Recently, NASA declared the Kepler telescope 'unfixable'.

However, it doesn't seem to be the end of the telescope, as NASA appears to have asked the broader scientific community for suggestions on what to do with the disabled spacecraft.

An engineering study will be conducted on the modifications required to manage science operations with the spacecraft using a combination of its remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters for spacecraft attitude control. Informed by contributions from the broader science community in response to the call for scientific white papers announced Aug. 2, the Kepler project team will perform a study to identify possible science opportunities for a two-wheel Kepler mission.

Depending on the outcome of these studies, which are expected to be completed later this year, NASA will assess the scientific priority of a two-wheel Kepler mission. Such an assessment may include prioritization relative to other NASA astrophysics missions competing for operational funding at the NASA Senior Review board early next year.

However, it seems that the loss of 2 reactor wheels is significant. What kind of science could still be done with the Kepler telescope?


1 Answer 1


Kepler has successfully completed its three and half year primary mission. And even if two of its four reaction wheels are beyond help:

It's possible Kepler could still gather valuable data by switching to a scanning mode, as opposed to the "point and stare" operations that defined its first four years in space. If neither failed reaction wheel is recovered, NASA will carry out studies addressing possible new missions .


"We've got a lot of planetary candidates that we know when the transits occur," he said. "We might be able to schedule a day or two days of precise pointing during that period and catch the next transit, and improve our knowledge of the planetary systems — maybe determine the mass of those systems, things like that."

"So it's not clear that planet hunting per se is off the table," he added. "It's just a different style of hunting."

"In two or three weeks, the Kepler team aims to return the observatory to wheel control," Sobeck said. The observatory's handlers will attempt to point Kepler using its reaction wheels, first coarsely and then, if that works, with much more precision.

If all goes well, mission team members will then start considering seriously when to return the spacecraft to science operations — whatever goals those operations end up pursuing.


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