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Old 09-27-2007   #64
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New Horizons Pluto Probe-latest news

Like I said in my last post on the subject, our intrepid little robot is tearing across the dark and cold outer reaches of the Solar System at over 44,000 mph (70,000km/h) and had been put into electronic hibernation because although it will be crossing the orbits of Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, NH will not be coming anywhere close to the actual planets themselves so there's no reason for the equipment and computers to be operating at full power for the entire duration of the flight. This really doesn't save power per se because the nuclear battery will be generating pretty much the same amount of power whether the unit's systems are ON or OFF and will continue to do so for decades. The hibernation phase is really to allow the cameras, computers, and other instrumentation to rest at minimum power levels until they are needed for the actual Summer 2015 Pluto encounter. The NH Mission control team did wake up NH to conduct one more course correction: (any bolding of text in the following quote was added by me)

For Immediate Release
September 27, 2007
Maneuver Puts New Horizons on a Straight Path to Pluto
With a slight tweak of its trajectory this week, New Horizons is headed toward the heart of the distant Pluto system.

Starting at 4:04 p.m. EDT on Sept. 25, New Horizons fired its thrusters for 15 minutes and 37 seconds, using less than a kilogram of fuel to change its velocity by 2.37 meters per second, or just more than 5 miles per hour. Monitored from the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., the maneuver was only the fourth trajectory correction for the spacecraft since launch in January 2006, and the first since it sped through the Jupiter system last February. The spacecraft was nearly 727 million miles (1.16 billion kilometers) from Earth during the maneuver – just about halfway between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.

The mission team will evaluate data from this maneuver to see if others might be necessary before New Horizons encounters Pluto in July 2015. Without the burn, New Horizons could have missed Pluto by about 300,000 miles (about 500,000 kilometers). Its success points the spacecraft inside the orbits of Pluto’s moons.

“The burn was right on the money, and everything we had hoped for,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of NASA Headquarters, Washington. “Our operations team at APL and the navigation team from KinetX really earned their pay. Planet Pluto, here comes New Horizons!”

Those teams have some busy months ahead, as they complete the first of the annual checkouts planned for the spacecraft’s cruise to Pluto. “This annual checkout is a little longer than the next ones will be because of the trajectory correction maneuver [TCM] and other activities,” says New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of APL. “In fact, the TCM yesterday was just the beginning of three weeks of intense operations.”

The team spent the past five weeks collecting Doppler tracking data to support the TCM and checking out various spacecraft subsystems. The checkout will also include final commissioning activities for several science instruments and subsystems, and the team will put the spacecraft into full encounter mode for the first time.

“Many of the activities that routinely get done in the annual checkout are first-time activities which means crafting new command sets, testing them on our simulators and fixing them as need be,” Bowman says. “In mid-November and mid-December, we’ll perform precession maneuvers that allow New Horizons to enter a five-month hibernation period. So operations will not settle down until just before the winter holidays.”

"AU" stands for Astronomical Unit- the average distance between the Sun and the Earth: 93 million miles (150 million km)

1 km/sec = 2,237 mph (3600 km/hr)

"Heliocentric velocity" is the probe's speed in relation to the Sun.
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File Type: jpg nhov20070901_0650.jpg (54.9 KB, 49 views)
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