Kepler Media Kit
NASA’s Kepler Mission
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for NASA’s Kepler Mission’s search for rocky, Earth-sized planets around other stars. Ball Aerospace built the photometer and spacecraft, managed system integration and testing and is responsible for on-orbit operation of the spacecraft for the Discovery Class mission.
Kepler is the first NASA mission to find Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zone, the region in a planetary system where liquid water can exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. In February 2014, scientists announced that Kepler had discovered 715 new planets orbiting 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Already Kepler discoveries include more than 3,600 planet candidates, 961 which have been verified as bona-fide worlds. The Kepler team continues to analyze four years of collected data anticipating still more discoveries contained within the data.
After completing its nominal mission, Kepler operations were suspended due to a reaction wheel failure, but today an exciting new science mission, K2, is being proposed. Ball engineers devised an innovative way to control pointing in the spacecraft by managing solar pressure and using thrusters. The proposed K2 mission provides an opportunity to continue Kepler’s ground breaking discoveries in the field of exoplanets and expand its role into new astrophysical observations.
The observatory launched on 6 March 2009 at 10:49 p.m. EST aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. In 2014, the telescope marked its fifth year on orbit.
John Troeltzsch Program Manager
Program Manager Profile
What’s the coolest thing about the Kepler mission?
In a blink of time, we have changed astronomy and the history of mankind. If you extrapolate the most recent Kepler results, half of the stars in the sky have planets – that would have been unbelievable 20 years ago. I worked on Hubble and I’m proud of it, but Kepler will be more significant – it will find more worlds out there just like us.
Kepler Mission "Gee Whiz"
- The telescope aboard Kepler is the largest ever launched by NASA beyond Earth’s orbit.
- For four years, the Kepler spacecraft continuously and simultaneously observed and collected data on more than 150,000 stars. Kepler discovered 715 new planets orbiting 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Already Kepler discoveries include more than 3,600 planet candidates, 961 which have been verified as bona-fide worlds. Kepler looks for planets from one-half to 10 times the Earth’s mass that dwell in the habitable region of a Sun, also known as "The Goldilocks Region" - a region around a sun that is perfect for liquid water. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
- The stability of Kepler’s pointing is measured in degrees, arcminutes, arcseconds and milli-arcseconds. During the four years of science operations, the pointing precision of the spacecraft was controlled to within a few milli-arcseconds. That is the equivalent of keeping your gaze steady on a grain of salt from a quarter mile away.
- The Kepler photometer does not return pretty pictures – it is designed to measure the stellar brightness of stars.
- The Kepler photometer detects changes in the brightness of a star when it crosses in front of it or “transits the star.” These changes, or dips in brightness are minuscule and similar to detecting a mosquito crossing in front of a car’s headlight.
- 2000 Ball people spent more than 100 hours helping with the Kepler build; 1.3 million lab hours over a five-year period.
- NASA’s Kepler Mission Cost: $550M(total) Ball’s portion: $236M
Recent Kepler Press Releases
February 26, 2014: NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds
February 6, 2014: National Space Club Honors Kepler’s Planet Hunters
November 25, 2013: A Sunny Outlook for NASA Kepler’s Second Light
November 4, 2013: NASA Kepler Results Usher in a New Era of Astronomy
Kepler in the News:
February 6, 2014: New Scientist
February 3, 2014: The Space Review
January 17, 2014: TIME
January 7, 2014: Space News
Kepler Scientist Pushes Extended Mission for Crippled Space Telescope ahead of NASA Senior Review
February 27, 2014: Los Angeles Times
Kepler’s comeback? New K2 mission could chase wilder targets
February 26, 2014: Astronomy Magazine
NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces 715 New Worlds
February 26, 2014: Washington Post
NASA Kepler Telescope Doubles Number of Known Planets Outside Solar System
February 26, 2014: Discovery.com
Kepler’s Exoplanet Count Skyrockets to 851 Alien Worlds
February 26, 2104: National Geographic
"Motherlode" of Alien Worlds Unveiled by Space Telescope
Select Kepler Recognition and Awards
- Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, National Space Club, 2014
- Nelson P. Jackson Aerospace Award, National Space Club, 2012
- Vision to Reality Award, Space Frontier Foundation, 2012
- Laureate Award, Space Category, Aviation Week, 2012
- John L. “Jack” Swigert Award for Space Exploration, Space Foundation, 2012
- Systems Engineering Excellence Award, NASA, 2010
- Best of What’s New, Popular Science Magazine, 2009
- Most Brilliant Innovators, Popular Mechanics, 2009
Ball Aerospace Media Contact:
Media Relations Manager, Ball Aerospace