Ball Aerospace "Firsts"

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Since 1956, Ball Aerospace has built unique technologies for a variety of missions. Over the past five decades, the company has achieved many first-time accomplishments in the aerospace industry, including:

First optical system expected to study objects 400 times more faint than any current telescope

Ball Aerospace is developing the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system at the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope.

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First spacecraft to discover a planet in the habitable zone

The Kepler mission launched in 2009 and built by Ball Aerospace discovered the first planet in the habitable zone, Kepler-22b.

First spacecraft designed for on-orbit, autonomous servicing

Ball Aerospace built the Next Generation Satellite and Commodities spacecraft (NEXTSat/CSC), as part of the Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration Program to prove techniques for on-orbit refueling, reconfiguration and repair of spacecraft in orbit.

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First instrument expected to return high-resolution images of Pluto

Ball Aerospace developed the Ralph imager for the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Ralph will provide images to create maps of Pluto, its moon Charon and other Kuiper Belt objects. 

First instrument to return high-resolution images of the Martian surface from an orbiting platform

Ball Aerospace’s High Resolution Imaging Science Instrument (HiRISE) was launched aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to provide color stereo images of the Martian surface at six times higher resolution than any existing images.

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First spacecraft to intercept a comet

Ball Aerospace designed, built and tested the two spacecraft that comprised the Deep Impact mission to collide with comet Tempel 1, giving scientists a look into its composition and structure.

First Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) anti-missile defense system

The THEL Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrator proved that current technology can acquire, track and destroy multiple missiles in flight with a high-energy chemical laser. Ball Aerospace provided the beam alignment and stabilization assembly for the demonstrator.

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First instrument to provide definitive evidence of the “Big Bang”

Ball Aerospace built the superfluid helium dewar that cooled two of three instruments aboard the Cosmic Background Explorer. The mission confirmed the Big Bang theory of the universe and deepened our understanding of the origin of galaxies and stars.

First instrument to provide all-sky imaging of the universe in the infrared from space

The Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) was the first space-based, long-life, cryogenically cooled infrared telescope. Ball Aerospace built the IRAS instrument which contained superfluid helium to cool an infrared sensor to nearly 450 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit).

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First instrument to provide confirmation of the Antarctic ozone hole

The Ball Aerospace-built Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Radiometer-2 (SBUV-2) helped to discover the ozone hole above Antarctica in 1987. The company built nine SBUV-2s between 1984 and 2002.

First solar observation satellite

The Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) was the first spacecraft built at Ball Aerospace and one of seven the company built for NASA. The OSOs returned data on the ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma ray emissions of the sun and our galaxy.

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