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: Planets around other stars are like peas in a pod

Related Stories

Planets around other stars are like peas in a pod

January 9, 2018

An international research team led by Université de Montréal astrophysicist Lauren Weiss has discovered that exoplanets orbiting the same star tend to have similar sizes and a regular orbital spacing. This pattern, revealed ...

Iron-rich stars host shorter-period planets

January 10, 2018

Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have learned that the chemical composition of a star can exert unexpected influence on its planetary system—a discovery made possible by an ongoing SDSS survey of stars ...

Spanning disciplines in the search for life beyond Earth

December 13, 2017

The search for life beyond Earth is riding a surge of creativity and innovation. Following a gold rush of exoplanet discovery over the past two decades, it is time to tackle the next step: determining which of the known exoplanets ...

Kepler Set to Launch Tonight on Planet Finding Mission

March 6, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Kepler spacecraft and its Delta II rocket are "go" for a launch tonight that is expected to light up the sky along Florida's Space Coast at 10:49 p.m. EST as the rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 17-B ...

Recommended for you

Supermassive black holes are outgrowing their galaxies

February 15, 2018

The growth of the biggest black holes in the Universe is outrunning the rate of formation of stars in the galaxies they inhabit, according to two new studies using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes ...

Hubble sees Neptune's mysterious shrinking storm

February 15, 2018

Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, dark storm - once big enough to stretch across the Atlantic Ocean from Boston to Portugal - is shrinking out of existence as seen ...

Kepler scientists discover almost 100 new exoplanets

February 15, 2018

Based on data from NASA's K2 mission, an international team of scientists has confirmed nearly 100 new exoplanets. This brings the total number of new exoplanets found with the K2 mission up to almost 300.

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.