As of 2012, please find most recent Mission Manager Updates at
Updates are prepared by
Kepler Mission Manager,
NASA Ames Research Center
Since start of Kepler's science data-collection phase, we do a health check of the spacecraft twice a week and download science data once per month. Updates are posted on a periodic basis as new information develops.
Circumbinary planets! ...and Kepler Science Conference
Busy times are routine for the Kepler project team. ... several more confirmed planets -- Kepler-16b, and the Kepler 18 system (18b, 18c, and 18d). ...Kepler-16b ... confirms that planets orbiting two stars -- called circumbinary planets -- do exist, and we see more emerging from our data. Working on the Kepler-16b announcement was especially unique, since we had a chance to collaborate with Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic for the press conference.
Kepler Spacecraft Status Report
The health of the spacecraft and photometer... is excellent and has recorded more than two months of routine operations in this quarter. The observing efficiency in ... April through June 2011, has been above 97 percent due to two very efficient monthly science data downlinks in April and May-- 16.6 hours and 15.2 hours, the quickest yet! ...Kepler is currently 36.7 million kilometers from Earth. (a bit over 90 times the distance of the Moon from Earth, or about 1/4 the distance from the Earth to the Sun)
Another 93 Gigabytes of Data Added to the Archive
Tuesday, April 26, the project team reoriented the Kepler spacecraft to downlink data from its solid-state recorder (SSR). All data collected since March 20 was returned successfully. The Quarter 9, Month 1 science data collection download now is complete. ...A total of 93 gigabytes of data was downloaded in approximately six hours before reorienting the spacecraft to science attitude. ...When the spacecraft is turned to a different attitude, the sun shines on different parts of the structure, which causes it to warp ever so slightly. ...When it's maneuvered back to the science attitude, it takes time to settle back to its original shape. ... the total science break, which includes the collection of calibration data, was about 17 hours. The monthly budget is 20 hours. ...Kepler is currently 32 million kilometers from Earth.
Kepler Returns to Science
After a safe mode event that occurred on March 14 and lasted 144 hours, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft returned to science data collection at 2:45 p.m. EDT Sunday, March 20. ...During safe mode, the spacecraft points the solar panels directly at the sun and begins to slowly rotate along a sun-aligned axis. ...During the spacecraft’s recovery from the safe mode event, the project team performed the spring quarterly roll and downloaded science data collected since Feb. 4....
Safe Mode event
During a planned contact on March 14, the Kepler spacecraft experienced a safe mode event... a self-protective measure that the spacecraft takes when something unexpected occurs. ...Shortly after the safe mode entry, the team analyzed the spacecraft data and determined all subsystems remained healthy. During recovery actions, the Deep Space Network was used to downlink telemetry and began recovery of files to assist in the anomaly analysis.
Kepler and Its First 1,235 Candidates
Data release, 1,235 planet candidates, Kepler-11 six-planet system, 60 tweeps at Ames 1st Tweetup, SOC 7.0 software, and collecting Quarter 8 data.
Recovered from Safe Mode; Science Data Downloaded
The Kepler project team has recovered spacecraft from its Safe Mode event that occurred on Feb. 1, 2011. The spacecraft returned to science data collection after an outage of 64 hours.
Kepler in Safe Mode
During the scheduled Feb. 1, 2011 contact with the Kepler spacecraft, engineers discovered Kepler was in Safe Mode, with photometer and star trackers powered off. In Safe Mode, Kepler slowly rotates along a sun-aligned axis with solar arrays pointed at the sun. This is a self protection mechanism that the spacecraft enters when something unexpected occurs on the spacecraft. The project team engineers have begun the recovery process to return to science data collection. Updates will be posted as the team makes progress in the recovery.
Back to Normal
The Kepler Project Team successfully returned the spacecraft to normal operations on Jan. 6, 2011. The team determined the condition was caused by unexpected noise in the signal from Kepler's sun sensors that erroneously indicated Kepler might be pointing too close to the sun. This was a false alarm, but the team treated it seriously. Kepler was not able to collect science data from Dec. 22, 2010, to Jan. 6, 2011. Kepler's next science data download is scheduled for February 2011.
Safe Mode Update
In response to the Dec. 22, 2010 Safe Mode event on the Kepler spacecraft, the mission team has brought in several experts and begun a detailed anomaly investigation. The team's initial results are that the Kepler spacecraft appears to be in good condition, and that the on-board fault protection is working as designed. During an initial assessment of the likely source of the anomaly, the team has been able to highlight the circuits most likely to have been involved in causing the safe mode.
On Dec. 22, 2010, Kepler experienced a safe mode event… a self-protective measure that the spacecraft takes when something unexpected occurs….
The scientific data, collected since the last download of science data in November, was not in danger and had already been downloaded successfully….
Kepler engineers plan for potential loss of up to 12 days of science per year from safe mode events, and the mission is well within that time budget for 2010....
Coarsepoint-Finepoint anomaly and recovery
The project team discovered Kepler had experienced an anomaly. Kepler was found in coarse point attitude, as opposed to finepoint. Coarse point means the Kepler is using its star trackers for pointing at the Kepler Field-of-View (FOV) instead of the fine guidance sensors that are hard-mounted to the Kepler focal plane array. To properly track Kepler’s target stars with fine accuracy, Kepler must be in Finepoint attitude. The project team was able to recover the spacecraft to Finepoint relatively quickly. Only 13 hours of science data collection were interrupted by this anomaly.
Data Download; Data Release; 2010 ground-based observing complete; AAS meeting
Kepler completed science data download Nov. 22-23, 2010 (Quarter 7, Month 2) ... upcoming quarterly roll of the spacecraft Dec. 21-23, 2010. The 2010 ground-based observing season is completed for the Kepler Mission. Next year’s ground-based observing season will begin in spring 2011. A major paper about Kepler planet candidates is planned in conjunction with the release of Quarter 2 of the Kepler data in February 2011 which will also contain quarters 0-2 for the 400 planetary candidates withheld from the June 2010 data release. The Kepler project is moving the next data release date (originally planned for June 2011) forward to Feb. 1, 2011. See full update.
Discoveries, planet candidates, and the Kepler Asteroseismic Science Consortium (KASC)
Quarterly roll and download of data (Quarter 6) from the spacecraft was Sept. 22-23, 2010. The first month of Quarter 7 science data is expected to be downloaded approximately Oct. 22-23, 2010. Science team members are preparing to announce the mission’s latest discovery in early November. The KASC submitted a total of 16 papers during June 2010, most of which are now accepted for publication in international, peer-reviewed journals.
Kepler outlook positive; Followup Observing Program in full swing
...Overall, the project is quite pleased with performance so far. ...The only expendable resource we have on Kepler is propellant, and estimates are that we have sufficient propellant for another 10 years (well above the 2.5 years remaining in the nominal mission). Currently our most challenging issue as we look out in the long term, is the telecom margin as the spacecraft gets further from the earth. We will have to continue to drop our data rate over time, as the signal strength drops due to distance.
Meanwhile, the Kepler Science Team has been quite busy analyzing all the data Kepler has collected to date. There are many planetary candidates that the team must assess and verify as a true planet or a false signature....
Kepler releases first 43 days of data, and is performing well
The project team recently completed another roll of the Kepler spacecraft and science data download. Accomplished over June 22-23, 2010, the operation was a complete success, as the roll placed Kepler in its summer attitude. Kepler mission data collected over the first 43 days of operations were made available at the Multi-Mission Archive at STScI (MAST: http://archive.stsci.edu) on June 15, 2010.
Anniversary of on-orbit operations and upcoming public data release
May 12, 2010, marked the one-year anniversary of on-orbit operations for Kepler. The team is in the final stages of preparations to release Kepler’s first 43 days of science data to the public at the Multi-Mission Archive at STScI scheduled for 2010 June 22-25. Nearly 3,000 binary star systems have been cataloged. Upcoming papers will discuss planetary candidates, those that are believed to be "false alarms," eclipsing binaries, and stars that have multiple planet candidates.
Data download and ground-based follow-up observations in full swing
Kepler engineers used three ground-stations in NASA’s deep space network, at Madrid, Spain, Canberra Australia, and California, for this month's data download. The Guest Observer Program has evaluated proposals to the Kepler cycle 2. The Science Team continues to analyze data on over 200 planet candidates. With Cygnus now visible, ground-based follow-up observations of Kepler’s candidate targets is underway at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona, McDonald Observatory in Texas, and the Keck 10-meter telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii.
Data download & quarterly roll complete; software update ready
The Kepler project team successfully completed another science data download March 19-21, 2010. Project engineers completed a quarterly roll of the spacecraft. The next monthly data download (April 21-23, 2010) will include an update to flight segment software which has been in development and test for a number of weeks, and is ready for flight operations. It will help mitigate
errors that might lead Safe mode events.
2010 follow-on observing season begins - Kepler celebrates 1-year anniversary.
Kepler recently marked the one-year anniversary of its launch on March 6, 2009.The project team prepares for another monthly science data download scheduled for March 19-21, 2010, The science team has just begun the follow-on observing season for 2010. The Kepler engineers studying safe-mode events have several mitigations under consideration that should minimize impact to science activities.
Kepler Guest Observer program is well underway
Kepler experienced a safe mode event on February 2, 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....
Announcement of five planets discovered
Two of Kepler’s 42 CCDs transmitted anomalous data. Additional telemetry is being gathered from the spacecraft to facilitate analysis of the anomaly.
Kepler continues to collect science data
Kepler continues to monitor the Cygnus-Lyrae region of the sky for Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of other stars. The Kepler Team successfully completed the third quarterly roll of the spacecraft and another monthly science data download over the Dec. 17-18 timeframe.
Kepler experienced a safe mode event on November 18
Kepler experienced a safe mode event on November 18. 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.