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Reaction wheel glitch temporarily suspends Kepler operations
Posted: Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 7:52 AM ET (1252 GMT)
Kepler spacecraft illustration (NASA/Ames) NASA's Kepler spacecraft is suspending science operations for ten days to rest a reaction wheel that showed signs of wear, project officials said late last week. One of three operating reaction wheels showed signs of increased friction in operations earlier this month, a symptom of wear that could lead to the loss of the wheel. Kepler uses reaction wheels to maintain its attitude and requires three working wheels for normal operations. One of four wheels on the spacecraft failed last year, raising concerns about the spacecraft's health. During this ten-day rest period the wheels will not be used, and spacecraft thrusters will keep the spacecraft properly pointed, although science observations will be suspended during this time. Kepler, launched nearly four years ago, is now in an extended mission, observing more than 100,000 stars to look for evidence of planets orbiting them.
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