NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Ready to Ship to Florida

Dec 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: Scientists find meteoritic evidence of Mars water reservoir

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

TESS mission cleared for next development phase

Nov 10, 2014

NASA has officially confirmed the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission, clearing it to move forward into the development phase. This marks a significant step for the TESS mission, which would ...

Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources Of Habitability

Oct 20, 2014

With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. What size planet could host life? How far ...

Recommended for you

Politics no problem, say US and Russian spacefarers

6 hours ago

US-Russian ties may have returned to Cold War levels, but an astronaut and a cosmonaut gearing up for the longest flight on the International Space Station said Thursday politics would not disrupt their work ...

User comments : 0

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.