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Thread: Progress of New Horizons in the Solar system

  1. #61
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    OK, the new information on the NH website helps a bit. nineplanets.org states that the Asteroid Belt goes from 2-4 AU. Going by those numbers, New Horizons (now 1.77 AU from the Sun) should cross that line in about two weeks. The first substantial asteroid orbits will be Haphaestus at 2.15 AU and Gaspra 2.2 AU (average orbits).

    I calculate that NH is receding from the Sun at a pace of about 0.018 AU per day.
    Last edited by Lord Jubjub; 2006-Apr-21 at 10:49 PM.

  2. #62
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    Latest update:

    New Horizons in Space: The First 100 Days

    April 29 marks another milestone in New Horizons’ historic journey to Pluto – the spacecraft’s 100th day of flight.

    “It’s been a good flight so far, and we’re working to keep it that way,” says New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

    Since launch on from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Jan. 19, it has also been a busy flight. Among many activites, the mission team has conducted three small trajectory correction maneuvers, which exercised the spacecraft’s propulsion system and refined New Horizons’ path toward Jupiter for a gravity assist and science studies in February 2007; upgraded the software that controls the spacecraft’s flight computers; and carried out rigorous tests proving that all seven onboard science instruments survived launch and have their basic functions.

    Having passed the orbit of Mars on April 7, the spacecraft continues to zoom toward the outer solar system, moving about the Sun at more than 69,570 miles (111,960 kilometers) per hour.

    “On a voyage to Pluto that will take nearly a decade, 100 days might not seem like much,” says Alan Stern, mission principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. “But the team has accomplished a lot in that short time, and the mission is going exceptionally well. Now we’re working hard to calibrate the scientific payload and prepare the science instruments and spacecraft for our encounter with Jupiter, just 10 months ahead.”

    The team will begin rehearsing for that trip through the Jupiter system – putting the spacecraft and instruments through the actual paces of the flyby – later this year, after the science payload is fully commissioned this summer.
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  3. #63
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    "Exploration at Its Greatest"
    May 1, 2006

    With the rush of events surrounding launch over, I am back to writing this column about once per month. We're more than 100 days into flight now, and in every respect, New Horizons continues doing fine.

    As you know, the New Horizons mission team spent the first couple of months checking out the spacecraft subsystems and making our initial post-launch trajectory correction maneuvers. All of that went exceedingly well: We have a very healthy spacecraft flying right on its intended course to the Pluto aim point it must reach at Jupiter on February 28, 2007.

    April included our crossing the orbit of Mars, outbound at over 75,000 kilometers an hour (47,000 miles/hour), on April 7. That was a nice milestone, but the biggest spacecraft event of the month was a new software load for our Command and Data Handling (C&DH) system. This load, called C&DH 3.5, went up and on line a few days before we crossed the orbit of Mars — on April 5. C&DH 3.5 contained a fix for a bug that we wanted to protect against well before we update the code in a more extensive way after the summer. That code version, called C&DH 4.0, will include a variety of capability enhancements, including data-compression capabilities we'll need for downlinking Pluto data.

    I'll have more to say about the C&DH 4.0 load in a few months. For now, I just want to say that the 3.5 load is up and running as expected. To invoke a new C&DH load after it is transmitted up to the bird, one has to reboot the main spacecraft computer. So you can imagine how much care, how many design reviews, how much event simulation, and how much nail biting was involved in planning for this. Of course, the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) spacecraft and mission ops teams made it look easy on April 5, which is a real sign of the careful advance work put in over several weeks leading to that big day.

    With the spacecraft doing well, most of the activities of April centered on instrument checkouts. Ralph, our main remote-sensing suite, and REX, our radio science experiment, both performed flawlessly in their initial functional checks. These occurred on March 21 and April 19, respectively.

    Additionally, the SWAP solar wind detector, which opened its launch door on March 13 (the 151st anniversary of Percival Lowell's birthday, no less!), turned on its detectors on March 28 for the first time. All went well.

    Meanwhile, the LORRI imaging team has been collecting pre-door-opening calibration images to characterize their detector noise in flight. They are seeing some additional, nuisance-level noise events over what was seen on the ground. This is common when you get your instrument into the space environment, and something we expected since our spacecraft is carrying an RTG that was installed after the instrument calibrations. In fact, we expect the Ralph and Alice detectors to see the same kind of elevated, but still nuisance-level, noise when they calibrate in May.

    Speaking of May, both PEPSSI (on May 3) and Alice (on May 20) will soon open their detector doors. Carefully, step by step, both of these instruments will then be fully powered and have their detectors turned on for "first light" measurements shortly thereafter. Next up: Ralph's front door will open on May 29. But since Ralph's door has a see-through window, first light and some early calibrations will be made on May 10. These will each be big milestones: we are opening up our "eyes" to space!

    Yet another milestone will be our first "AU crossing," which will occur on May 7 when our spacecraft crosses 2 Astronomical Units and is twice as far from the Sun as the Earth. We'll have 31 more AU to go to reach Pluto, but just 3.2 AU to go to reach Jupiter.
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  4. #64
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    Where Is the Centaur Rocket?

    Some of you have been asking what became of our Atlas' Centaur stage. As background, our Atlas first stage and its solid rocket booster never were intended to make it into Earth orbit, so they are resting at 1 AU, deep under the Atlantic Ocean; and our uppermost, STAR-48 stage that sent us on our way to Jupiter and Pluto, is headed to Jupiter and the Kuiper Belt, just like New Horizons. But the Centaur, which propelled us into Earth orbit and then out of it, isn't on an escape trajectory from the Sun. Instead, it's on an orbit that takes it from about 1 AU out just over halfway to Jupiter.
    Faster Communications

    Finally, I just want to point to an exciting new prospect for New Horizons at Pluto itself: faster data rates. Our APL-based telecommunication team, led by Chris DeBoy, has worked out a way to use our redundant (opposite polarization) transmitters simultaneously to double our data rates. This "pump you up" technique will be tested later this year and used from time to time to reduce our need for downlink time on the Deep Space Network (DSN) on the way to Pluto.

    When we reach Pluto, we plan to use the higher data transmission rates to cut the time required to send all of our data home in half—from what was almost 9 months, to just under 4.5 months. Even more impressively, the higher data rate will allow us to send home a "lossy compression" dataset with all of our spectra, all of our images, and all of our other data products within just two or three weeks of encounter! After all the years of delayed gratification that this mission entails, this is welcome news indeed. After all, everyone will be on the edge of their chairs in the summer of 2015 to see Pluto revealed — scientists and laypeople alike!
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  5. #65
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    On the same page as ToSeek's link about the Centaur Rocket is this:
    And while we're on trajectory matters, it's worth noting that we have just realized that New Horizons itself will be traversing through one of the Trojan regions of Neptune in 2014. For a long time, astronomers wondered if there were asteroids trapped in Neptune's Trojan regions, but in recent years a few have been discovered. These fascinating bodies probably represent a sample of the most primitive bodies in the solar system, like comets and Kuiper Belt objects.
    It looks like they will take a look in 2014.
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  6. #66
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    New Horizons has passed the point 2 AU from the Sun. It is now in the Asteroid Belt and will remain there until it crosses the 4 AU point. At a rough estimate, this should happen in late August.

    I will be ticking off the major and some minor asteroid orbits.

  7. 2006-May-19, 11:10 PM
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    Hephaistos is not an important milestone

  8. #67
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    OK, I've found this interesting bit in NASA's website. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/orbits/

    From the animation, I see that Hephaistos is a waste of time. Its orbit comes nowhere near NH. But I see that at 2.16 AU, New Horizons has crossed Vesta's path.

  9. #68
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    Speaking of the Asteroid Belt, this has been posted to the NH site.

    http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/overview/piP...ve_current.php

    Expect to hear something about an encounter with an asteroid about the middle of June.

  10. #69
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    New Horizons will cross Gaspra's orbit today. It is nearing the quarter-way point through the Asteroid Belt.

  11. #70
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    Has anyone seen images from the 2002 JF56 encounter? I know they won't be much to look at, but it would still be nice to get something new from NH.

  12. #71
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    The website hasn't acknowledged it yet. Probably something will be put up today.

  13. #72
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    If it took any pictures, they may not be for public consumption; perhaps they're simple calibration images, in which Stern et al. would just feel like it's not worth posting, especially since there's no detail.

  14. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saluki
    Has anyone seen images from the 2002 JF56 encounter? I know they won't be much to look at, but it would still be nice to get something new from NH.
    Your wish is my command.
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  15. #74
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    Re: Progress of New Horizons in the Solar system

    As we all learned from the doomsday show that was on last night, the asteroid belt is a densely packed region of huge space rocks, something like this.

    Therefore, good luck, New Horizons, in finding a narrow pathway through that thick boulder field!

  16. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    As we all learned from the doomsday show that was on last night, the asteroid belt is a densely packed region of huge space rocks, something like this.

    Therefore, good luck, New Horizons, in finding a narrow pathway through that thick boulder field!
    Good thing New Horizons is equiped with this new defensive system for Asteroids


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  17. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maksutov
    As we all learned from the doomsday show that was on last night, the asteroid belt is a densely packed region of huge space rocks, something like this.

    Therefore, good luck, New Horizons, in finding a narrow pathway through that thick boulder field!
    Kind of looks like the asteroid field that Han Solo managed to get thru. Maybe we can get him to help us out here.

  18. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToSeek
    Thanks. That is actually better than I expected. You can get a rough idea of the shape of the target from that pic.

    Its too bad LORRI isn't usable yet.

  19. #78
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    Am I wrong to be all excited? I mean we still have nine years to go, but this is like one long Christmas Eve for me.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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  20. #79
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality
    Am I wrong to be all excited? I mean we still have nine years to go, but this is like one long Christmas Eve for me.
    I check the "Where is New Horizons now?" page a couple times a week. Even though the green line doesn't grow very fast, it is growing.

  21. #80
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    New Horizons is passing the orbit of Ceres today.

    The asteroid itself passed this point in February of last year and won't be back in this neighborhood until late in 2009.

  22. #81
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    Amazing. That's speed.

  23. #82
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    Latest press release:

    Student Dust Counter Renamed "Venetia," Honoring Girl Who Named Pluto

    The student-built science instrument on NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto has been renamed to honor one of astronomy’s most famous students - the “little girl” who named the ninth planet more than 75 years ago.

    For the rest of the New Horizons spacecraft’s voyage to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond, the Student Dust Counter - the first science instrument on a NASA planetary mission to be designed, built and operated by students - will be known as the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter, or “Venetia” for short. The tag honors Venetia Burney Phair, who at age 11 offered the name “Pluto” for the newly discovered ninth planet in 1930.

    “I feel quite astonished, and to have an instrument named after me is an honor,” says Mrs. Phair, now 87 and living in Epsom, England. “I never dreamt when I was 11, that after all these years, people would still be thinking about this and even sending a probe to Pluto. It’s remarkable.”

    The instrument is set to begin full science operations in July after a series of post-launch tests and checkouts. Click here for the full story, or visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/062906.html.
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  24. #83
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    New Horizons is presently as close to the Sun as it is to Jupiter.

  25. #84
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    “I feel quite astonished, and to have an instrument named after me is an honor,” says Mrs. Phair, now 87 and living in Epsom, England. “I never dreamt when I was 11, that after all these years, people would still be thinking about this and even sending a probe to Pluto. It’s remarkable.”
    Not to jinx it, but here's hoping she lives to see her world close up. Shame Clyde didn't.

    Kind of looks like the asteroid field that Han Solo managed to get thru. Maybe we can get him to help us out here.
    To be fair, Lucas atoned for that one. In Attack of the Clones he restaged the same sequence in the rings of a gas giant.
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

  26. #85
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    New Horizons has passed the orbit of the asteroid Hygiea. It is nearing the midway point through the Asteroid Belt.

  27. #86
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    New Horizons Digital Time Capsule
    Entry Deadline Extended to November 1, 2006
    One Grand Prize Winner will win a trip to the Applied Physics Laboratory to witness New Horizons' encounter with Jupiter on February 27-28, 2007!

    The Planetary Society, in conjunction with the New Horizons mission, invites children and adults around the world to send a message to future Earth -- a New Horizons Digital Time Capsule from those who launched the mission to the inhabitants of Earth who receive its results nearly a decade later.

    Read more

  28. #87
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    Latest update from the PI:

    Nine Years to the Ninth Planet, and Counting

    It's been six weeks since my last column here, and a lot has taken place. Here's a short list of highlights:
    • New Horizons successfully conducted an asteroid flyby test of its moving target image motion compensation system (more on that below).
    • The names we nominated for Pluto's two recently discovered small moons, Nix (the inner one) and Hydra (the outer one), were approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
    • Continued successful testing of the SWAP and PEPSSI plasma/high energy particle detector suite aboard New Horizons.
    • Successful beam mapping tests of the REX-High Gain Antenna pattern.
    • Uploading of an updated (yes, "new and improved") release of the onboard fault detection and correction "autonomy" software that watches over New Horizons.
    • A spin-up maneuver that took New Horizons out of three-axis attitude control and placed it back in its 5 RPM axial spin to save fuel and place us in a more robust mode for the upcoming flight software loads of August and September.
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  29. #88
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    The blog mentions that at the end of July, New Horizons will be passing the distance of Ceres. That is true, but Ceres' orbit is rather more elliptical than that of the major planets. NH passed the orbit of Ceres at a point where that orbit is much closer to the Sun than it is now.

  30. #89
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    New Horizons crosses the orbit of the asteroid Encke, today.

  31. #90
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    Encke is an asteroid and a comet?
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