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[b]NASA's Kepler Telescope to Launch Aboard Delta II Rocket[/b]
Launch of NASA's Kepler telescope is targeted for no earlier than Friday, March 6, from Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There are two launch windows, from 10:49 - 10:52 p.m. and 11:13 - 11:16 p.m. EST.
Kepler is a spaceborne telescope designed to search the nearby region of our galaxy for Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zone of stars like our sun. The habitable zone is the region around a star where temperatures permit water to be liquid on a planet's surface.
Liquid water is considered essential for the existence of life as we know it. The vast majority of the approximately 300 planets known to orbit other stars are much larger than Earth, and none is believed to be habitable. The challenge for Kepler is to look at a large number of stars in order to statistically estimate the total number of Earth-size planets orbiting sun-like stars in the habitable zone. Kepler will survey more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy.
Engineers are reviewing all common hardware between the Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler telescope and the Taurus XL launch vehicle. On Tuesday, a Taurus carrying NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory failed to reach orbit. Managers want to confirm there will not be similar issues with Kepler's Delta II.
Kepler's original March 5 target launch date was moved one day later to accommodate the additional time for analysis. The March 6 target date still must be confirmed by the U.S Air Force, which manages the eastern launch range. Kepler's Flight Readiness Review is on Monday, March 2.
NASA's Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., is responsible for the launch of Kepler aboard a Delta II 7925-10L rocket. United Launch Alliance is conducting the launch for NASA. NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is the home organization of the principal science investigator and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is responsible for the spacecraft and the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing and building the Kepler spacecraft and supporting mission operations.
[b]NASA Television Coverage[/b]
NASA Television coverage of the Kepler prelaunch press conference and of the launch will be carried on the NASA TV Public Channel (Channel 101).
NASA Television coverage of the Kepler prelaunch news conference and mission science briefing at Kennedy will begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 5.
[b]NASA Web Prelaunch and Launch Coverage[/b]
Kepler's prelaunch webcast, featuring Kepler's Deputy Principal Investigator Dr. David Koch and Kennedy Mission Manager Armando Piloto, will be streamed on the Web and broadcast on NASA TV on Thursday, March 5, at 11:30 a.m.
Live countdown coverage through NASA's launch blog begins at 9 p.m. Friday, March 6. Coverage features real-time updates as countdown milestones occur as well as streaming video clips highlighting launch preparations and liftoff.
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