WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler spacecraft resumes its operations after facing a problem with one of its thrusters that lowers the fuel levels eventually leading the mission to an end.
The spacecraft was set to begin in the name of a project called Campaign 19 and the latest in a series of observations in the span of nearly three months at a time, but it was found that spacecraft went into a “sleep mode” after transmitting data that was gathered during the previous campaign.
Alison Hawkes, a Senior spokesperson at NASA’s Ames Research Center, mentioned in a statement that their engineers found no causes of “systemic problems” on the spacecraft except an issue with one of the spacecraft’s eight thrusters.
He added to the statement that, Kepler uses the thrusters to maintain its orientation where the spacecraft originally based on reaction control wheels, but for a cause two of the four wheels on the spacecraft malfunctioned by mid-2013, after four years of launch which enforced for the end of spacecraft’s primary mission.
Engineers developed an alternative planned mechanism so that the remaining wheels, as well as the thrusters, work autonomously. This allowed the spacecraft to resume its operations with the mission name K2.
The extended mission from k2 is expected to end in the coming as soon as the spacecraft exhaust its remaining hydrazine fuel for its thrusters. In the early days of august, engineers revived Kepler to transmit previously collected data before the safe mode gets enabled.
Hawkes also mentioned that “We are trying to eliminate the use of thruster for precision pointing keeping in view of the reduction in fuel consumption,” she said. Adding to that she also mentioned Removing these thrusters from the precision pointing operations will make the spacecraft less balanced against solar pressure but there will be no effect on the data that is being sent to the earth.
Kepler, in its primary mission investigated on exoplanets by looking for periodic changes, sudden drop in brightness caused when certain planets pass in front of, or transit about the stars they orbit leading to the observations and discovery of more than 2,300 confirmed exoplanets, Similarly the K2 extended mission has discovered several hundred exoplanets in addition to supporting astrophysics research.