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OUTER PLANETS
A Busy Year Begins for New Horizons
by Staff Writers
Laurel, MD (SPX) Jan 10, 2014


New Horizons will re-enter hibernation on Jan. 17 - nearly eight years to the day after the spacecraft's launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on Jan. 19, 2006. Since then it has covered more than two billion miles; spied a small asteroid; flew past and studied the solar system's largest planet; and collected unprecedented data on the space dust environment of the outer solar system. And New Horizons is still 18 months from reaching its main target! Watch the launch here.

With Pluto encounter operations now just a year away, the New Horizons team has brought the spacecraft out of hibernation for the first of several activities planned for 2014.

Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., "woke" New Horizons on Jan. 5. Over the next two weeks the team will test the spacecraft's antenna and repoint it toward Earth; upload commands into the onboard Guidance and Control and Command and Data Handling systems, including a check on the backup inertial measurement unit and update of the spacecraft's navigational star charts; and conduct some navigational tracking, among other routine maintenance duties.

"We've had busier wakeup periods, but with long-distance Pluto encounter operations starting only a year from now, every activity is important," says APL's Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager.

The pace of operations picks up significantly later this year. In late June the team will wake New Horizons for two and a half months of work, including optical-navigation ("homing") activities using the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) to refine the probe's course to Pluto.

The team will also check out the spacecraft's backup systems and science instruments; carry out a small course correction to trim up New Horizons' approach trajectory and closest-approach timing at Pluto; and gather some science data by measuring the variations in Pluto's and Charon's brightness as they rotate.

New Horizons is placed back into electronic slumber on Aug. 29, a "rest" that lasts only until Dec. 7. "From there it will stay awake for two years of Pluto encounter preparations, operations and data downlinks," Bowman says.

Distant-encounter operations begin Jan. 12, 2015.

"The future has finally arrived," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. "After all the time and miles in the rearview mirror, the turning of the calendar page last week to 2014 means we'll be exploring the Pluto system next year!"

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Related Links
New Horizons
The million outer planets of a star called Sol






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UAV Payloads 2014, 24 - 25 June - London, UK
OUTER PLANETS
On the Path to Pluto, 5 AU and Closing
Laurel MD (SPX) Oct 29, 2013
Pluto isn't quite the next exit on New Horizons' voyage through the outer solar system, but the destination is definitely getting closer. Today the NASA spacecraft speeds to within five astronomical units (AU) of Pluto - which is less than five times the distance between the Earth and the sun, or about 460 million miles. "It's exciting to be closing in on the Pluto system," says Alan ... read more


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