Kepler Space Telescope Is Reaching The End Of Its Life


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Kepler Space Telescope mission might be coming to an end after over 9 years of service. The NASA engineers have determined that the unmanned deep space probe is running out of fuel and only has enough propellant left in its attitude control system to keep it properly oriented for a couple of more months. The spacecraft will no longer be able to collect or transmit data to Earth.

The Kepler Space Telescope was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 17B on March 7, 2009. It was originally intended for three and a half years but its mission was extended as it continued to seek out extrasolar planets circling the sun around 94 million miles away from home.

(Source: fayerwayer)

It had a scare in 2013 when the reaction wheels that hold the spacecraft steady failed and it was thought that the mission would end. But, NASA came up with a fix that allowed Kepler to use solar winds to balance its attitude like a boat setting its sails to keep it on course. This allowed the mission to continue for three 17-month campaigns.

There is no way to determine exactly how much propellant is left but engineers are monitoring the spacecraft for signs like a drop in tank pressure that will indicate that the end is near and the spacecraft will no longer be able to keep its position for observation and maintaining contact with Earth.

(Source: New Atlas)

NASA does say that it is very likely that the Kepler Space Telescope only has enough fuel for a few more months but its ultimate fate is unknown. It is far away from Earth to be a hazard but normally deep space probes are completely shut down to prevent their transmitters from accidentally blinding deep space tracking networks. Who knows, it might surprise and keep on going. We will know in a few months time.

 

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