Mission News

Kepler Mission Manager Update
Roger HunterRoger Hunter, Kepler-Ames Mission Manager Feb. 8, 2010

Kepler experienced a safe mode event on February 2, 2010. A safe mode is a self-protective measure that the spacecraft takes when something unexpected occurs. During safe mode, the spacecraft points the solar panels directly at the sun and begins to slowly rotate about a sun-aligned axis. As a safety precaution, the spacecraft turned off a redundant system, photometer, and both star trackers.

Engineers immediately began telemetry analysis to determine the spacecraft’s subsystem health, and cause of the malfunction. Initial telemetry analysis indicated errant data from the star trackers, which caused the spacecraft’s fault protection software to execute a safe mode.

The scientific data, collected since the last download of science data in January, was not in danger and was downloaded successfully via the NASA Deep Space Network during recovery operations. Engineers verified that all of Kepler's systems were functioning correctly and successfully recovered the vehicle from safe mode. The spacecraft resumed collecting scientific data on Feb. 5, 2010.

This was the fourth safe mode Kepler has experienced since operations began May 12, 2009. Kepler engineers plan for potential loss of up to 12 days of science per year from safe mode events. An anomaly response team will continue to analyze telemetry data to determine the cause of the malfunction and develop possible mitigations to avoid a recurrence. The next download of science data is scheduled for mid-March 2010.

Meanwhile, the Kepler Guest Observer program is well underway. The Kepler cycle 2 Guest Observer Program reserves 3,000 targets for the general astronomy community to pursue research programs across a broad range of astrophysics.

The most recent call for scientific proposals closed on Jan 22, 2010. These targets are competed for each year and selected by a peer review panel comprised of independent scientific experts. The cycle 2 program received 54 unique science proposals. Proposed programs involve investigators from 77 academic and science institutions from 18 countries. The panel will meet to award targets and NASA research grants March 10-12, 2010.