K2/Kepler

Kepler Spacecraft

Artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

 

Overview

The K2/Kepler Mission built for NASA has revolutionized our understanding of exoplanets.K2/ Kepler’s mission was to search for Earth-size planets in the habitable zone -- the region in a planetary system where liquid water could exist on the surface of an orbiting planet – around sun-like stars in our galaxy.

During its five years on orbit, Kepler has discovered:

  • Over 3,600 planetary candidates
  • Over 700 multi-planet systems
  • The first small planet in the habitable zone (Kepler-22b)
  • Three Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones around their stars
  • The smallest exoplanets ever detected (KOI-961.01, KOI-961.02, KOI-961.03)
  • Five worlds (Kepler-16b, Kepler-34b, Kepler-35b, Kepler-47b, Kepler-47c) that orbit around two stars, establishing a new class of planetary system

 

 

Kepler PMA

Launched in March 2009, the Kepler photometer identifies planet candidates by continuously measuring the tiny change in brightness of more than 150,000 stars to detect when a planet transits the face of the star. The size of the planet can be derived from these periodic dips in brightness.

Our Role


Ball Aerospace is the mission prime contractor, which includes responsibility for the photometer, spacecraft, system integration, testing and on-orbit operations for the Discovery Class mission.

Ball Aerospace employed its instrument expertise from successes such as Hubble Space Telescope in the photometer for Kepler and the spacecraft design used in Deep Impact for providing power, communications and telescope pointing.

 

K2/Kepler Mission: Kepler’s Second Light


After completing its nominal mission, Kepler operations were suspended due to a reaction wheel failure, but today an exciting new science mission, K2/Kepler has been funded. Ball engineers devised an innovative way to control pointing in the spacecraft by managing solar pressure and using thrusters. The K2/Kepler mission provides an opportunity to continue Kepler’s ground breaking discoveries in the field of exoplanets and expand its role into new astrophysical observations.

K2/Kepler will perform a series of 80-day campaigns that use the proven Kepler spacecraft team to conduct new research into planet formation, young stars, stellar structure, evolution and activity, and extragalactic science. K2/Kepler will observe tens of thousands of stars per campaign and will transmit science data to the ground once every 80 days. K2/Kepler will search for new planets around bright stars and habitable worlds around M class stars to help pave the way for future missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite Survey and the James Webb Space Telescope.

UPDATE: NASA Headquarters has approved the K2/Kepler mission and funded it for 2 years. According to the NASA 2014 Astrophysics Senior Review Report:
“This is an outstanding mission and we look forward to the results from the program. K2/Kepler uniquely addresses a range of observational goals and is expected to engage a broad community of scientists.”

Read the details from the NASA K2 mission manager.

 

 

Image Alt Text

Image Credit: NASA Ames/W. Stenzel

Programs

CALIPSO

CloudSat

EPOXI/Deep Impact

GEMS

GEO-TASO

GDPAA

GMI

Guardian

Green Propellant Infusion Mission

HiRISE

Hubble Space Telescope

James Webb Space Telescope

JPSS

F-35/Lightning II

K2/Kepler

Landsat Data Continuity Mission

Mast-Mounted Sight

Mk 20 Camera

MOIRE

OMPS

QuickBird

QuikSCAT

SAM

SBSS

SBUV/2

Seasparrow

Sentinel

Spitzer

STORRM

STP-SIV

Suomi NPP

TEMPO

WISE

WorldView spacecraft series

WorldView-1

WorldView-2

WorldView-3