Back from the Dead: NASA's Planet Hunting Kepler Spacecraft Gets Approval For New Mission

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posted on May, 16 2014 @ 04:37 PM
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Wonder why there are so many new announcements of extrasolar planets? NASA's Kepler mission has been responsible for many of them. In fact new discoveries are still being made from data Kepler already collected before the loss of it's pointing ability.

And now, even though the spacecraft was hobbled with the loss of control due to broken reaction wheels, some clever people have figured out how to balance Kepler on our Suns own solar wind using Kepler's solar panel as a bit of a sail!

That's Apollo 13 level ingenuity!

This has enabled an entirely new planet hunting and astrophysics mission called K2.

As I mentioned here earlier this year, approval for a new mission for the beleaguered Kepler spacecraft has been approved!




Universe Today:Kepler Space Telescope Gets A New Exoplanet-Hunting Mission


After several months with their telescope on the sidelines, the Kepler space telescope team has happy news to report: the exoplanet hunter is going to do a new mission that will compensate for the failure that stopped its original work.
Kepler’s exoplanet days were halted last year when the second of its four reaction wheels (pointing devices) failed, which meant the telescope could not gaze at its “field” of stars in the Cygnus constellation for signs of exoplanets transiting their stars.
Results of a NASA Senior Review today, however, showed that the telescope will receive the funding for the K2 mission, which allows for some exoplanet hunting, among other tasks. The telescope will essentially change positions several times a year to do its new mission, which is funded through 2016.

“The approval provides two years of funding for the K2 mission to continue exoplanet discovery, and introduces new scientific observation opportunities to observe notable star clusters, young and old stars, active galaxies and supernovae,” wrote Charlie Sobeck, the mission manager for Kepler, in a mission update today (May 16).

“The team is currently finishing up an end-to-end shakedown of this approach with a full-length campaign (Campaign 0), and is preparing for Campaign 1, the first K2 science observation run, scheduled to begin May 30.”



More at the link I posted above the story.

My professor actually submitted targets for the K2 mission.

Here's where K2's field of views will be over the next couple of years.




The good news is there are quite a few NEARBY stars in those fields



BTW: You can join in the search for planets with Kepler yourself. Watch the video below:

edit on 16-5-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)




posted on May, 16 2014 @ 05:09 PM
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May I ask why they don't just go up and replace the pointing wheels? I would think they would build this thing with breakages in mind.

Oh, wait. I forgot we have no way of getting back up into space ATM. FML.

Space x has that thing, but its not ready yet, correct?



posted on May, 16 2014 @ 06:10 PM
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a reply to: andr3w68

Unfortunately, Kepler is in orbit around the sun, not the earth, in what's called an earth trailing orbit - the same orbit as the earth, but 'behind' us. No astronaut has ever travelled that far (yet).



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 02:55 AM
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a reply to: MarsIsRed

I would like to thank you for your scholarly answer. I am well aware my question could have been laughed at by many, and answered hatefully.

After thinking about your answer for a moment, this makes a lot more sense
. Positioning it in orbit around the sun probably protects the sensors from ever pointing directly at the sun, and therefore ruining some of the optics.

Thanks again, and op, thanks for the post.



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 08:15 AM
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a reply to: andr3w68
Even if it was in Earth orbit, it would be far cheaper to get funding to operate the crippled telescope 2 more years than the far more expensive funding to go repair it.

Look at the costs, what was the final cost of the Kepler telescope, maybe $600 million?
And the cost of a shuttle launch is maybe $600 million? (more with R^D factored in).

A Saturn V type launch can handle 5 times the payload and might be capable of launching a crew repair module to the telescope, but the launch vehicle itself would cost over 1.2 billion to launch, plus you'd been a new crew module to put on top which would probably cost several hundred million for the module and more for R&D to you're looking at at least $2 billion to repair a telescope which only cost a fraction of that. So even if we had a Saturn V type launch vehicle, and the capability to do the repair, it doesn't seem economical, when for a smaller amount you could just launch a brand new telescope.

Here's an interesting discussion about launch costs:
forum.nasaspaceflight.com...

Back to the OP topic, yes that's Apollo 13 cleverness, using photon pressure to steer the telescope, very ingenious! I'm glad they can get more useful data from the telescope.



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 10:53 AM
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There appear to be two stars in the K2 field 1, within 40 light years of Earth. 1.) Ross 128, 10.89 light years distant. Ross 128 is a red dwarf star (M4 V). 2.) Beta Virginis, also known as Zavijah, 35.65 light years distant. Beta Virginis is classed as F9 V, making it a bit larger and intrinsically brighter than our Sun.



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 01:42 PM
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originally posted by: Ross 54
There appear to be two stars in the K2 field 1, within 40 light years of Earth. 1.) Ross 128, 10.89 light years distant. Ross 128 is a red dwarf star (M4 V). 2.) Beta Virginis, also known as Zavijah, 35.65 light years distant. Beta Virginis is classed as F9 V, making it a bit larger and intrinsically brighter than our Sun.


Yep. And there are other nearby stars in some of the fields.

May I ask what you're using to gather this information?

I was thinking of running a script on SIMBAD but it seems the distance parameter/filter there is messed up. (ie: kiloparsecs popping up as parsecs)



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 04:42 PM
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For stars within ~ 16 light years I used wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org...
For the rest, I used the following rendering of data from the Hipparcos Catalog:
www.astrostudio.org...
edit on 17-5-2014 by Ross 54 because: corrected link address
edit on 17-5-2014 by Ross 54 because: corrected link address
edit on 17-5-2014 by Ross 54 because: corrected link address
edit on 17-5-2014 by Ross 54 because: corrected link address



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 06:15 PM
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originally posted by: Arbitrageur
a reply to: andr3w68
Even if it was in Earth orbit, it would be far cheaper to get funding to operate the crippled telescope 2 more years than the far more expensive funding to go repair it.

Look at the costs, what was the final cost of the Kepler telescope, maybe $600 million?
And the cost of a shuttle launch is maybe $600 million? (more with R^D factored in).

A Saturn V type launch can handle 5 times the payload and might be capable of launching a crew repair module to the telescope, but the launch vehicle itself would cost over 1.2 billion to launch, plus you'd been a new crew module to put on top which would probably cost several hundred million for the module and more for R&D to you're looking at at least $2 billion to repair a telescope which only cost a fraction of that. So even if we had a Saturn V type launch vehicle, and the capability to do the repair, it doesn't seem economical, when for a smaller amount you could just launch a brand new telescope.

Here's an interesting discussion about launch costs:
forum.nasaspaceflight.com...

Back to the OP topic, yes that's Apollo 13 cleverness, using photon pressure to steer the telescope, very ingenious! I'm glad they can get more useful data from the telescope.


It would be easier to send up a space tug and have it go pull it to the ISS for repair. After that the tug could refuel and return it to its orbit. Not sure why they have not built space tugs yet. Even an Ion drive though slow could bring stuff back to the ISS for repair.



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 07:05 PM
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originally posted by: Ross 54
For stars within ~ 16 light years I used wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org...
For the rest, I used the following rendering of data from the Hipparcos Catalog:
www.astrostudio.org...


Well done.
edit on 17-5-2014 by JadeStar because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 07:07 PM
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originally posted by: Xeven
It would be easier to send up a space tug and have it go pull it to the ISS for repair. After that the tug could refuel and return it to its orbit. Not sure why they have not built space tugs yet. Even an Ion drive though slow could bring stuff back to the ISS for repair.


Even if we had a space tug (we don't), Kepler was never designed to be repaired in orbit.



posted on May, 17 2014 @ 07:27 PM
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Maybe future planetary spacecraft will have built in solar sails just incase things go tits up. S and f



posted on May, 18 2014 @ 01:08 PM
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originally posted by: symptomoftheuniverse
Maybe future planetary spacecraft will have built in solar sails just incase things go tits up. S and f


Nice idea. I'd love that but each addition onto a spacecraft costs money. The larger the item, the more money usually.

That same money could be put into longer lasting/more reliable reaction wheels.





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