Officials of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., have announced a $7.2 million contract to Ball Aerospace for Kepler spacecraft operations and maintenance, as well as for managing data the spacecraft returns to Earth for analysis.
The NASA Kepler/K2 Flight Planning Center (FPC) and Mission Operations Center (MOC) contract to Ball Aerospace was awarded originally in May 2009. This award, announced on 28 Sept. 2016, extends the contract by two years. The potential total value of the contract is about $36.2 million, NASA officials say.
Kepler is a NASA space observatory designed to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. It was launched in March 2009 into an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit.
The Kepler spacecraft was designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way to discover Earth-size exoplanets in or near habitable zones and estimate how many of the billions of stars in the Milky Way have such planets.
The spacecraft uses a photometer that monitors the brightness of more than 145,000 main sequence stars. This information is transmitted to Earth, then analyzed to detect periodic dimming caused by exoplanets that cross in front of their host star.
Ball Aerospace originally developed the Kepler flight system, and is responsible for its operation and maintenance. Based on Kepler data, astronomers have estimated that as many as 40 billion rocky, Earth-size exoplanets are orbiting in habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs within the Milky Way.
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