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Prawn Nebula: Cosmic recycling

September 2, 2015

Dominating this image is part of the nebula Gum 56, illuminated by the hot bright young stars that were born within it. For millions of years stars have been created out of the gas in this nebula, material which is later ...

Image: Hubble sees a youthful cluster

August 31, 2015

Shown here in a new image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is the globular cluster NGC 1783. This is one of the biggest globular clusters in the Large Magellanic ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.