A belated happy anniversary to NASA’s New Horizons
probe, which celebrated six years in a nine-year journey to Pluto and its moons on Jan. 19. At AGI, we’re particularly interested in this historic endeavor, because our software was used by a team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., to design the mission.
According to NASA, New Horizons will help us understand the icy planets that are on the edge of our solar system. First it will study Pluto and its moons, then it will go deeper into the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune’s orbit to do more study of the objects in this icy ring.
Prior to launch in 2006, the mission design team at APL had a major challenge in front of them. Not only did they have to determine how to propel the spacecraft 3 billion miles from Earth, but they had to time the journey exactly so that in February 2007 Jupiter’s gravity could grab the craft and sling it in the right direction. It was much like playing interplanetary pinball, and they used STK/Astrogator
and several other STK products to do it. To learn more about the mission planning, see page three of our April 2006 InView.
Today you can keep tabs on New Horizons at the APL website
, where they use computer-generated images that are updated every hour using STK.
So, once again, happy anniversary to NASA’s mission, and we’ll keep up with it in years to come!