Kepler Mission Manager Update
Kepler is nearing 10 million kilometers from Earth, and will pass that mark on June 12. The spacecraft remains in its stable science attitude, observing its target stars.
The team is preparing for the upcoming science data downlink and quarterly roll maneuver that will occur around June 18. This contact with Kepler is a relatively long contact, and will involve two ground stations from the Deep Space Network (DSN). The spacecraft will be rolled 90 degrees to keep the solar panels toward the sun. This contact will downlink data, collected since May 12, 2009 on over 145,000 stars, through the NASA DSN, to the Ames Research Center's Kepler Science Operations Center. After the science data downlink is complete, new target tables will be loaded onto the spacecraft. Because the photometer's detectors are also rolled with the spacecraft, the detectors have to be given updated target parameters, to observe the same stars, since the spacecraft field-of-view rotates 90 degrees. The science office recently completed the new target tables in anticipation of the June 18, 2009 spacecraft contact.
During nominal operations, the spacecraft is contacted twice weekly to evaluate its state-of-health. Once per month, Kepler's science data is downlinked to the ground system. And, once per quarter, the spacecraft will be commanded to execute the roll maneuver to ensure proper illumination of Kepler's solar arrays and power generation.
During Kepler's commissioning phase -- which concluded successfully on May 12, 2009 -- nearly ten days of calibration data were collected on 53,000 stars. As reported in the last update, analysis of this data showed a very high level of precision and the presence of many eclipsing binary stars and variable stars.