With a 76-second burst from its thrusters today, New Horizons cleaned up the last of the small trajectory "dispersions" from launch and set its course toward next February's gravity-assist flyby of Jupiter.
Changing the spacecraft's velocity by about 1.16 meters per second, the maneuver was the smallest of the three New Horizons has carried out since launch on Jan. 19, and the first conducted with the spacecraft in three-axis pointing mode. It also aimed New Horizons toward the Pluto "keyhole" at Jupiter - the precise point where the giant planet's gravity helps swing the spacecraft toward the close flyby of the Pluto system on July 14, 2015.
When the maneuver started at noon EST, New Horizons was about 51.7 million kilometers (32.1 million miles) from Earth, moving along its trajectory at 37.5 kilometers (23.3 miles) per second. Mission operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., monitored spacecraft status through NASA's Deep Space Network antenna station near Canberra, Australia.
New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt of rocky, icy objects beyond. Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), leads a mission team that includes the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Ball Aerospace Corporation, the Boeing Company, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stanford University, KinetX, Inc., Lockheed Martin Corporation, University of Colorado, the U.S. Department of Energy, and a number of other firms, NASA centers and university partners. For more information on the mission, visit http://pluto.jhuapl.edu .