NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is operating normally after just over 24 hours in a protective “safe mode,” the result of a command-loading error that occurred early Thursday. The spacecraft is designed to automatically transition to safe mode under certain anomalous conditions to protect itself from harm. In safe mode, the spacecraft suspends its timeline of activities and keeps its antenna pointed toward Earth to listen for instructions from the Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
“Our rapid recovery was supported by other NASA missions that provided New Horizons with some of their valuable Deep Space Network [DSN] antenna time,” said Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager at APL. “This is the norm for missions using the DSN – we support one another when challenges arise.”
New Horizons is healthy and continues to speed along toward its next target – the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 – while its operations team works to restore it to full operations and resume scientific data collection. Due to the 10.5-hour round trip communications delay that results from operating a spacecraft more than 3.5 billion miles (5.7 billion kilometers) from Earth, the team expects New Horizons to be back on its activities timeline early Sunday, Feb. 12.