A Most Uninteresting Space Mission

(and this is a Good ThingTM).
The New Horizon’s mission to Pluto continues almost completely event free. Currently 2.5 A.U.s from the Earth, about 2.5 A.U.s from Jupiter and just under 3 A.U.s from the Sun, N.H. is still nine years from it’s first destination, Pluto. Already it takes a signal about 22 minutes to reach the spacecraft from Earth.

This week, the ground crew at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. successfully uploaded version 13 of the Autonomous Fault Protection Software (known affectionately as ‘Autonomy’). As the upload was beginning, but before the commands were sent, the onboard commands unexpectedly (but correctly) promoted one of the two star trackers out of init mode to an active mode, but it was a little unexpected that the star tracker was in init mode to begin with.

The demotion to init mode usually happens when the space craft is spinning a bit too rapidly (more than 5 rpm) for the tracker to keep up. The fast spin usually occurs with excessive thruster use, but all of this is being looked into. All of this falls under the heading of “something just got a little out of spec.”. Not serious.

Otherwise, everything, including that instruments used to watch an asteroid flyby last month, is nominal or better. The Ralph instrument in particular is starting to prove itself by perfectly tracking and photographic that asteroid at a great distance. But that, after all, is what it’s supposed to do. Not interesting at all. “May you live in interesting times” is indeed a curse in the NASA environment.

I’ll be very interested when New Horizons reaches Pluto and Charon. I’m hoping my grandchild(ren) will be interested when it reaches a few Kuiper objects.

Explore posts in the same categories: New Horizons

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