Ball Aerospace & Technologies has completed the precision coating process of the primary mirror for NASA’s Kepler Mission, a mission that is specifically designed to detect Earth-size and smaller planets near stars within our region of the Milky Way galaxy. The mission will search for planets in or near the habitable zone (HZ) of stars in our galaxy, where HZ is defined as the distance from a star where liquid water can exist on a planet’s surface.
Completion of the primary mirror’s coating culminates a four-year development program to design and build a large, lightweight mirror for use in space. The mirror was coated using an enhanced, silver coating technology provided by Surface Optics that is designed to provide the NASA mission with the sensitivity needed to detect planets as they pass in front of stars.
In addition to completing the primary mirror’s coating, Ball Aerospace has also completed integration of the detector array assembly. These milestones meet a critical path requirement and allow the program to begin integration and test on the photometer telescope and focal plane array assembly.
The Kepler instrument, a custom-built, 0.95-m aperture Schmidt telescope, operates with a 1.4-m primary mirror and an array of 46 charge-coupled devices at the focus. It features a focal plane array of 95 megapixels that will measure the brightness of 100,000 stars every 30 min.
Ball Aerospace is also building the spacecraft for the Kepler Mission, which is scheduled to launch in February 2009.