NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft were briefly, 2.5 minutes, on Saturday, December 9, to adjust the course for the ancient Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69, past which the NASA’s Plutonian probe will pass just over in one year, counting from the present moment.
Telemetry confirming that the maneuver was in normal mode was received by the dispatchers of the New Horizons mission at 8:00 UTC with the help of the NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) radio stations. The radio signal passed in space 6.1 billion kilometers before reaching our planet, moving at the speed of light, and the duration of this journey was 5 hours 41 minutes.
Under the control of the commands stored in the on-board computer memory, the New Horizons probe turned on the motors for 152 seconds, changing its speed by about 151 centimeters per second. This maneuver made it possible to optimize the route to the MU69 facility, at the same time, the closest approach of the device to this object is now expected at 5:33 UTC on January 1, 2019. The primary span will be about 3500 kilometers from the MU69 facility.
Saturday’s maneuver was the last course adjustment throughout the long journey of the probe from Pluto toward the MU69 facility. The next correction of the trajectory is now expected only on the march to MU69 in October 2018. On December 21 of this year, the New Horizons staff will transfer it to a “sleep mode”, in which it will stay until June of the next year. Currently, the probe is moving in space away from the Sun at a speed of 51156 kilometers per hour, or 1.2 million kilometers per day.