Spaceflight Now STS-109

Advanced Camera for Surveys headed to Hubble
Posted: February 15, 2002

The Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.-built Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) is ready for its anticipated February launch aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. The ACS instrument has been installed in the science instrument protective enclosure and will be removed from Columbia's shuttle bay and installed on the Hubble Space Telescope during the Feb. 28 Hubble Servicing Mission 3B. ACS replaces the Faint Object Camera (FOC), which astronauts will remove from Hubble and return to Earth.

Ball Aerospace designed and built ACS for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Principal Investigator, Dr. Holland Ford at Johns Hopkins University.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. optical technician, Dave Rusling performs a final inspection on the Advanced Camera for Surveys. Photo: Ball
The addition of ACS to Hubble is expected to allow the great observatory to survey more areas of the sky with higher efficiency than the camera that took the original Hubble Deep Field observations. ACS is predicted to increase Hubble's discovery efficiency by a factor of 10. To survey a deep core sample that looks back in time to shortly after stars and galaxies began to form required about 20 days of dedicated Hubble observations with the Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). With the Ball Aerospace-built ACS, that type of observation can be accomplished in less than three days. ACS greatly improves the telescope's productivity, allowing the discovery of celestial objects far beyond the reach of current Hubble instruments and in a fraction of the time.

ACS, as Hubble's new imaging workhorse, will survey far regions of the universe, search for extrasolar planets and observe weather and other features on planets in our own solar system. The instrument is sensitive to wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet to the far red (115-1050 nanometers). This phone booth-sized instrument consists of three specialized channels, each of which enables ACS to contribute to astronomy and cosmology in different ways.

The wide field channel surveys the universe, the high-resolution channel captures the details and the solar blind channel sees in the shorter wavelengths of ultraviolet light.

The 3B mission is the fourth shuttle visit to Hubble. NASA split the third servicing mission into two parts, completing 3A in December of 1999. Hubble was built with the intention of servicing it periodically in orbit during its 20-year operation 360 miles above Earth.

On Servicing Mission 4, scheduled for 2004, astronauts will install two additional Ball Aerospace-built instruments: the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), which will be the most sensitive ultraviolet spectrograph on Hubble; and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), Hubble's first truly panchromatic camera, under development jointly with Goddard Space Flight Center.

Ball Aerospace's contributions to the Hubble Space Telescope are substantial. By the final servicing mission, all of the instruments aboard the observatory will be Ball Aerospace-built. The seven instruments Ball Aerospace designed and built for Hubble are: the Goddard High-resolution Spectrograph, one of the original science instruments installed in 1990 and removed in 1997; the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement, the supplemental optics installed into Hubble in 1993 that successfully corrected the spherical aberration of Hubble's primary mirror for the axial instruments; the Near-infrared Camera and Multi-object Spectrometer, the first of two axial replacements installed in 1997; the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, the second of two axial replacements installed in 1997; ACS, COS and WFC3.

Each of these science instruments incorporated technological advances that provided Hubble with new capabilities to help scientists peer into the heavens deeper than ever before, take data at higher resolution, or conduct investigations in different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Ball Aerospace also built the star trackers that help Hubble orient itself in space in support of scientific observations.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. provides imaging and communications products for commercial and government customers worldwide and is a subsidiary of Ball Corporation, a Fortune 500 company which had sales of $3.7 billion in 2000.