NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Is On Its Way To Next Target After Successful Maneuver

Posted: Feb 2 2017, 5:43am CST | by , Updated: Feb 2 2017, 5:51am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft is on its Way to Next Target after Successful Maneuver
Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approaching towards a small Kuiper Belt Object known as 2014 MU69
 

The spacecraft performed a short trajectory maneuver on Wednesday that put it on a course for distant Kuiper Belt Object

Following its epic mission to Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is flying onward to an object deeper in the Kuiper Belt called 2014 MU69.

On Wednesday, the spacecraft completed a short propulsive maneuver that has put it on a path towards the next flyby in January 2019. 

The short trajectory correction maneuver was scheduled on February 1 to refine its track towards new destination and it went as planned. After the engine burn, the spacecraft is now out of “three-axis stabilization, which is an alternative method to maintain a spacecraft’s desired direction without any rotation.

It was the first trajectory maneuver since New Horizons successfully performed a series of four targeting maneuvers in November 2015. Those were also the most distant trajectory corrections ever performed by any spacecraft.

As programmed, New Horizons fired its thrusters for just 44 seconds and adjusted its velocity by about 44 centimeters per second or one mile per hour.

“One mile per hour may not sound like much,” said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. “But over the next 23 months, as we approach MU69, that maneuver will add up to an aim point refinement of almost six thousand miles (10,000 kilometers).”

Studying 2014 MU69 is the part of the New Horizon’s extended mission. The small Kuiper Belt Object is about a billion miles beyond Pluto and is among the most recommended destinations to NASA by the New Horizons team. 

The far flung object will be surveyed on Jan. 1, 2019. The forthcoming telescopic observations will reveal new information on the shape, size and surface properties of the object, in ways that were not possible before.

 

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