Kepler spacecraft stable again as team seeks emergency mode cause

NASA researchers were recently surprised to find its Kepler spacecraft in Emergency Mode, something that had started about 14 hours before a course change the space agency had planned. That maneuver was cancelled and mission researchers began work on recovering Kepler, announcing today that they successfully brought the spacecraft out of Emergency Mode yesterday. As of Sunday morning, Kepler was stable and it is now in its lowest fuel-burning mode.

While Kepler is in the low-burning mode — its antenna pointing toward Earth — researchers on the ground will download its data and use it to determine whether there's anything wrong with the spacecraft. If everything ends up being okay, Kepler will be switched over into Science Mode and kick off a new mission called Campaign 9.

According to a statement posted recently by K2 Mission Manager Charlie Sobeck, the spacecraft's team has so far ruled out the reaction wheels and the planned maneuver as could-be reasons for the Emergency Mode activation. This is the first instance of Kepler switching into "anomalous" Emergency Mode during its seven years of operation

The maneuver, when/if it is resumed, will have the spacecraft moving so that it is pointing at the center of the Milky Way, preparing it for Campaign 9. Sobeck says NASA will update as more information arrives, adding, "It was the quick response and determination of the engineers throughout the weekend that led to the recovery."