New Horizons spacecraft has woken up for hibernation ahead of its historic Kuiper Belt flyby
The New Horizons spacecraft has woken up from hibernation that started on December 21st and is preparing for its flyby of Ultima Thule, a Kuiber Belt object. The Mission Operations Manager (MOM), Alice Bowman, has reported that the spacecraft is operating nominally and is in good health after coming out of hibernation at 2:12am EDT.
The New Horizons cruised through deep space more than 3.7 billion miles (6 billion kilometers) away from Earth during its almost 6 month hibernation period. This period of hibernation helped the spacecraft reserve its resources for it to last longer and have individual systems stay in optimal condition.
The team will be collecting navigation data from the spacecraft over the next 3 days and begin sending commands to prepare it for the Ultima flyby. Sending the commands will last about 2 months, the preparations taking place are memory updates, Kuiper Belt science retrieval, and a series of onboard system checkouts. Images and observations of Ultima will begin in August and the team will start to refine the spacecrafts trajectory for the flyby
The missions Principal Investigator Alan Stern stated that, "Our team is already deep into planning and simulations of our upcoming flyby of Ultima Thule and excited that New Horizons is now back in active state...". New Horizons completed the historic flyby of Pluto and its many moons back on July 14th, 2015, and transformed the way we view Pluto and other objects in the outer solar system. The spacecraft has also been gathering science and observations about the Kuiper Belt as it hurdled through space. The spacecraft will remain active until late 2020.
The flyby of Ultima will occur on January 1st, 2019.