Atom Wave: The Flight of the Kepler

Atom Wave

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Flight of the Kepler

Space may be the final frontier, but the NASA spacecraft Kepler will uncover it. Scheduled for launch at no earlier then April of next year, the telescope is designed to follow in the spirit of the Enterprise in discovering Earth like planets. The plan is to use a photometer incorporated into a .95 meter Schmidt telescope to identify planets by their stellar transits. The actual spacecraft is being assembled under the direction of the Discovery Program, and as such is low-cost and relatively unsophisticated with an expected lifetime of no more then 5 years. The Delta 2 rocket is slated to be its ride into a low-disturbance solar orbit where its observations will be uninterrupted by gravity torques and other solar system objects. In the effort of simplicity, the spacecraft is engineered to look only at a single field of stars for the mission duration and will only need an elementary propulsion system of thrusters and reaction wheels for stabilization. With any luck it will open a new field of planetary astronomy.
This new voyage is still accepting participants.


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