Status Report

NASA Kepler Mission Manager Update 19 December 2011

By SpaceRef Editor
December 20, 2011
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NASA Kepler Mission Manager Update 19 December 2011

The Kepler spacecraft experienced a processor reset on Dec. 7, 2011 at approximately 4:30 a.m. PST, 888 days after the last one in July of 2009. Flight software rebooted and commanded a configuration similar to safe mode, but with the photometer on, to help speed recovery. The project team detected the event on Dec. 8, 2011 during a regularly scheduled semi-weekly contact. A transient in the spacecraft — likely due to a galactic cosmic ray hit, apparently caused the reset. The team quickly recovered the spacecraft, and it returned to science operations Friday, Dec. 9, 2011 at 12:30 p.m. PST. The total science outage was approximately 56 hours. From detection to correction of the anomaly was only 28 hours — a testament to the team’s proficiency.

It has been an eventful year for the mission. We began 2011 in the middle of an extended spacecraft anomaly that took nearly 16 days to resolve. In January, the team announced the discovery of Kepler-10b — the first rocky planet discovered outside our solar system. In February, the team enjoyed a successful press conference, with the announcement of 1,235 planet candidates, including 68 earth-size planet candidates, and a number of planet candidates in the habitable zone. In September, we confirmed the existence of the first circumbinary planet, Kepler-16b — our version of the Star Wars’ Tatooine. As we entered December, the team was near the completion of 11 quarters of science data collection.

Two weeks ago, we concluded a very successful Kepler Science Conference at NASA Ames Research Center. The inaugural event attracted over 500 astronomers from around the world to share and review findings from the Kepler mission since its launch in March 2009. The science team announced the discovery of Kepler-22b — the mission’s first confirmed planet in the habitable zone. The team also announced 1,094 new planet candidates. Since the last catalog was released in February2011, the number of planet candidates identified by Kepler has increased by 89 percent and now totals 2,326. To-date the team has confirmed 28 planets outside our solar system.

We look forward to 2012, and hopefully, a mission extension beyond the November 2012 scheduled end of spacecraft operations.

SpaceRef staff editor.