On Wednesday (July 24), some cautiously optimistic news from the team attempting to recover NASA’s stricken Kepler space telescope was announced.
The recovery effort, which began last week, has gotten as far as checking out both of the telescope’s failed reaction control wheels, part the observatory’s critical pointing system.
Kepler has four reaction wheels and needs at least two working to look for faint dips of light coming from target stars. Scientists analyze the data to look for orbiting planets passing by, relative to Kepler’s line of sight.
But the telescope has been sidelined since May when a second wheel failed.
Engineers were able to get that wheel spinning, but only in one direction. However, the other wheel, which failed last year, was able to spin in both directions, the Kepler team reported on its website.
“Over the next two weeks, engineers will review the data from these tests and consider what steps to take next. Although both wheels have shown motion, the friction levels will be critical in future considerations. The details of the wheel friction are under analysis,” NASA said.
Image credit: NASA