by Jim Fanson, Kepler, JPL Project Manager
Kepler Mission Manager Update
Up until a few days ago, NASA's Deep Space Network stations have had their Ka-band radio receivers cross polarized to the spacecraft radio transmitter. Just like your polarized sunglasses reduce glare from the sun, the cross polarized radio configuration reduces the strength of the signal from Kepler, which otherwise would have damaged the radio receivers at the ground stations. Kepler is now 3.6 million kilometers (2.2 million miles) from Earth, far enough that the cross polarization is no longer necessary.
The "first light" images taken by Kepler's photometer following the release of the dust cover are now on the ground and being processed for release. These data were taken when the vehicle was not at "fine point," or as stabilized on the sky as it soon will be. The photometer was also cooling down to operational temperature when the first light images were taken. Now that the telescope temperatures have stabilized, engineers will bring the vehicle to fine-point control, and take a series of images to measure the state of the optical alignment and determine if any adjustments to focus are necessary.