NASA's New Horizons spacecraft performed a short engine roasting on October 3 to prepare for the Kuiper Belt object's New Year span - Ultima Thule (2014 MU69). The device successfully conducted a 3.5-minute maneuver, slightly changing the trajectory and reaching a speed of 2.1 m / s. He is expected to fly past 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019.
Left: a composite optical navigation image created by combining 20 frames from a LORRI device received on September 24th. Center: Ultima Thule complex optical navigation image after subtracting the background star field. Right: An enlarged view showing the proximity and location of the object.
At a distance of 6.6 billion km, the 2014 MU69 will be the farthest object visited by an earthly spacecraft. New Horizons was removed at 6.35 km from Earth, when he conducted a trajectory correction maneuver. It was also the first maneuver using images from New Horizons to calculate the location of the spacecraft relative to the Kuiper Belt object. The image was obtained by the LORRI early warning device. The team developed a maneuver to change the trajectory, determining the current direction of the ship and its target, after which it took the ship to a future span at a distance of 3,500 km from 2014 MU69. Recent navigation images have shown that New Horizons is located at a distance of 500 km from the expected position, which seems to be a wonderful indicator.
The device will fly fast, and the surface of 2014 MU69 will be 4 times closer than the point of flight with Pluto in July 2015. Therefore, time must be extremely accurate. Images help determine the position and time of flight, but scientists are also forced to rely on previous estimates of the location and speed of 2014 MU69. The ship is distant 112 million km from the object.