New Horizons: a NASA flyby mission to Pluto
New Horizons: a NASA flyby mission launched back in 2006 with the main aim of flying by Pluto and capturing its first-ever high-quality image. The spacecraft reached Pluto in 2015; then it continued to fly by other objects in the Kuiper Belt, starting with the object 2014 MU69 “Arrokoth” in 2019. The New Horizons team is still looking for the spacecraft’s next target within the Kuiper belt.
The spacecraft communicates back with Earth through a 2.1 meter (83 inch) high gain antenna. New Horizons’ propellant system consists of 16 hydrazine thrusters; 12 of them provide 0.8 Newtons (about 3 ounces) of thrust. And the other 4 thrusters (used for course correction) provide 4.4 Newtons (1 pound) of thrust.
Due to New Horizons’ far distance from the Sun, solar panels couldn’t be used to power the vehicle; rather, a nuclear reactor is used called “radioisotope thermoelectric generator,” which uses the heat from the plutonium dioxide fuel decay to create electricity.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015.