Ball Aerospace "Firsts"
Ball continues to be a pioneer in the aerospace industry, with numerous first-time accomplishments:
First optical system for studying objects 400 times more faint than any current telescope
Ball Aerospace developed the advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system at the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the largest space telescope ever built.
First spacecraft to discover a planet in the habitable zone
The Kepler mission with Ball Aerospace as the prime contractor, launched in 2009 and discovered the first planet in the habitable zone, Kepler-22b.
First instrument to return high-resolution images of Pluto
Ball Aerospace developed the Ralph imager for the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Ralph provides 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 other images.
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 comet 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.
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).
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.