[meteorite-list] NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft begins Intensive Data Downlink Phase

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2015 23:21:41 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201509080621.t886LflT006831_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft begins Intensive Data Downlink Phase
September 4, 2015

If you liked the first historic images of Pluto from NASA's New Horizons
spacecraft, you'll love what's to come.

Seven weeks after New Horizons sped past the Pluto system to study Pluto
and its moons - previously unexplored worlds - the mission team will
begin intensive downlinking of the tens of gigabits of data the spacecraft
collected and stored on its digital recorders. The process moves into
high gear on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the entire downlink taking about
one year to complete.

"This is what we came for - these images, spectra and other data types
that are going to help us understand the origin and the evolution of the
Pluto system for the first time," said New Horizons Principal Investigator
Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.
"And what's coming is not just the remaining 95 percent of the data
that's still aboard the spacecraft - it's the best datasets, the
highest-resolution images and spectra, the most important atmospheric
datasets, and more. It's a treasure trove."

Even moving at light speed, the radio signals from New Horizons containing
data need more than 4 - hours to cover the 3 billion miles to reach Earth.

As a flyby mission, New Horizons was designed to gather as much information
as it could, as quickly as it could, as it sped past Pluto and its family
of moons - then store its wealth of data to its digital recorders for
later transmission to Earth. Since late July, New Horizons has only been
sending back lower data-rate information collected by the energetic particle,
solar wind and space dust instruments. The pace picks up considerably
on Sept. 5 as it resumes sending flyby images and other data.

During the data downlink phase, the spacecraft transmits science and operations
data to NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) of antenna stations, which also
provide services to other missions, like Voyager. The spacecraft's distance
from Earth slows communication rates, especially compared to rates offered
by today's high-speed Internet providers. With New Horizons past Pluto,
the typical downlink rate is approximately 1-4 kilobits per second, depending
on how the data is sent and which DSN antenna is receiving it.

"The New Horizons mission has required patience for many years, but
from the small amount of data we saw around the Pluto flyby, we know the
results to come will be well worth the wait," said Hal Weaver, New Horizons
project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
(APL) in Laurel, Maryland.

The team also plans to continue posting new, unprocessed pictures from
the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons project
website each Friday. The images are available here; the next LORRI set
is scheduled for posting on Sept. 11.

New Horizons is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, managed by the
agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. APL designed,
built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft and manages the mission
for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. SwRI leads the science mission,
payload operations, and encounter science planning.
Received on Tue 08 Sep 2015 02:21:41 AM PDT

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb