New Horizons spacecraft experiences anomaly

New Horizons

The New Horizons spacecraft experienced an anomaly the afternoon of July 4 that led to a loss of communication with Earth. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.

The at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, lost contact with the unmanned spacecraft—now 10 days from arrival at Pluto—at 1:54 p.m. EDT, and regained communications with New Horizons at 3:15 p.m. EDT, through NASA's Deep Space Network.

During that time the autonomous autopilot on board the spacecraft recognized a problem and – as it's programmed to do in such a situation - switched from the main to the backup computer. The autopilot placed the spacecraft in "safe mode," and commanded the backup computer to reinitiate communication with Earth. New Horizons then began to transmit telemetry to help engineers diagnose the problem.

A New Horizons Anomaly Review Board (ARB) was convened at 4 p.m. EDT to gather information on the problem and initiate a recovery plan. The team is now working to return New Horizons to its original flight plan. Due to the 9-hour, round trip communication delay that results from operating a spacecraft almost 3 billion miles (4.9 billion kilometers) from Earth, full recovery is expected to take from one to several days; New Horizons will be temporarily unable to collect science data during that time.


Explore further

Pluto just 4 weeks, 20 million miles away for spacecraft

Citation: New Horizons spacecraft experiences anomaly (2015, July 5) retrieved 14 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-07-horizons-spacecraft-anomaly.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
1701 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 05, 2015
WTF?? NO!!!!! Not now!!!! Fix it, fix it quick!!!! No science data for several days!!!

Jul 05, 2015
Shaaawoooo. Man that was close. The Horizon auto switched to a backup computer and pinged the Earth. NASA has sent a reboot command to the primary computer but at 9 light/hr distance, it takes 9hrs for a replay and to know what is really going on. NASA expects it to return to normal resumption of science collecting soon. Longer if it's more serious than a cosmic ray glitch.


Jul 05, 2015
Yikes. 81 minutes without comms. Square root of 81 is 9. Pluto used to be the ninth planet, but was then relegated to being a dwarf planet. Is it trying to tell us something? :)

Jul 05, 2015
Wow, the people working on the program, both at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, need to have their hearts checked for any signs of damage from when THEIR HEARTS STOPPED.

Jul 06, 2015
Hope they get it back before it has moved passed. Doesn`t fall well with both the NASA bought US launchers to ISS now out of operation due to exploding. It is good they still have Dawn going.

ESA is even scoring more big equalizing points now with the passed Titan moon lander, the Planck Cosmic mapper, the current Rosetta comet orbiter, the Philea comet lander, the GAIA Star/Planet mapper expected to find 70.000 new planets and build the first ever massive 3d galaxy map, upcoming JUICE Jupiter explorer and first ever ice moon orbiter, Mars life searching deep drilling Exomars rover, PLATO earth planet hunter and other big missions. And China is now pushing to take the lead in manned space exploration.

US and Russia seem to be getting ever heavier competition. If not new powers that could start to surpass them in the coming decades (if not already). Good and interesting perhaps for space exploration and discoveries as a whole.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more