Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA Kepler spacecraft very low on fuel, put into hibernation mode

NASA Kepler spacecraft very low on fuel, put into hibernation mode

The mission team received a message about it. Kepler is configured to revival in August, for project Deep Space Network. The team has paused the spacecraft's planet-hunting science observations and placed it in a hibernation-like state to prepare to download the science data collected during its most recent observation campaign. This will be possible only after a few weeks, so the last remnants of fuel are saved for the last stage of operation of the probe.

Kepler has been on its 18th observation campaign since May 12 collecting data from the part of the sky towards the constellation of Cancer that it earlier studied in 2015.

But as of now, returning the data back to Earth is the "highest priority" for the remaining fuel.

"To bring the data home, the spacecraft must point its large antenna back to Earth and transmit the data during its allotted Deep Space Network time, which is scheduled in early August", NASA officials wrote in a statement. If this is successful, they plan to start a new campaign for the observation of exoplanets with the remaining fuel.

Once the data has been downloaded, the expectation is to start observations for the next campaign with any remaining fuel, the announcement added. On 2 August, the ground team will commandeer the spacecraft and awaken it from hibernation and manoeuvre it to the correct orientation to begin the downlink of data.

The Kepler launch was held on 6 March 2009 at 22:49 on the East coast of the United States.

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The Kepler space telescope, which is now 94 million miles away from Earth, has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays.

As of now, NASA reports that Kepler has been on its 18 mission since May this year. Engineers figured out a way to stabilize Kepler using sunlight pressure, however, and in 2014, the spacecraft embarked on an extended mission known as K2.

It turns out scientists were overly conservative in their estimate. And like the older Kepler and K2 missions, TESS will also use the Transit method to find exoplanets.

But scientists now know that its life is coming to end very soon.

Named after Johannes Kepler, a 16th-century German astronomer, the Kepler Space Telescope discovered 2,650 planets since it launched. The planets come in all sizes and shapes and range from Jupiter like big and weird sized planet that orbit a binary star system to the ones that are closer in size and orbit to Earth.

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