Kepler spacecraft, almost out of fuel, suspends exoplanet search

NASA Readies to Extract Data as Kepler Runs'Very Low on Fuel

NASA Readies to Extract Data as Kepler Runs'Very Low on Fuel

The Kepler Space Telescope which helped NASA learn about the number and frequency of planets in our galaxy is nearly out of fuel. Once the second mission, KA2, started, they were hoping to at least get 10 observation campaigns before the tank dries out.

Almost out of fuel after nine years of trail-blazing searches for exoplanets, NASA's' Kepler satellite has been put in a state of electronic hibernation in preparation for downloading stored data from its latest observation campaign. The move has been taken in order to prepare the spacecraft to download the data collected in its latest observation campaign. This will be possible only after a few weeks, so the last remnants of fuel are saved for the last stage of operation of the probe. According to NASA, May 12 marked the start of Kepler's 18th observational campaign, which involved focusing on the Cancer constellation.

"Until then, the spacecraft will remain stable and parked in a no-fuel-use safe mode", they added.

The report explains that Kepler must turn its large antenna toward Earth and wait for the allotted Deep Space Network time to transmit the data. The team will begin its 19th observation campaign on August 6 after completing the download.

The Kepler team will wake up the spacecraft on August 2 and maneuver it to the correct orientation to downlink the data. The hibernation-like mode will conserve fuel in preparation for this download period, after which point NASA plans to send Kepler off to make more observations.


The $600 million Kepler mission launched in March 2009, with the goal of helping astronomers determine just how common Earth-like planets are throughout the Milky Way galaxy.

The Space Telescope was launched by NASA in 2009. As per NASA, the original Kepler mission found 2,244 exoplanets candidates and 2,327 exoplanets were confirmed, the extended K2 mission has successfully identified 479 candidates and out of which 323 were confirmed. "Interestingly, Kepler used the pressure of the sun to maintain its gaze, 'like a kayak steering into the current", says Sobeck, reports the UK's Daily Mail.

But scientists now know that its life is coming to end very soon.

Until now, Kepler discovered much information about the nature of the space outside our solar system, finding hot gas giants close to their stars, discovering binary star systems, red dwarfs orbited by rocky worlds and even a planet that looks like ours.

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