Reaction wheel failure means only two left on Kepler and it may be the end for the mission

by | May 16, 2013 | Science | 0 comments

During a routine call up of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission on 14 May, the spacecraft was found to have fallen into a safe mode with an attitude error. During an attempt to return to reaction wheel control as the spacecraft rotated into communication, and commanded a stop rotation, it appeared that all three wheels responded and that rotation had been successfully stopped.  However reaction wheel 4 remained at full torque while the spin rate dropped to zero. According to NASA, this is a clear indication that there has been an internal failure within the reaction wheel, likely a structural failure of the wheel bearing. The spacecraft was then transitioned back to Thruster-Controlled Safe Mode.  NASA may now elect to retire the spacecraft which has exceeded its three year old design life by over a year.  During its service the spacecraft has discovered hundreds of planets orbiting distant stars.

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