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New Horizons yesterday successfully fired its engines for 2.5 minutes to refine its course and January 1, 2019 fly-by of Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69.
The maneuver both refined the course toward and optimized the flyby arrival time at MU69, by setting closest approach to 12:33 a.m. EST (5:33 UTC) on Jan. 1, 2019. The prime flyby distance is set at 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers); the timing provides better visibility for DSN’s powerful antennas to reflect radar waves off the surface of MU69 for New Horizons to receive – a difficult experiment that, if it succeeds, will help scientists determine the reflectivity and roughness of MU69’s surface.
The spacecraft will next be put in hibernation on December 21, and stay in that state until June.