NASA’s Kepler Telescope to Launch Aboard Delta II Rocket

The Kepler spacecraft has been lifted into place and attached to the Delta II rocket that will launch it into space. The work is on schedule to launch the observatory. Launch is scheduled for no earlier than Friday, March 6 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Atlantic coast.

It is the first mission with the ability to find planets like Earth — rocky planets that orbit sun-like stars in a warm zone where liquid water could be maintained on the surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.

“Kepler is a critical component in NASA’s broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets where Earth-like conditions may be present,” said Jon Morse, the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The planetary census Kepler takes will be very important for understanding the frequency of Earth-size planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such worlds around nearby stars.”

The Kepler spacecraft will watch a patch of space for 3.5 years or more for signs of Earth-sized planets moving around stars similar to the sun. The patch that Kepler will watch contains about 100,000 stars like the sun. Using special detectors similar to those used in digital cameras, Kepler will look for slight dimming in the stars as planets pass between the star and Kepler. The Kepler’s place in space will allow it to watch the same stars constantly throughout its mission, something observatories like Hubble cannot do.

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.

Accreditation and Media Access Badges for Kennedy and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

All news media, including those who are permanently badged at Kennedy, must complete the accreditation process for activities associated with the Kepler launch. Accreditation requests for Kepler at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station must be received by the close of business Tuesday, March 3. The media accreditation process is online at:


On Thursday, March 5, media without permanent credentials may obtain NASA access badges at the Kennedy Space Center Badging Office between 6 a.m. and 4 p.m. This facility is located on State Road 405 just east of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Two forms of government-issued identification are required, including at least one with a picture. For further information about media accreditation, contact Laurel Lichtenberger in the news media accreditation office at 321-867-4036.

Prelaunch News Conference

Thursday, March 5: A prelaunch press conference will be held at the Kennedy Space Center news center at 1 p.m. Participants will be:

– Ed Weiler, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington
– Omar Baez, NASA launch director and launch manager, Kennedy Space Center
– Vernon Thorp, program manager, NASA Missions, United Launch Alliance
– Jim Fanson, Kepler project manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
– John Troeltzsch, Kepler program manager, Ball Aerospace Corporation
– Joel Tumbiolo, U.S. Air Force Delta II launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Mission Science Briefing

Immediately following the prelaunch news conference, a Kepler mission science briefing will be held. Participants will be:

– Ed Weiler, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
– Bill Borucki, science principal investigator, Ames Research Center
– Natalie Batalha, co-investigator, San Jose State University
– Gibor Basri, co-investigator, University of California at Berkeley

Tower Rollback Photo Opportunity and Remote Camera Placements

Thursday, March 5: Photographers who wish to cover the rollback of the mobile service tower from around the Delta II or to set up remote cameras at Pad 17-B will be escorted by NASA and United Launch Alliance representatives to the launch complex. Departure by vehicle convoy will be at 11:30 a.m. from the Space Florida parking lot located on Poseidon Avenue, adjacent to Gate 1 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Launch Day Press Site Access to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

Friday, March 6: Verification of pre-issued press credentials and sign-in will begin at 9:30 p.m. at the Space Florida parking lot.

News media representatives covering the launch will be required to show their permanent Kennedy credentials or temporary Kennedy machine badge before being allowed to participate in the caravan traveling to the media viewing site. Following the launch, media will be escorted by caravan back to Gate 1. Those media requiring access to the Kennedy news center after launch must proceed through Gate 2 on State Road 3. Media requiring remote camera retrieval will remain at Press Site 1 until escorted to the launch pad. Following camera retrieval, participating media will be escorted back to Gate 1.

To reach the Space Florida parking lot, after passing the Pass and Identification Building outside Gate 1 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, turn right at the traffic light at the intersection of SR 401 and Poseidon Avenue. Make an immediate left turn at the Navaho display.

Post-launch Activities

No post-launch news conference is planned. A post-launch news release will be issued after contact has been made with Kepler and the state of health of the spacecraft has been determined. This should occur within one hour of the spacecraft’s separation from the Delta II. Official spokespersons will be available at the Kennedy news center for interviews at that time.

News Center Hours for Launch

The Kennedy news center will be open for Kepler news operations beginning on Tuesday, March 3, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and continuing through launch day. Starting March 3, status reports on the launch of Kepler and any updates to the media advisory will be recorded on the Kennedy news media update phone line at 321-867-2525.

NASA Television Coverage

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. Two-way question and answer capability will be available from other participating NASA centers. On Friday, March 6, NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 9 p.m. and conclude after spacecraft separation from the Delta II rocket 62 minutes after launch.

Audio of the prelaunch news conference will be carried on the NASA “V” circuits. The briefings begin at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 5 and may be accessed by dialing 321-867-1220, 1240, 1260 or 7135.

On launch day, Friday, March 6, “Mission Audio” countdown activities without NASA launch commentary will be carried on 321-867-7135 beginning at 8 p.m. Audio of the NASA launch commentary will begin at 9 p.m. and be available on 321-867-1220, 1240 or 1260. It also will be available on amateur radio frequency 146.940 Mhz (VHF), heard within Brevard County. For information about receiving NASA Television, go to:


NASA Web Prelaunch and Launch Coverage

NASA’s home on the Internet, http://www.nasa.gov, will provide extensive prelaunch and launch day coverage of the Kepler mission.

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. For questions, contact Jeanne Ryba at 321-867-7824.

To view the webcast or blog or to learn more about the Kepler mission, visit:


The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.