The Kepler mission has launched a new era of astronomy following release of "first light" images from the Ball Aerospace-built photometer. "As the prime contractor, we are thrilled to know the Kepler mission is poised to contribute to a new age of astronomy for NASA and scientists around the world," said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. "This milestone brings us one step closer to discovering Earth-like planets in our galaxy."
Ball Aerospace built the Kepler photometer and spacecraft and managed system integration and spacecraft testing. The photometer has an exceptionally wide field of view which is required to monitor over 100,000 stars. It employs a 0.95 meter aperture, Schmidt telescope, with a 1.4-meter primary mirror. Ball Aerospace utilized its new 1.5 meter optical test capability for the first time to integrate and test the Kepler photometer, which features a focal plane array of 42 charge-coupled devices with more than 95 million pixels. Conveying the largest camera ever sent by NASA beyond Earth's orbit, Kepler launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. on March 6, 2009.
The more than three-year Kepler mission will search a field of 100,000 plus stars for signs of planets in the habitable zone. The mission is expected to provide valuable insight about the origin of the Solar System while also acting as a trailblazer for future searches for terrestrial planets.
Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the home organization of the science principal investigator, and is also responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Kepler mission development.
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. Since 1956, Ball Aerospace has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific 'firsts' and is a technology innovator in aerospace.
Ball Corporation is a supplier of high-quality metal and plastic packaging products for beverage, food and household products customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the U.S. government.
Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ more than 14,500 people worldwide and reported 2008 sales of more than $7.5 billion.