Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. has successfully completed two significant milestones for the Kepler Mission: the precision coating process of Kepler's primary mirror, and the integration of the detector array assembly. These milestones meet a critical path requirement and allow the program to begin integration and test on the photometer telescope and focal plane array assembly.
"These milestones allow the Kepler mission to enter the next phase of development and demonstrate Ball Aerospace's intent to successfully move the program forward," said Cary Ludtke, Vice President and General Manager for Ball's Civil and Operational Space business unit.
The Kepler instrument is a custom-built, 0.95-meter aperture Schmidt telescope, with a 1.4-meter primary mirror, and an array of 46 charge coupled devices (CCDs) at the focus. It features a focal plane array of 95 megapixels that will measure the brightness of 100,000 stars every 30 minutes in a search for Earth-size planets around stars in our galaxy.
Coating the primary mirror culminates a four-year development program to design and build a large, light-weight mirror for use in space. The enhanced, silver coating technology used for the primary mirror was provided by Surface Optics Corporation and is designed to provide the NASA mission with the sensitivity needed to detect planets as they pass in front of stars. With the primary mirror complete, integration of the telescope using the 0.95 m Schmidt corrector and composite housing is now underway. The advanced integration and functional testing of the Ball-designed and manufactured CCD Detector Module array and detector electronics were completed at Ball's Detector Technology Center, opened in 2006.
Ball Aerospace is also building the spacecraft for the Kepler mission, which is scheduled to launch in February, 2009.
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions of important national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. Over the past 50 years, Ball Aerospace has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific 'firsts' and acts as a technology innovator for the aerospace market.
Ball Corporation is a supplier of high-quality metal and plastic packaging products for beverage, food and household customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ more than 15,500 people worldwide and reported 2006 sales of $6.6 billion.
The NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the home organization of the science principal investigator and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Kepler mission development is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
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