NASA Kepler Mission Update 17 January 2013

Source: Ames Research Center
Posted Thursday, January 17, 2013

It has been more than three-and-a-half-years since the Kepler mission launched in March 2009. The spacecraft has continued in its heliocentric, drift-away orbit and is now more than 45 million miles away from Earth.

The Kepler project team has completed two science data downloads since the last update. The most recent data download on Jan. 11, 2013 included a quarterly roll to winter attitude. This marked the successful completion of Quarter 15 flight operations and the beginning of Quarter 16.

Earlier this month during a semi-weekly contact with the spacecraft, the team detected an increase in the amount of torque required to spin one of the three remaining reaction wheels. This increase in friction occurred before the Jan. 11, 2013 quarterly roll, and persisted after the spacecraft roll and several momentum desaturations of the reaction wheels. Increased friction over a prolonged period can lead to accumulated wear on the reaction wheel, and possible wheel failure. To minimize wheel friction, the team implemented several mitigations including increased operating temperatures, higher spin rates, and bi-directional operation following the failure of reaction wheel #2 in July 2012.

Read more: NASA Kepler Mission Update 17 January 2013 | SpaceRef – Your Space Reference.

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