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Kepler Readied for Launch
NARRATOR: The Kepler observatory is designed to look for something that has long eluded astronomers – more planets like Earth. Such an important mission requires a delicate instrument inside a robust spacecraft, and a dependable rocket to launch it.
The Delta II rocket took shape at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Pad 17-B where technicians used cranes to lift the first stage, then nine boosters.
The second stage came next.
The Kepler spacecraft was trucked, inside a protective container, to Astrotech’s processing facility in Titusville, Florida.
After unpacking the observatory, technicians tested the machinery and the detectors that will be used to watch for telltale signs of Earth-like planets in the far distance.
The telescope passed all of its systems tests and workers lifted the spacecraft onto the top of the third stage of the Delta II rocket.
Then they packed the Kepler and its third stage into a transportation container and the observatory was rolled out of the processing high bay.
It was a short trip as the spacecraft was wheeled across the river to the launch pad.
A crane lifted the payload to the top of the service structure where workers fastened it into place on the rocket.
Workers locked a two-piece molded nose cone, or fairing, around the observatory, designed to come off quickly as the telescope leaves the atmosphere.
The next time Kepler sees on its own, it will be looking out on stars in search of planets from a comfortable orbit high above Earth.
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