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New Horizons Enters “Safe Mode” After Communications Glitch

5 Jul 2015, 20:52 UTC
New Horizons Enters “Safe Mode” After Communications Glitch
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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft experienced a glitch just 10 days ahead of its planned Pluto flyby.

NASA’s New Horizons probe experienced an anomaly on Saturday that resulted in the temporary loss of communication with Earth and put the spacecraft into a protective “safe mode” just 10 days ahead of its historic flyby of Pluto.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland lost contact with the New Horizons spacecraft at 1:54 p.m. EDT on July 4. Communications were reestablished with the spacecraft at 3:15 p.m. EDT using 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,” according to an update on NASA’s website. “The autopilot placed the spacecraft in ‘safe mode,’ and commanded the backup computer to reinitiate communication with Earth.”

In response to the event, the New Horizons’ Anomaly Review Board was assembled at 4 p.m. EDT to assess the problem and work on return the spacecraft to normal operations. Full recovery of the spacecraft may take several days due to the 9-hour round-trip transit time for a signal to ...

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