NASA Says Kepler Back Up and Running

     
     (CN) — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has resumed its search for exoplanets after it went into emergency mode that could have jeopardized the entire mission, the craft’s mission manager said.
     It is unclear why the spacecraft went into emergency mode earlier this month.
     The Kepler team began working on fixing the issue after it was initially reported on April 8. NASA said on April 11 that the spacecraft was stable and the emergency had been resolved, and it resumed its mission at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday.
     “The nature of the problem has indications of a transient event, which triggered a barrage of false alarms that eventually overwhelmed the system, placing Kepler in emergency mode,” Kepler mission manager Charlie Sobeck said in a statement. “Power-cycling the onboard computers and subsystems appears to have cleared the problem.”
     The Kepler spacecraft is currently on the K2 mission, collecting data to study supernova explosions, star formation and solar system bodies like comets and asteroids.
     Flight engineers based in Boulder, Colorado began the process of returning Kepler to its mission late on April 19, which involved a series of steps over the following two days that included reloading and confirming the pointing tables and science targets — instructions that tell the spacecraft where to look and at what.
     Kepler entered emergency mode 14 hours before it was scheduled to orient itself toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Unfortunately, emergency mode forces the spacecraft to burn more of its limited fuel supply.
     A new command sequence was created, tested and uploaded to account for the delay in the start to its Campaign 9 — a mission to find exoplanets, which are planets that orbit a star other than our sun — using a technique known as gravitational microlensing. The technique can be used to detect objects that range from the mass of a planet to the mass of a star, regardless of the light they emit.
     NASA engineers are examining a spectrum of data to determine the cause of the near shutdown.
     “The C9 observing period will conclude on July 1, when the galactic center is no longer in view from the vantage point of the spacecraft. K2 will then begin Campaign 10, which will proceed to investigate an entirely new set of interesting astrophysical targets,” Sobeck said.

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