NASA Slips Launch of Kepler Observatory

Feb 27, 2009

NASA has slipped the launch of the Kepler observatory looking for Earth-like planets by one day to March 6 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The space agency said it needed additional time to review all common hardware between the Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler telescope and the Taurus XL launch vehicle, which had an apparent fairing separation problem that led to the loss of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory shortly after liftoff Feb. 24 (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 25).

United Launch Alliance will conduct the launch for NASA aboard a Delta II 7925-10L rocket. Two launch windows were set: 10:49-10:52 p.m. and 11:13 to 11:16 p.m. EST. NASA says the March 6 date still must be confirmed by the U.S. Air Force, which manages the range. A flight readiness review is set for March 2. Launch will be into a solar orbit trailing Earth by about 9 million miles, from which it will take a "planetary census" by staring at a field of 100,000 target stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way.

Kepler will look for Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zone of stars like our sun, where temperatures permit water to be liquid on a planet's surface.

Artist's concept: NASA

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