Kepler Mission & Program Information
NASA’s Kepler Mission
Ball Aerospace is the prime contractor for NASA’s Kepler Mission to search for rocky, Earth-sized planets around other stars. Ball Aerospace built the photometer and spacecraft, and managed system integration and testing for the Discovery Class mission.
Kepler will search for habitable planets while focused on a star-rich patch of sky between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. Astronomers have found more than 300 planets circling stars in other solar systems, although none are believed to be the right size or in the right location to support life. Kepler is designed to stare at the same location in the sky for more than three years and detect periodical transits of a star by its planets. To find a planet like Earth, scientists will need to catch at least four transits. Data from the target stars will be relayed for scientists on the ground to analyze.
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.
John Troeltzsch Program Manager
Program Manager Profile
What’s the coolest thing about the Kepler mission?
Kepler will help answer the question, “Are we alone?” Remember, we’re not looking for ET - we’re looking for ET’s home. It could be there are many planets like ours in the solar system.
Kepler Mission "Gee Whiz"
- The telescope aboard Kepler is the largest ever launched by NASA beyond Earth’s orbit.
- Kepler will stare into space at a star field the size of an open hand at arm’s length for at least three-and-a-half years; by comparison, Hubble stares at a star field the size that you could view through a straw.
- Kepler scientists expect to find at least 50 to 60 terrestrial or Earth-like planets – and as many as hundreds in a habitable zone such as Earth’s.
- Most extrasolar planets found so far have been at least the size of Jupiter. Kepler is looking for planets 30 to 600 times smaller than Jupiter.
- Kepler will be looking 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.
- Kepler’s field of view covers 100 square degrees, around 0.25 percent of the sky, or “about two scoops of the Big Dipper.”
- The Kepler photometer will not return pretty pictures – it is designed to measure the stellar brightness of stars.
- The Kepler photometer will detect 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 19, 2009: Kepler Heads to Launch Pad
January 9, 2009: Kepler Spacecraft Arrives in Florida for Launch Preparations
December 18, 2008: NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft Ready to Ship to Florida
December 10, 2008: Ball Aerospace Completes Environmental Testing for Kepler Mission
September 23, 2008: NASA Kepler Spacecraft Baked and Ready for More Tests
Kepler in the News:
March 9, 2009: Aviation Week
Kepler on Track after Successful Launch
March 7, 2009: Daily Camera
Boulder-built Kepler launches search for life
March 6, 2009: Space Coalition Blog
Planet Hunting: Kepler Mission Control
March 4, 2009: Space.com
How NASA’s Kepler Will Seek Out Strange New Worlds
March 2, 2009: New York Times
In a Lonely Cosmos, a Hunt for Worlds Like Ours
February 17, 2009: BBC News/Science
UK ‘Eyes’ To Hunt for Other Earths
February 15, 2009: Boulder Daily Camera
“Boulder-built spacecraft to search for Earth-like planets”
January 30, 2009: MSNBC
“Earth-hunter telescope prepared for launch”
December 20, 2008: Florida Today
“Kepler Ready For Delivery to Space Coast”
December 31, 2009: Space News
“Planet-Hunting Spacecraft to Look For Earth-Sized Worlds”
December 31, 2008: Astronomy Magazine
“NASA’s Kepler spacecraft ready to ship to Florida”
December 22, 2008: Aviation Week
“Ball to Ship Kepler”
Ball Aerospace Media Contact:
Media Relations Manager, Ball Aerospace