New Horizons Spacecraft

New Horizons probe is the first robotic mission in NASA's New Frontiers mission category, larger and more expensive than Discovery missions but smaller than "flagship" programs. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study the dwarf planet Pluto and its moons, Charon, Nix and Hydra. NASA may also approve flybys of one or more other Kuiper Belt Objects.

New Horizons Spacecraft Probe Picture

New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched, having achieved the highest Earth-relative velocity and thus leaving Earth faster than any other spacecraft to date. It is also the first spacecraft launched directly into a solar escape trajectory. New Horizons was successfully launched on January 19, 2006. After a flyby of Jupiter on February 28, 2007 at 5:43:40 UTC, New Horizons is expected to arrive at Pluto in July 2015 before leaving the Solar System. It is planned for New Horizons to fly within 10,000 km (6,200 miles) of Pluto.

The spacecraft was built primarily by Southwest Research Institute and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL_. The mission's principal investigator is Dr. S. Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. APL manages the mission for NASAís Science Mission Directorate. The mission team also includes Ball Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, KinetX Inc. (navigation team), Lockheed Martin Corporation, University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a number of other firms, NASA centers, and university partners.

The New Horizons mission uses a plutonium-powered radioisotope thermoelectric generator for power in deep space, where sunlight isnít intense enough to run the spacecraft. Itís like the generators that flew in the Cassini probe now at Saturn. In fact, itís Cassiniís spare.

New Horizons Jupiter PictureAlready the fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons reached Planet Jupiter just 13 months after lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida in January 2006. The flyby added 9,000 miles per hour, pushing New Horizons past 50,000 miles per hour and setting up a flight by Pluto in July 2015. New Horizons spacecraft provided new data on the Jupiter system, stunning scientists with never-before-seen perspectives of the giant planet's atmosphere, rings, moons and magnetosphere. Images include the first close-up scans of the Little Red Spot, Jupiter's second-largest storm, which formed when three smaller storms merged during the past decade. The storm, about half the size of Jupiter's larger Great Red Spot and about 70 percent of Earth's diameter, began turning red about a year before New Horizons flew past it.

New Horizons came to within 1.4 million miles of Jupiter on February 28 2007 using the planetís gravity to trim three years off its travel time to Pluto. For several weeks before and after this closest approach, the piano-sized robotic probe trained its seven cameras and sensors on Jupiter and its four largest moons, storing data from nearly 700 observations on its digital recorders and gradually sending that information back to Earth.

Related Books:

New Horizons: Reconnaissance of the Pluto-Charon System and the Kuiper Belt by C.T. Russell

Pluto and Charon : Ice Worlds on the Ragged Edge of the Solar System by Alan Stern, Jacqueline Mitton

Pluto: The Ninth Planet by Michael D. Cole

Beyond Pluto by John Davies (Author)

Did you know?

When the spacecraft was launched, Pluto was still classified as a planet, later to be reclassified as a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in August 2006.

New Horizon Spacecraft and Mission Links

Goto Planet Pluto Page / Goto Space Probes

Goto Space Projects and Info Home Page

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Copyright © 2000-2014 Vic Stathopoulos. All rights reserved.
Updated: Tuesday 1st, April, 2014

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