Author Topic: New Horizons updates  (Read 147779 times)

Offline Big Al

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #40 on: 03/07/2008 03:45 AM »
I would rate the three most significant events in planetary science in my lifetime (60) years as,

1)   Failure to find life on Mars.
2)   Discovery of the Kuiper Belt objects
3)   Discovery of (or lack there of) of significant water ice on the Moon. (We’ll see next year!)

I say this because there is so much happening in the world of planetary science, that it is difficult to digest the significance of all of it.


Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #41 on: 03/25/2010 04:01 PM »
I'm not sure if this is the correct update thread for the New Horizons mission, but a Search of the site revealed this as the latest of the "update" threads.  If not, please bump to the correct thread.  As the most recent update was 03-March-2008, I thought I'd add this recent milestone:

Feb 5, 2010
from the New Horizons site: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/

Another milestone passed! Today NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is 15.96 astronomical units (about 2.39 billion kilometers, or 1.48 billion miles) from the Sun – putting it halfway between Earth’s location on launch day in January 2006, and Pluto’s place during New Horizons’ encounter with the planet in July 2015.

“From here on out, we’re on approach to an encounter with the Pluto system,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute. “The second half of the journey begins.”

This is rare territory; New Horizons is just the fifth probe, after Pioneers 10 - 11 and Voyagers 1 – 2, to traverse interplanetary space so far from the Sun. And it’s the first to travel so far to reach a new planet for exploration.

Humming along at more than 16 kilometers per second – more than 36,600 miles per hour - the spacecraft will next cross a planetary boundary in March 2011, when it passes the orbit of Uranus.

Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #42 on: 06/17/2010 08:21 PM »
From the New Horizons web site:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20100617.php

New Horizons’ fourth annual checkout is nearing its mid-point, and continues with a workout for the spacecraft systems, cameras and other instruments that will deliver the first data from Pluto and its moons. Preparations for a small but necessary course-correction maneuver are also on track.

Since “ACO-4” began on May 25, mission operators have uploaded new software for New Horizons’ on-board autonomy system, and checked out most of the spacecraft’s backup systems, including guidance and control, communications, command and data handling, thermal control, power and propulsion. All of these backup systems have performed well.

On June 21 the project starts an eight-day “encounter-mode test,” in which key spacecraft and ground components will be configured to run as they will during the Pluto flyby, five years from next month. This gives mission controllers a chance to make sure New Horizons will, among other operations, steady itself, point the science instruments in the right directions and correctly send data back to Earth. It also ensures that the systems on the ground, needed to send commands to and acquire data sent from the spacecraft, are correctly configured for encounter dress rehearsals in 2012 and 2013.

“So many systems have to work perfectly, together, for any spacecraft to take that amazing picture or collect any other data,” says Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md. “This summer we’re validating the behind-the-scenes support and the spacecraft systems – from tracking to communications – that we’ll use at Pluto in 2015.”

Surrounding and even during the encounter-mode test, New Horizons’ science instruments will undertake a comprehensive list of data-collection and calibration activities that includes long-distance imaging of Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, as well as observations of the charged subatomic particles – “space plasma” – near the orbit of Uranus.

NASA’s Deep Space Network antennas are collecting tracking data that the Navigation team from KinetX, Inc., is using to pinpoint New Horizons’ location and predict where it’s headed. Based on this prediction, the navigators are collaborating with the Mission Design and Guidance and Control teams from APL to design a trajectory correction maneuver, or “TCM,” for June 30 that will slightly adjust the spacecraft’s velocity and put New Horizons on course to Pluto.
 
So far they estimate that this TCM – only the fourth course correction since New Horizons launched on January 19, 2006, and the first since September 25, 2007 – will last only about 35 seconds and change the spacecraft’s speed by about one mile per hour. But with five years of travel time to go, those miles would add up, so the maneuver is needed to keep the spacecraft on the precise track to reach the “aim point” for the Pluto encounter on July 14, 2015.

“This summer’s ACO is probably our busiest in the span from 2008 to 2011, and it’s off to a great start,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “As our spacecraft pushes ever farther outward at almost a million miles per day, we never cease to realize how lucky we are to be on our way to explore such a distant and important planet for NASA, for the American public, and really, for all humankind.”


Offline iamlucky13

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #43 on: 06/23/2010 01:44 AM »
From the New Horizons web site:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20100617.php

I'm pretty sure I'd go stir crazy if I were on the New Horizons team...almost three years since the last TCM. It's good to hear an update, however.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #44 on: 06/23/2010 05:13 PM »
I'm pretty sure I'd go stir crazy if I were on the New Horizons team...almost three years since the last TCM. It's good to hear an update, however.

They had to be clever in managing personnel resources.  They hired a lot of younger people with the expectation that they would still be available when the vehicle reached Pluto in 2015.  But it's an interesting issue.  Will those people really be available regardless of their ages?

There are other potential missions to outer planets that will face the same problems, so I hope that somebody on the NH project eventually writes about these management challenges so that others can learn from them.

Offline iamlucky13

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #45 on: 06/29/2010 05:46 AM »
I'm pretty sure I'd go stir crazy if I were on the New Horizons team...almost three years since the last TCM. It's good to hear an update, however.

They had to be clever in managing personnel resources.  They hired a lot of younger people with the expectation that they would still be available when the vehicle reached Pluto in 2015.  But it's an interesting issue.  Will those people really be available regardless of their ages?

There are other potential missions to outer planets that will face the same problems, so I hope that somebody on the NH project eventually writes about these management challenges so that others can learn from them.

The question of retention occurred to me, too. I wish them luck keeping experienced team members around for that big week in the relatively distant future. It also seems they contracted out some of the navigation work, presumably because of the low rate they'd be able to utilize on-staff navigation folks:

http://www.kinetx.com/services.aspx?p=nav
« Last Edit: 06/29/2010 05:48 AM by iamlucky13 »

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #46 on: 06/29/2010 04:19 PM »
I'm pretty sure I'd go stir crazy if I were on the New Horizons team...almost three years since the last TCM. It's good to hear an update, however.

They had to be clever in managing personnel resources.  They hired a lot of younger people with the expectation that they would still be available when the vehicle reached Pluto in 2015.  But it's an interesting issue.  Will those people really be available regardless of their ages?

There are other potential missions to outer planets that will face the same problems, so I hope that somebody on the NH project eventually writes about these management challenges so that others can learn from them.

The question of retention occurred to me, too. I wish them luck keeping experienced team members around for that big week in the relatively distant future. It also seems they contracted out some of the navigation work, presumably because of the low rate they'd be able to utilize on-staff navigation folks:

http://www.kinetx.com/services.aspx?p=nav
I'm sure that if the folks are around at all, they would be quite interested in coming back to help out with the science phase of the mission.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

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Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #47 on: 07/01/2010 05:39 PM »
Course Correction Keeps New Horizons on Path to Pluto

 

A short but important course-correction maneuver kept New Horizons on track to reach the “aim point” for its 2015 encounter with Pluto. The deep-space equivalent of a tap on the gas pedal, the June 30 thruster-firing lasted 35.6 seconds and sped New Horizons up by just about one mile per hour. But it was enough to make sure that New Horizons will make its planned closest approach 7,767 miles (12,500 kilometers) above Pluto at 7:49 a.m. EDT on July 14, 2015.

 

For the full story, visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20100701.php



Offline Space Pete

Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #48 on: 07/14/2010 10:34 PM »
Quote
July 14, 2010
Five Years and Counting Down

Five years ago, the New Horizons spacecraft was in a thermal-vacuum chamber at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland, being tested for our historic voyage to the planetary frontier. Today our intrepid probe is a billion kilometers past Saturn – and exactly five years away from closest Pluto approach on July 14, 2015.

Thanks to everyone for the hard work, dedication, persistence, and sheer pluck that got us funded, built, launched and halfway across the solar system. We aren't "turning final" on approach yet, but we can see that day coming in early 2015. Go New Horizons!

- Alan Stern
New Horizons Principal Investigator

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20100714.php
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Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #49 on: 07/27/2010 08:13 PM »
"In early 2007 New Horizons flew through the Jupiter system, getting a speed-boost from the giant planet's gravity while snapping stunning, close-up images of Jupiter and its largest moons.

Fast forward to 2010 and New Horizons has given us another glimpse of old friend Jupiter, this time from a vantage point more than 16 times the distance between Earth and the Sun, and almost 1000 times as far away as when New Horizons reconnoitered Jupiter. While the planet is too far for the camera to pick up the swirling clouds and brewing, Earth-sized storms it saw just three years ago, "the picture is a dramatic reminder of just how far New Horizons, moving about a million miles a day, has traveled," says mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute."

More information and some pretty cool images here:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20100727.php

Also:

"Annual Checkout (ACO) Winds Down

Speaking of ACO-4: the mission's fourth annual checkout, which started on May 25, wraps up this week. "We packed a lot of activity into nine weeks," says Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of APL. "It was very successful."

The final activities included making sure the spacecraft's command and data handling system was in working order, and loading new navigation data into the spacecraft's guidance and control system, based on the June 30 trajectory-correction maneuver that refined New Horizons' path to Pluto. The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter has also been turned on, now that the other six instruments in New Horizons science payload have been shut down. Working from commands transmitted last week to its computers, New Horizons will enter hibernation on Friday (July 30) and remain in electronic slumber until November. Operators at APL will monitor the craft through a weekly status beacon and a monthly transmission of housekeeping data."

Offline Space Pete

Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #50 on: 09/03/2010 05:35 PM »
Picture-Perfect Pluto Practice.

Neptune's giant moon Triton is often called Pluto's "twin" – so what better practice target, then, for New Horizons' telescopic camera?

New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) snapped several photos of Neptune during the latest annual systems checkout, which ended July 30. Neptune was 23.2 astronomical units (about 2.15 billion miles!) from New Horizons when LORRI took aim at the gas giant planet — and Triton made a cameo appearance in these images.

"That we were able to see Triton so close to Neptune, which is approximately 100 times brighter, shows us that the camera is working exactly as designed," says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. "This was a good test for LORRI."

Weaver points out that the solar phase angle (the spacecraft-planet-Sun angle) was 34 degrees and the solar elongation angle (planet-spacecraft-Sun angle) was 95 degrees. Only New Horizons can observe Neptune at such large solar phase angles, which he says is key to studying the light-scattering properties of Neptune's and Triton’s atmospheres.

"As New Horizons has traveled outward across the solar system, we've been using our imagers to make just such special-purpose studies of the giant planets and their moons because this is a small but completely unique contribution that New Horizons can make — because of our position out among the giant planets," says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute.

Triton is slightly larger than Pluto, 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) in diameter compared to Pluto’s 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers). Both objects have atmospheres composed mostly of nitrogen gas with a surface pressure only 1/70,000th of Earth's, and comparably cold surface temperatures approaching minus-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Triton is widely believed to have been a member of the Kuiper Belt (as Pluto still is) that was captured into orbit around Neptune, probably during a collision early in the solar system's history.

New Horizons first photographed Triton in 2008, during its second annual checkout, at a smaller phase angle (21.4 degrees) and larger distance (25.08 AU from New Horizons).

Where's Pluto?
New Horizons was actually closer to Pluto than it was to Neptune when these pictures were taken –a mere 14.92 AU (nearly 1.4 billion miles) from its main planetary target. Team members say a crowded observing schedule led them to skip observations of Pluto during this year's checkout. But we will get another look at the planet before the July 2015 encounter – the mission plans to point LORRI toward Pluto in spring 2012.

Source (with accompanying image).
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Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #51 on: 10/11/2010 07:42 PM »
Pluto Mission News

October 11, 2010

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu

Student Dust Counter instrument breaks distance record

 

The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter instrument on New Horizons now holds the record for the most distant-functioning space-dust detector.

 

On October 10, the “SDC” surpassed the previous record when it flew beyond 18 astronomical units — one unit is the distance between the Sun and the Earth — or 1.67 billion miles, past the orbit of Uranus. The only other dedicated instruments to measure space dust beyond Jupiter’s orbit – which is closer to the Sun than Uranus – were aboard Pioneers 10 and 11 in the 1970s. Additionally, SDC is the first science instrument on a planetary mission to be designed, tested and operated by students.

 

“The New Horizons mission is going to break a lot of records, but this early one is one of the sweetest,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. “We’re very proud to be collecting solar system dust data farther out than any mission ever has, and we’re even prouder to be carrying the first student-built and -operated science instrument ever sent on a planetary space mission.”


Offline Space Pete

Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #52 on: 10/12/2010 07:12 PM »
New Horizons Student Dust Counter instrument breaks distance record.

The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter, flying aboard NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, now holds the record for the most distant working dust detector ever to travel through space.
On October 10, the “SDC” surpassed the previous record when it flew beyond 18 astronomical units — one unit is the distance between the Sun and the Earth — or 1.67 billion miles, past the orbit of Uranus. The only other dedicated instruments to measure space dust beyond Jupiter’s orbit – which is closer to the Sun than Uranus – were aboard Pioneers 10 and 11 in the 1970s. Additionally, SDC is the first science instrument on a planetary mission to be designed, tested and operated by students.    

“The New Horizons mission is going to break a lot of records, but this early one is one of the sweetest,” says New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colo. “We’re very proud to be collecting solar system dust data farther out than any mission ever has, and we’re even prouder to be carrying the first student-built and -operated science instrument ever sent on a planetary space mission.”

The instrument is the work of students at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). Andrew Poppe, a LASP graduate student in physics who operates SDC and analyzes the data, says “it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be part of the group of students who made this happen. We built a record-breaking, successful instrument that is taking scientific measurements to advance our understanding of the role of dust in our solar system.”

Poppe and several collaborators recently published the first results from SDC in Geophysical Research Letters. “The SDC measurements of dust inside five astronomical units agreed well with the earlier measurements made by the Galileo and Ulysses missions,” Poppe says. “We also reported the first-ever measurements of sub-micron-sized dust grains in the outer solar system by a dedicated dust instrument.”

Poppe is one of five students on the current SDC team, and one of 32 who have worked on the instrument since the project began in 2002. The original team of approximately 20 undergraduate and graduate students has evolved over time, with new students brought into the fold as the nearly 20-year New Horizons mission has proceeded from concept development through launch and into its ongoing flight phase.
   
“The SDC was built and tested to the same NASA engineering standards as professionally built flight instruments, under the supervision of professionals,” says SDC instrument Principal Investigator Mihaly Horanyi, a LASP researcher and University of Colorado professor. “Students have filled roles from science and engineering to journalism and accounting; many of them have graduated and gone on to careers in the space industry. In addition to its significant contribution to science, SDC proved to be an excellent investment in the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.”

SDC was launched aboard New Horizons in January 2006; six months later the instrument was renamed for Venetia Burney, the English schoolgirl who, at age 11, offered the name “Pluto” for the newly discovered ninth planet in 1930.
SDC will continue to return information on the dust that strikes its detectors during the spacecraft’s approach to Pluto and flight beyond. This dust is formed in the Kuiper Belt, a collection of asteroids orbiting the Sun outside of Neptune. The improved observations that SDC will make available will advance our understanding of the origin and evolution of our own solar system, as well as helping scientists study planet formation in dust disks around other stars.    

LASP manages the SDC project and has a long tradition of involvement with student instruments, including the Solar Mesosphere Explorer and the Student Nitric Oxide Experiment. LASP recruits both undergraduates and graduates from CU to help with instrument design, construction, maintenance, programming, and operations. Funding for the SDC came primarily from the NASA New Horizons mission, through the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which manages New Horizons; and the Southwest Research Institute, home institution of Stern and the center of New Horizons instrument observation planning. LASP has also contributed funds to help pay students working on the SDC.


http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20101011.php
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Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #53 on: 10/18/2010 06:45 PM »
On October 17, New Horizons passed the halfway mark in the number of days from launch to Pluto encounter – the last of the mission’s halfway points on the historic path to Pluto. In his latest Web posting, Principal Investigator Alan Stern takes a look at this milestone and a few other significant mission events

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/overview/piPerspective.php?page=piPerspective_10_18_2010

Online ugordan

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #54 on: 03/12/2011 08:54 PM »
A great SETI talk on the mission by Alan Stern:


Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #55 on: 03/18/2011 04:05 PM »
Uranus: New Horizons Passes Another Planetary Milestone
March 18, 2011

 
New Horizons is ready to put another planet – or at least the planet’s orbit – in its rearview mirror. The Pluto-bound spacecraft crosses the path of Uranus around 6 p.m. EDT on March 18, more than 1.8 billion miles from Earth.

“New Horizons is all about delayed gratification, and our 9 1/2-year cruise to  the Pluto system illustrates that,” says Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute.  “Crossing the orbit of Uranus is another milepost along our long journey to the very frontier of exploration.”

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20110318.php



Offline MarsMethanogen

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #56 on: 04/20/2011 02:16 PM »
Wanted: Kuiper Belt Targets
New Horizons team launches search for post-Pluto flyby prospects
April 20, 2011

The New Horizons team, working with astronomers using some of the largest telescopes on Earth, will begin searching this month for distant Kuiper Belt objects that the New Horizons spacecraft hopes to reconnoiter after completing its observations of the Pluto system in mid-2015.

No spacecraft has ever visited the Kuiper Belt, a distant, donut-shaped region of the solar system filled with small planets and comets that formed early in the solar system’s history.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20110420.php

Offline racshot65

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #57 on: 08/16/2011 08:07 PM »
Quote
The PI’s Perspective: Visiting Four Moons, in Just Four Years, for All Mankind

In June and July, members of the New Horizons science team, using the Hubble Space Telescope, discovered and confirmed that Pluto has a fourth moon! The new satellite, provisionally called P4, is fainter and therefore likely much smaller, than either Nix or Hydra or Charon – Pluto’s other three known moons.

...


http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/overview/piPerspective.php

Offline simonbp

Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #58 on: 09/02/2011 05:16 PM »
Just a few notes from the annual New Horizons science workshop I sat in on this week:

* The target point for the plane-crossing (Pluto is inclined at 120 deg) is just beyond the Pluto-Charon L3 point, to minimize the chance of getting hit by debris. With the discovery of P4 (and two more unconfirmed small sats), they are really starting to get worried that they'll hit something. They are planning a back-up trajectory that puts them within Charon's Hill sphere, and they can switch to it up to 10 days out.

* They'll have really good imagery for about 20 days (10 before, 10 after). The best images will be much higher resolution than Voyager 2's of Triton (Pluto's "evil twin"), and much, much more numerous (as Voyager's vidicon had to take really long exposures due to low light levels). They will have stereoscopic imagery (and therefore topography) for an entire hemisphere, some of it at MOLA resolution.

* Still no word on the post-Pluto target (searches under way), but they might go to up to two of them (depending on what the searches find). The search area becomes narrower over time as New Horizons's (and Pluto's) orbits become better constrained.

* Currently 44 people working on project, all part-time. Compared to Voyager's "skeleton crew" of 150 full-timers...

Online ugordan

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Re: New Horizons update
« Reply #59 on: 09/02/2011 05:20 PM »
The search area becomes narrower over time as New Horizons's (and Pluto's) orbits become better constrained.

Isn't it getting narrower because any target objects NH could fly by are slowly moving toward the viable trajectory cone (delta-v reserve-mandated) as time passes, not because Pluto and NH orbits are unconstrained?

I would have hoped they have a really good idea of NH's trajectory to be able to both get to Pluto aimpoint in the first place and also cancel the most recent TCM.

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