Ball Aerospace Hubble Space Telescope Science Instruments Shine A Light On The Universe’s Origins

April 21, 2015 – NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, with seven instruments built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., celebrates 25 years of dramatic observations and discoveries on April 24, 2015.

One of the most productive scientific observatories ever built, Hubble was launched in 1990 and has dramatically changed humanity’s understanding of the universe. Over the course of two decades, NASA astronauts flew the space shuttle 300 miles into space for five missions to install state-of-the-art instruments that return stunning images of the solar system and the farthest reaches of our universe. Today, all five of the working science instruments aboard Hubble are Ball instruments.

“Ball Aerospace and Hubble have traveled nearly four billion miles together to provide NASA with astronomical discoveries that have proven pivotal to our understanding of the universe,” said Robert Strain, president of Ball Aerospace. “We’re very proud to be part of such a historic and successful NASA mission.”

Some of Hubble’s most notable discoveries almost never happened due to a tiny flaw in its main mirror. Upon launch it was discovered the mirror was ground too flat by less than the width of a human hair, but just enough to throw off the focus. In 1993 astronauts installed a set of small mirrors that acted like a contact lens to clarify Hubble’s vision. Once installed, Ball’s Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) instrument, working alongside the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, fixed the Hubble’s fuzzy vision.

Over the next 16 years, astronauts continued to deliver new instruments and make servicing repairs to Hubble. During the final servicing mission in 2009, astronauts installed the Ball-built Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC-3) and Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS). Astronauts also repaired and upgraded two instruments previously built by Ball: the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph and the Advanced Camera for Surveys.

WFC-3 and COS are equipped with the most advanced detector capabilities ever flown in space. The camera has improved Hubble’s ultraviolet imaging by a factor of 10 and added 30 times more coverage in near infrared wavelengths; the spectrometer explores the “cosmic web” to reveal new secrets about how and when distant stars and planets were formed. Additional instruments built for Hubble by Ball include the Near-Infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer and the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph.

NASA anticipates that Hubble will continue to provide new and unprecedented data until its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, is launched in 2018. Ball Aerospace is the principal subcontractor for the Webb’s advanced optical technology and lightweight mirror system. Ball has delivered the Webb’s 18 primary mirror segments, plus the secondary, tertiary and fine steering mirror assemblies to Goddard Space Flight Center. Webb’s primary mirror is more than twice the diameter of Hubble’s and is designed to look still deeper into space to see the earliest stars and galaxies.