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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope recovers from Safe Mode

 

Written by Kepler Project Manager Roger Hunter
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – During a scheduled semi-weekly contact on Friday, May 3rd, 2013, engineers discovered that the Kepler spacecraft was in a self-protective state called a safe mode. The spacecraft was returned to science data collection just before midnight on Monday, May 6th, 2013.

The spacecraft entered thruster-controlled safe mode at about 7:30pm PDT on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013.

NASA's Kepler Spacecraft

NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft

The recovery operation began at about 5:00pm PDT on Friday, May 3rd, 2013, after engineers had verified that the spacecraft was otherwise operating normally. The spacecraft responded well to commands and transitioned from thruster control to reaction wheel control as planned.

Following the safe mode recovery, the team performed a routine monthly data downlink from the on-board solid-state recorder on May 5th, 2013, and returned to science data collection. The monthly download was originally scheduled for May 8th-9th, 2013.

The root cause of the safe mode is not yet known but the engineering team is analyzing the data set downloaded during the monthly contact. The reaction wheels do not appear to be the cause of the safe mode. Early indications suggest anomalous star tracker performance. The loss of science data is estimated to be about five days.

Due to mandatory, across-the-board reductions in the Federal budget – termed “sequestration” – which went into effect on March 1st, 2013, the team is reassessing plans to host the second Kepler Science Conference at NASA Ames Research Center. The conference had been scheduled for November 2013.

Updates on the safe mode and the Kepler Science Conference will be provided as additional information is available.


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