Hibernation over, New Horizons spacecraft continues its Kuiper Belt cruise

265
Hibernation over, New Horizons spacecraft continues its Kuiper Belt cruise

A long summer break ended for NASA’s New Horizons on Sept. 11, as the spacecraft “woke” itself on schedule from a five-month hibernation period.

Signals confirming that New Horizons had executed on-board computer commands to exit hibernation reached mission operations at 12:55 p.m. EDT.

Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of APL confirmed that the spacecraft was in good health and operating normally, with all systems coming back online as expected.

Over the next three days, the mission ops team will bring the spacecraft into “active” mode, preparing it for a series of science-instrument checkouts and data-collection activities that will last until mid-December.

“It’s another working science cruise through the Kuiper Belt for New Horizons,” Bowman added.

The Fall Plan

Plenty of activity awaits New Horizons over the next several weeks, both the team on Earth and the spacecraft – which is more than 3.6 billion miles (5.8 billion kilometers) from home, speeding toward a close flyby of Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019.

The spacecraft will train its instruments on numerous distant KBOs, making long-distance observations with the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), while also continuously measuring the Kuiper Belt’s radiation, dust, and gas environment.

The team also will test the spacecraft’s instruments in preparation for next year’s approach to MU69, and transmit a new suite of fault-protection software – also known as autonomy software – to New Horizons’ computer in early October.

Meanwhile, the science, mission design and operations teams continue to shape the details of MU69 observation plan. On Dec. 9, New Horizons will carry out a course-correction maneuver to set its arrival time at MU69.

On Dec. 22 New Horizons goes back into hibernation, where it will remain until next June 4 – when the team wakes the spacecraft for the last time to begin preparations for the MU69 approach.

Follow Knowridge Science Report on Facebook and Twitter.


News source: NASA. The content is edited for length and style purposes.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to NASA.