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Quick Facts: Kepler

Mission Introduction

Kepler spacecraft

One goal of the Kepler mission is to estimate the number of planets that exist in multiple-star systems. (Courtesy NASA/Wendy Stenzel)

The centuries-old quest for other worlds like our Earth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitement and popular interest surrounding the discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system.

There is now clear evidence for substantial numbers of three types of exoplanets; gas giants, hot-super-Earths in short period orbits, and ice giants. The challenge now is to find terrestrial planets (i.e., those one half to twice the size of the Earth), especially those in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water and possibly life might exist.

Kepler is specifically designed to survey a portion of our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover planets in or near the habitable zone of their stars and determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy have such planets. Results from this mission will allow us to place our solar system within the continuum of planetary systems in the Galaxy.

The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems. This is achieved by surveying a large sample of stars to:

  1. Determine the abundance of terrestrial and larger planets in or near the habitable zone of a wide variety of stars
  2. Determine the distribution of sizes and shapes of the orbits of these planets
  3. Estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems
  4. Determine the variety of orbit sizes and planet reflectivities, sizes, masses and densities of short-period giant planets
  5. Identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques
  6. Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems


LASP Roles

LASP is managing Mission Operations for Kepler.

LASP Instruments

LASP did not provide any instruments for the Kepler mission.

For more information about the Kepler mission and mission operations at LASP, see:

Kepler Field of View

Kepler is looking at just one large area of the sky in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. (Courtesy Carter Roberts)

Quick Facts

Launch date: March 6, 2009
Launch location: Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Launch vehicle: Delta II
Mission target: Earth-trailing orbit
Mission duration: 3 1/2 years (extendable to at least 6 years)
Other organizations involved:

  • NASA Ames Research Center
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Ball Aerospace
  • SETI Institute
  • Lawrence Hall of Science
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Space Telescope Science Institute

KeplerClick on the image to view a PDF (672 KB) of Kepler FAQs.


The following mission update by Kepler Deputy Project Scientist Steve Howell of NASA Ames was presented to LASP staff on May 15, 2012.