Author Topic: New Horizons & Pluto  (Read 9179 times)


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Re: New Horizons & Pluto
« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2017, 12:17:30 AM »
Just before New Horizons completed its rendezvous with Pluto they decided to extend the mission to meet with a KBO (Kuiper Belt Object) somewhere beyond our known area of space.

Hard to believe, but New Horizons is already half way to its next meeting!  Even though it is technically "slowing down" relative to the Sun, it is still moving at a fairly sharp clip of 51kMps.  Within 18 months, the long range sensors on the vehicle will be able to discern the KBO it is approaching and coordinate adjustments to its trajectory.

What is also interesting is the New Horizons will be put "back to sleep" after 2 years of continuous service transmitting megabytes of Plutonian data that it collected during the flyby. Data they say, will take years to compile, analyze and understand.

After 157 days of sleep, the vehicle will be woken back up for tests, recheck its sensors, find the KBO and adjust. During its transmission phase, it still was able to locate and identify yet more KBO's that had not been located by Hubble.

“The January 2019 MU69 flyby is the next big event for us, but New Horizons is truly a mission to more broadly explore the Kuiper Belt,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist from APL, in Laurel, Maryland. “In addition to MU69, we plan to study more than two-dozen other KBOs in the distance and measure the charged particle and dust environment all the way across the Kuiper Belt.”

New Horizons is currently 3.5 billion miles (5.7 billion kilometers) from Earth; at that distance, a radio signal sent from the operations team – and traveling at light speed – needs about five hours and 20 minutes to reach the spacecraft. All spacecraft systems are healthy and operating normally, and the spacecraft is on course for its MU69 flyby.

With Cassini about to complete its final phase with Saturn and shortly after New Horizons making first contact with a KBO, the excitement in deep space science will be continuing for some time to come.