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Abstract

The NASA’s New Horizons is an interplanetary flyby reconnaissance mission, approved in 2001 under
its New Frontiers Program. The spacecraft will study and investigate the geology, surface
composition, and atmosphere of Pluto and its moon Charon over a 5-month period beginning in
early 2015 and will study other objects in the Kuiper Belt(more than one) [1]. It is the first mission to
Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, launched on January 19, 2006; it swung past Jupiter for a gravity boost
and scientific studies on February 2007, and conducted reconnaissance flyby study of Pluto and its
moons in summer 2015, culminating with Pluto closest approach on July 14, 2015 [2]. The probe left
Earth on a solar system escape trajectory travelling at ~16.5km/s and gained a gravity boost by
Jupiter to accelerate to ~22.8km/s, but still it would have approximately nine years to travel to its
target. The spacecraft also heads farther into the Kuiper Belt to examine one or two of the ancient,
icy mini-worlds in that vast region, at least a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit. [3]
New Horizons is designed, built and is operated by John Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory (APL). Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is the principle investigator. SwRI is
responsible for science payload operations, data reduction and archiving, and participates in the
science team [4].
Keywords Pluto ◦ Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) ◦ New Horizons

Mission Overview
New Horizons is NASA’s first mission in the New Frontiers series of medium- class, robotic planetary
exploration mission. New Frontiers Program represents a critical step in the advancement of solar
system exploration [5]. The “Pluto-Kuiper Belt” early mission design concept evolved and became a
part of the New Horizons mission, let by Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the SwRI [6].

The ~478 kg spacecraft (including 80kg of propellant) is powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric


Generator (RTG) as the solar energy received by Pluto is in the order of 1/1000 of the irradiance
received in Earth orbit and is equipped with seven scientific instruments [2] [7]. Top-level goals of
New Horizons science mission are [2]:
 Reconnoiter the Pluto system for the first time.
 Sample the diversity of KBOs by making one or more KBO flybys after the Pluto system flyby.
 Obtain Jupiter system science during the Jupiter Gravity Assist.
It is the mission most challenging deep-space mission, as it requires extremely high launch energy,
long flight time, observation of multiple bodies with high flyby velocities, communication to Earth
from great distances & long light-time delay [6].

Objectives
The mission‘s science objectives are categorized into three groups i.e. Group 1, 2 and 3.

Group 1 objectives represent an irreducible floor for the mission science goals and therefore termed
as required. Group 2 goals add further depth and breadth to the Group 1 objectives and are termed
as highly desirable. Group 3 objectives add further depth and are termed desirable, but have low
priority than the Group 2 objectives. The objectives are described as follows [1]:

Group 1: Required-Primary
 Characterize the global geology and morphology of Pluto and Charon
 Map surface composition of Pluto and
 Charon Characterize the neutral atmosphere of Pluto and its escape rate
Group 2: Highly Desired- Secondary
 Characterize the time variability of Pluto's surface and atmosphere
 Image Pluto and Charon in stereo
 Map the terminators of Pluto and Charon with high resolution
 Map the surface composition of selected areas of Pluto and Charon at high resolution
 Characterize Pluto's ionosphere and solar wind interaction
 Search for neutral atmospheric species including H, H2, HCN, & CxHy, and other
hydrocarbons and Search for an atmosphere around Charon
 Determine bolometric Bond albedos for Pluto and Charon
 Map the surface temperatures of Pluto and Charon
Group 3: Desirable- Tertiary
 Characterize the energetic particle environment of Pluto and Charon
 Refine bulk parameters (radii, masses, densities) and orbits of Pluto and Charon
 Search for additional satellites and rings

Spacecraft

Figure 1 Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied


Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The science payload includes seven instruments [8] :


Ralph: Visible and infrared imager/spectrometer; provides colour, composition and
thermal maps.
Alice: Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer; analyses composition and structure of Pluto's
atmosphere and looks for atmospheres around Charon and Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
REX: (Radio Science Experiment) Measures atmospheric composition and temperature;
passive radiometer.
LORRI: (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) telescopic camera; obtains encounter
data at long distances, maps Pluto's far side and provides high-resolution geologic data.
SWAP: (Solar Wind around Pluto) Solar wind and plasma spectrometer; measures
atmospheric "escape rate" and observes Pluto's interaction with solar wind.
PEPSSI: (Pluto Energetic Particle Spectrometer Science Investigation) Energetic
particle spectrometer; measures the composition and density of plasma (ions) escaping
from Pluto's atmosphere.
SDC: (Student Dust Counter) Built and operated by students; measures the space dust
peppering New Horizons during its voyage across the solar system.
Baseline Mission Design
Spacecraft Configuration
Propulsion, Guidance control, Communication, power thermal system (not a lot)
Journey to pluto
Mission findings,
Mission profile
Mission extension

Timeline
References

[1] Y. G. a. R. W. Farquhar, “NEW HORIZONS MISSION DESIGN FOR THE PLUTO-KUIPER BELT
MISSION”.

[2] S. A. Stern, “The New Horizons Pluto Kuiper Belt Mission:”.

[3] NASA, [Online]. Available:


https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/NHMissionFS082114HiPrint.pdf.

[4] NASA, “New Horizons: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt,” [Online].
Available: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/overview/index.html.

[5] NASA, [Online]. Available: https://science.nasa.gov/solar-system/programs/new-frontiers.

[6] Y. G. ·. R. W. Farquhar, “New Horizons Mission Design”.

[7] G. H. F. ·. D. Y. K. ·. C. B. H. ·, “The New Horizons Spacecraft”.

[8] NASA, “Spacecraft and Instruments,” [Online]. Available:


https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/spacecraft/index.html.

[9] H. A. Weaver, “New Horizons: NASA’s Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission”.